How to train your dog to release or drop a toy
Have you ever received the sage advice to use your dog’s most coveted toy as a great reward when training?
That would be wonderful of course – if only he would let you have it once in a while. How can you possibly use the toy for training and relationships building if he won’t ever give it back to you?
Maybe you’ve tried bribing him with the best chicken with limited success and have now finally given up – opting to let him run away with his toy or, worse still, not play with that favorite toy at all?
If this is the case, it’s time for action.
Don’t miss out on all the fun! Developing great toy drive and control over that toy can do so much to enhance your relationship and will become an invaluable training tool.
Here are the four ways we set about the important task of training your dog to release or drop a toy.
Create real desire for the toy!
The play has to be genuine. Your dog must want to play with the toy in all circumstances. So, strange as it may seem, we recommend that the first step is to play tug in as many different environments as you possibly can. We really do want the toy to be a very valuable commodity to your dog. Many people think that this is the case, only to discover later on that their dog only really likes to play in his own house or backyard. For the toy to become a really valuable training tool, we have to extend it’s appeal far beyond the home environment.
Get the behavior on cue.
Having established this desire, it’s time to get the tugging behavior on cue so that you can gain control of it. With the toy in your hand, give the cue, “Get it” and begin to tug. (You can use the get it cue as long as you are sure he is going to tug)
While the dog is actually tugging (in this case the tugging is the desired behavior) click and toss a really great food treat on the ground beside you. (Or you may feed from your other hand)
At the sound of the click, your dog is highly likely to release his grip on the toy in favor of collecting his treat. If he doesn’t, you will need to increase the value of the food treat being used.
Add a release cue.
Once you have established a great tug and a release at the sound of the click, you can begin to insert the cue you wish to use to ask him to stop tugging and give you the toy. We use the cue, “Thank you”.
Simply insert the words, “Thank you” just before you click.
Pretty soon, he will be able to predict that your words, “Thank you” mean a click and a treat are on the way.
Once this is happening, you will notice him begin to drop the toy on your words “Thank you”.
You may then begin to click as soon as he drops the toy on your cue.
Give up the toy to get the toy!
Now that you have your dog reliably tugging in different environments and dropping his toy on your cue, you can begin to reinforce him for dropping his toy, by giving the toy back again for another great game of tug. Or you could produce an equally valuable second toy for more fun!
Of course, you may experience some challenges along the way. Nothing is ever that simple, right? If that is the case for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We would be happy to help. However, we hope that this short summary will help get you started on the right track.
Here’s to many years of play, fun and frustration free training with your best friend.
Watch this short video of Lynne and Copper showing the stages of teaching your dog to tug and release his toy on cue.