Dog training: teach drop it?


My Lab loves to find slobbery tennis balls (among other things) when out on a walk, but it’s impossible to pry them out of her mouth when we get home. How do I teach her to drop it?


For safety and sanity, every dog should have a DROP command that means “Spit that out of your mouth right now!”

To teach your dog “drop it,” you will need:

A toy that your dog likes to pick up (in this case, a ball) or an item they steal (socks, bags, leashes).

Some treats that your dog really likes.

A second toy that your dog likes as much as the first toy, or more.

A leash that your dog can wear and drag on the ground.

A flat collar that does not pinch or choke.

Location, location, location!

Choose a quiet place where you will not be interrupted. Remember, you want your dog to be successful so eliminate any competition that might interfere with your dog’s ability to focus. I like to start training inside, then I repeat all of the steps in a quiet, outside area where dogs are on-leash. Finally, I practice at the park with other off-leash dogs.

Your first session

Give your dog the toy and allow them to play freely with it.

When you are ready, give the command: DROP IT. Only say this command once.

Casually step on the end of the leash (it should be dragging on the ground) to prevent your dog from playing keep-away.

Slowly move the tasty treat you have in front of the dog’s nose.

Some dogs will go for the treat right away, other dogs need you to wiggle the treat.

As soon as your dog drops the toy, praise and treat your dog with the treat you showed them.

Now say “TAKE IT” and let your dog have their toy.

If your dog refuses to take the treat and/or shows no interest:

1. Try the exercise when your dog is hungry.

2. Try a different treat.

3. Try using another toy to interest them in dropping the item in their mouth.

4. Try out-waiting them. Your dog may just need to learn that you aren’t going to take their toy.

Remember, only say the command ONCE, right before you step on the leash and before you move towards your dog’s nose with the treat.

When your dog starts dropping the toy before you can step on the leash or before you can show them the treat, take the exercise outside or to a more distracting environment.

In new environments, expect your dog’s performance to slip. Help them out again by stepping on the leash or using a treat.