Updated: Oct 29, 2020
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From the minute you brought home your dog, you had this gorgeous picture in your mind of the two of you playing fetch in the backyard on a beautiful sunshiny day. You grab your dog and a ball and head outside, and... UH OH! As soon as your dog has that toy in his mouth, you aren't getting it back! Instead of a fun game of fetch, you play an exhausting game of keep away as you try to get the ball back. If your dog could talk, you're pretty sure he would be quoting Regina George:
Well, step aside, Regina! There's one little command that can help you make your dream of fetch become a reality: DROP! Drop isn't just for dogs either! This command can be taught to any pet that plays keep away with toys... or even with things they shouldn't have in the first place like socks or shoes.
This command is especially fun to teach because you start out by essentially just giving your pet treats for free. It’s an enjoyable, easy way to do a little relationship building with your pet while they also learn a new command. You’ll just need to be careful that you don’t overfeed your pet during the learning process! To easily avoid that pitfall, set aside half of your pet’s breakfast to use during your training session. Just follow each of these simple steps to teach your pet a drop command:
Step One: Simply scatter a handful of food on the ground, point at it, and wait for your pet to eat it. Repeat until the food you set aside is gone. Repeat this session once a day over the next seven to ten days.
Step Two: Next, you’ll do the same thing but also say the word, "Drop" when you point at the food. Repeat this step until your pet immediately and consistently looks for food where you are pointing every. single. time. If you’re anything like me, this is an especially easy part of the process to practice when you are cooking! Any time you drop something that is safe for your pets to eat, point at it, say drop, and your pet will automatically clean up your mess for you! Practice this at least once a day over the next seven to ten days.
Step Three: Get out your pet’s favorite toy and encourage them to play with it until they are holding the toy in their mouth. As soon as they are holding their toy, drop a yummy treat on the ground while simultaneously pointing at it and saying, “Drop!” Your pet should spit out the toy so they can gobble up the treat. (If this doesn’t work, try again with a higher value treat and/or a lesser value toy.) Repeat this a few times until your pet is consistently dropping the toy and... you guessed it! Practice this a few times a session over the next seven to ten days.
Step Four: At this point, you’re ready to start randomizing the times that your pet gets a treat and the times that they don’t. Try only giving a treat two out of the three times that you practice drop or every other time or every third time until your pet is consistently dropping the toy whether you actually dropped treat or not!
Now you should be ready to use the Drop command in everyday life! If your pet ever grabs something they shouldn’t, simply tell them, “Drop!” and wait for them to drop it. If you have treats nearby, feel free to use them, but if not you can always reward with your pet with petting, praise, or other rewards. Don’t forget to keep practicing drop occasionally with your pet’s diet, treats, or healthy scraps that you have dropped to keep this command fun and continue building your relationship with your pet.
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