The situation: A beagle who grabs everything he can reach. If anyone tries to intervene, the dog runs away. He’s not aggressive, at all, just he will not drop anything he gets.
Sound familiar? Variations of this issue are common. Here are three of the most common, non-genetic, we-did-it-by-mistake reasons why:
1) Our Tirade
So your puppy steals something cherished and expensive – a shoe, a remote control, your glasses. You see it and, being a human being, react. “Nooooo…” and race toward your puppy. Your puppy panics and runs away. A chase ensues. Finally, you get a hold of your puppy, extract the item and scold your pup, often waving the item in his face.
What does this teach your puppy? Literally? Run away! Run fast! Because when your human catches up, they are going to be angry. There is no way to win. RUN!
Hint: Always give your dog a way to win. Once your puppy takes something it is too late to teach him not to take it. The moment the item is in his mouth your job is to teach him to drop it. So, no matter what, you must reward the drop it. I know this is tough, but you’ve got to do it. Otherwise you create a solid, quick and reliable: Run away! My human is about to be aggressive!
2) Game Made
It was cute, when your dog was young. He’d grab something and you’d play chase with him. He’d run away, you’d laugh. Adorable right? Not anymore. Your dog loved that game and loves it still. You trained him to run away and now you’re living with that training.
Hint: Don’t play that anymore. Stop. Halt. Give it up, until you have a rocking, brilliant “Drop it” in place. Then, if you’re clever, you’ll make a fast “Drop it” the way to START that game and you’ll be in business! Oh and leave a leash on your dog when you’re home so you can stop the game before it starts.
3) Bad Trade
Almost every puppy class these days tells puppy people to “simply” trade a treat for whatever your puppy has that he shouldn’t. Simple right? Actually, not at all. It is incredibly easy for people to end up rewarding stealing of items. Anytime a smart puppy wants treat, they pick something up. And, what happens when the puppy doesn’t let go of the item for the treat? The human goes and gets a better treat.
The puppy then learns that not dropping the item causes better treats to appear. This is like asking your kid to take out the trash for a dollar. They say, “No, I won’t.” And you say, “Okay, how about for ten dollars?” What will happen the next time you ask them to take the trash out for a dollar?
Hint: My top dog training tip for building a reliable and immediate “Out”? Reward the drop. REALLY reward the drop. No matter what – make dropping something the best part of your dog’s day. Light up! Smile! Laugh! Throw a praise party! Give multiple bits of truly-tempting treats. Wahoo, you dropped it! (Oh yeah, and a 10′ long line, too. You’ll need that, too.)
There are more details to this, of course, and I can coach you. Start with My Smart Puppy games and build from there. Any dog can learn to drop things, once you learn how to reward what you want instead of what you don’t.
Now you know.