Puppies explore their environment using their mouth. This can lead them to picking up and playing things we would rather they didn't touch!
First make sure to puppy proof your house to make things easier for both of you. Puppies are attracted to items that smell most like us, so tend to target things we use a lot such as shoes, clothing, towels, cushions, blankets, remote controls and hair brushes. Keeping these out of reach of puppy will help them stop practising the bad habit of stealing and playing with them.
After puppy proofing, you turn around to find your puppy with something else in their mouth! What do we do? We need to teach puppy to "Drop it".
Practise teaching your dog to "Drop it" using your puppy's toys first.
How to teach "Drop It"
Using a treat
While playing tug (or the dog has something you don’t want it to have!) offer the dog a treat and say “Drop it” when the dog drops the item and goes to eat the treat.
If the dog is really toy motivated or really wants the item you may need to use a high value treat such as cheese or chicken at first so they learn to drop the item in favour of the treat.
Over time the dogs will associate the voice signal “Drop it” and your hand reaching towards the dog’s mouth as a cue to drop whatever is in its mouth.
In the beginning always use treats to exchange with what is in the dog’s mouth, this will create a positive association of hands reaching towards the dog when it has something valuable in its mouth.
Using two toys
Using two similar toys or toys that have similar “value” in your dog’s eyes, hide one behind your back and play with the other and encourage the dog to tug or hold on.
While the dog is playing with that toy present the other one and make it more exciting than the one they are currently playing with. They should let go off the original toy and go to play with the other one - when they drop the first toy say the cue “Drop it”.
They will associate the cue “Drop it” with dropping what is in their mouth. Over time then you can change to using one toy, asking them to drop it and then reward by continuing the game.
Don't Make it a Game!
Remember the easiest way to make stealing items more fun for your puppy is to run after them, find them and pull the item from their mouth. Essentially playing an all in one game of chase, hide and seek, and tug with them! Keep to exchanging the item for a treat or a suitable toy while young to cement in the "Drop It" training.
Want to find out more?
For further advice and training get in touch for details about Puppy Training Classes in Newtownabbey or private in home training sessions.
Kindred Dog Training