It is also important that your dog remains calm around toys and is composed even when playing tug. If you play tug with your dog, make sure he is able to drop things on cue whenever you ask.
The Concept of "Helper"
I use the term Helper to identify any physical prompt that you might do to get your dog to the behavior you ask. I only recommend and use humane strategies, so this does not mean jerking, yelling, shocking or other abusive techniques.
Some Example of Helpers Include:
- Showing a treat to help a dog open their mouth and drop
- Gently pull the leash after saying, "Come"
- Make a "kissing" noise after you say "Leave It" to help your dog turn around and leave something
How to Use a Helper
Say the cue one time, pause for a short time (less than a second) and then provide the help. Eventually your dog will do the behavior because of the anticipation of the helper and you won't need the helper anymore.
Reward Every Time
Until the behavior is reliable, reward your dog each time, even if you provide help. You want to make sure your dog is motivated to do the behavior, and anticipate the reward afterwards. You can reward with treats, throwing a toy, a quick game of tug, or a belly rub! A reward is anything your dog likes that increases the chance that the behavior happens more frequently.
Don't Repeat Cues
This is one of the most challenging tasks for people. But, if you repeat cues, you are teaching your dog to ignore your first response. If you repeat cues, you can't expect your dog to do it on the first time, can you? Use Helpers to avoid repeating cues.
As shown in the video, toy exchanges are a great way to teach drop. But, not as clear in the video is that it is also a great way to tire out your dog. Imagine if your dog brings back a toy and then drops it and you throw another toy 100 feet away! Doing laps to retrieve toys over and over is a really fun, tiring game -- while learning drop! You can practice inside with a soft toy in a hallway as well.
If You Need a Refresher
Get Something Out of Your Dog's Mouth
If your puppy ever gets something he should not have, you can GENTLY put your thumb between his bottom canine teeth and GENTLY press on the bottom of his mouth. Dogs usually relax their mouths. DO NOT do this with dogs that show aggression towards bones, toys, or other objects, or you will probably get injured.