Today, whilst was waiting for a client in the park, I was watching a man playing fetch with his dog. I love 'people/dog watching' in the park, I was thinking in my head that this looked great, an owner engaging with their dog that was until the dog didn't want to give his owner the ball. I then witness the owner hitting the dog on the head whilst shouting 'Drop' and then prising the ball out of the dogs mouth! It was horrendous. In his attempt to get the ball back from his dog he did not once try to offer a kinder approach, no treats were offered or no other toy was produced to trade with the dog.
Teaching a reliable Drop cue is so important and here is why!
It may save your dogs life if they put something dangerous in their mouth
It makes it way more fun to play with your dog.
It can help a dog learn that us humans are safe and we will share, trade and swap.
Version 1- Playing Tug To Teach A Drop
Find a toy that your dog is interested in, offer the toy to your dog using the cue 'Get It'. The cue 'Get It' will be the invite to play to start the game again.
Once your dog has a good hold of the toy, play a short gentle game of tug then hold the toy still, place a treat to their nose and say 'Drop'. Placing a treat to the dogs nose should open their mouth, when this happens mark with a say 'Yes' or a click and give them the treat.
Once your dog has finished the treat offer the toy again by using your cue 'Get It'. And again after a short game of tug, place a treat to their nose whilst saying 'Drop'- Repeat this step at least 15 times.
Once you have completed at least 15 repetitions of the above step you will play the game as above but this time you won't put the treat to the dogs nose, this time you will only use the verbal cue 'Drop'. Start a game of tug, give the dog the cue "Drop' wait 2-3 seconds, f your dog drops the toy mark with a 'Yes' or a click and give the dog a treat from your treat pouch. If the dog did not drop the toy then place another treat to the dogs nose. Practise, practise, practise.
Version 2- Chirag Patel's Method
Think of your “drop' practice as deposits in the bank, every time you can trade your dog or give your dog a reward for letting something go from her mouth, this is a deposit in her bank. This way if you find yourself without anything to trade and your dog grabs a chicken bone on the street, you have enough deposits to make this withdrawal! This method was developed by Chirag Patel.
Without your dog having anything in their mouth, simply walk up to them with a handful of treats, say 'Drop' then drop the treats on the floor, at this stage point out where the treats are. Do not say 'DROP' and throw the food at the same time, the cue 'Drop' has to come first. Practise a lot over a day, stood up, sat down, while he's laying on his bed, while you sit on the floor next to him etc. The more situations that this is practised in the generalised the behaviour will be.
Once you have established a solid foundation for this behaviour, you will notice when you say the word drop, your dog should be orientating towards the floor looking for the treat. This tells you that you can move onto the next step.
Begin using a toy that doesn't get your dog too excited, once your dog has hold of a toy, say 'Drop' and throw the treats down, you do not need to be next to or holding the object that your dog has. Don't take the toy away, leave it there with your dog. Continuing practising whilst always dropping the food a second or two after saying 'Drop'. The aim is to form a strong association between the word drop and your spitting out the item in their mouth.
Repeat the above steps with a toy and once your dog has dropped the toy and only after he has eaten his treats then offer the toy back to them. Gradually introduce items that will be more difficult for your dog to drop. Practise all of this outside as well as in the house.
My Top Tip Don't be stingy with treats when training the Drop cue, the bigger the reinforcement history behind this cue the better it will be! Make sure your dog thinks it's worthwhile to drop whatever they have when you ask them to.