How To Teach a Dog to Drop It & Leave It [with Pictures & Video]
How to train a dog to "leave It" and "drop it" is a skill that could actually save your dog's life — and more often, your valuables from being chewed!
It works best to spend about 15 minutes per day in 5-minute sessions working on how to teach a dog to "drop it" and "leave it". Using small, pea-sized, treats to reward good behavior makes learning happen quickly and without overfeeding. If your dog is not interested in treats, you can substitute playing with him or scratching him where he really enjoys it for a few seconds. Try to tailor your training sessions to train a dog how to “drop it” and “leave it” so that they are easy enough for the dog to earn a reward most of the time. Setting him up for success will avoid frustration for the learner as well as the trainer.
The following steps will help you to train a dog how to ignore an object when you ask him to. We begin by making the concept very easy and simple for your dog to understand and then progress to real-life situations.
How to Train a Dog to "Leave it": Leave Something Alone When You Ask
- Hide small treats in both of your fists. Say "leave it" and let him sniff and explore one of your fists. Praise and reward when he looks away from your fist and feed him the treat from your other hand. Repeat teaching your dog “leave it” until he no longer tries to get the treat from your fist when you show it to him.
"Leave it" with closed hand.
- Hide small treats in both of your fists. Say "leave it". Open a hand to show the treat to him, but close it if he tries to get the treat. Repeat teaching your dog “leave it” until he decides to ignore the treat while your hand is open, and then praise and reward by delivering the treat in your other hand. Repeat these instructions to train a dog how to ignore an object until he is responding instantly.
"Leave it" open hand.
- While sitting on the floor, set the treat on the floor near you and say "leave it". Cover the treat with your hand if he tries to get it. When he looks away from the treat on the floor, praise and reward with a different treat. Repeat this step to teach a dog “leave it” until he can respond instantly.
"Leave it" on the floor"
Click the play button below to see a video to train a dog how to ignore an object using step 3:
- Set the treat on the floor, say "leave it", and stand up. Cover the treat with your foot if he tries to get to it. Praise and reward for ignoring the treat. Repeat these instructions until he is responding right away.
"Leave it" while I stand
- Walk him past a treat on leash. Say "leave it" when he sees the treat and use the leash to keep him from getting it if necessary. Praise and reward with a different treat when he ignores the treat on the floor. Repeat these instructions to train a dog how to ignore an object until he is responding right away.
Next, practice this without the leash but be ready to use your body to block him or to snatch the treat.
"Leave it" while on leash
- Practice "leave it" with items you would like him to ignore in real life such as food on counters or tables, litter, animal droppings, tissues, etc. Remember to practice how to train a dog to ignore an object weekly to maintain this skill.
"Leave it" hotdogs on the table
How to Teach a Dog to "Drop it": Release an Item from His Mouth When You Ask
Next, we will teach you how to train a dog to open his mouth and let you take an object from him. This is a very important safety lesson for the times that he may get hold of something dangerous, like a chicken bone. To teach a dog to "drop it" is also how to prevent him from aggressively guarding his chewies from you. He will learn that releasing items means good things in return.
- For step 1 of how to train a dog to “drop it”, gather a few objects your dog might like to chew and some tiny treats, like cheese or turkey.
- Have a piece of food ready in your free hand as you tempt your dog to chew on one of the items. Once he has his mouth on the object, put the treat very close to his nose and say "drop it".
Using a treat to get Gigo to drop the ball
Praise him when he opens his mouth. Feed him the treat as you pick up the item with your other hand and return the item to him.
Feeding Gigo while picking up the ball
- Try to get him to pick up the object again so you can continue practicing. If you have trouble getting him to pick up another object, don’t worry. In this case, keep a few treats handy throughout the day and whenever you see him pick up an object or dog toy, you can ask him to "drop it" by following the instructions above. Aim for at least 10 successful "drop it" repetitions per day until you have completed all of the steps on how to train your dog to drop it. Occasionally, you will not be able to give the object back to him (if he's found a forbidden object), but that's okay. Just be sure to give him an extra nice treat in those instances.
- Once you've completed about 10 successful repetitions of step 3 in how to train a dog “drop it”, follow the process in step 2 exactly, but this time, be sneaky. Only pretend to have a treat in the hand that you bring close to his nose—I call this, "empty fingers". He will most likely be fooled and drop the object. Give him 3 treats the first time he drops the item when you show him "empty fingers". Continue practicing until he will "drop it" for "empty fingers" consistently. This "empty fingers" motion is now a useful hand signal for "drop it!"
- Now we will learn how to train a dog to drop a ‘tasty’ item. Get a hard edible chew. Hold it in your hand at one end and offer the other end of the item to your dog — but don't let go! Let him put his mouth on it and then say "drop it" while pretending to show him a treat. Give him 3 treats the first time he does this and try it again. If your dog won't retake the item, just put it away and practice another time. Practice this until he is dropping the item right away while you hold on to it.
Showing Gigo a treat while holding on to the bully stick
- Get your hard chew again and some small cubes of meat or cheese. This time, you will offer the chew to your dog, let go of it, and then right away say "drop it" while pretending to show him a treat. When he does drop it, give him 10 of your meat or cheese cubes, and then give him the chew to keep! If he doesn't release the chew, try showing him your treat first, and if that doesn't work, just let him keep the chew and try again later with a not-quite-so-tasty chew. You will be able to build up to higher value items during your practice of how to train a dog to “drop it”.
Gigo drops the bully stick for "empty fingers"
- Practice how to teach a dog to "drop it" with objects that interest him, but he is not allowed to chew such as tissues, pens (with the ink removed), wrappers, shoes, etc. Then practice these “how to train your dog” steps outside with items like pine cones, rocks, sticks, leaves, animal poop, etc.
- If your dog already enjoys grabbing objects and having a game of chase, you should begin by teaching him that you will not play chase with him. Ignore him when he runs away with an object, and he will probably drop the item on his own once he is bored with it. If you must get the item right away, try distracting him by ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door. He will most likely drop the object in the excitement, and you will then have an opportunity to retrieve it.
- If your dog will not drop a dangerous item, even when you offer a yummy treat or ring the doorbell, you will be forced to open his mouth to remove it. To do this, place your fingers on his lips behind his canines and pull his mouth open. You will now be able to retrieve the item. Make sure you give him a big reward for allowing this treatment and keep that dangerous item out of reach in the future until he is ready to use it during "drop it" training sessions.
Forcing Gigo's mouth open in an emergency
I hope this article has helped you to teach a dog how to "drop it" and "leave it". If so, please consider becoming a customer of Pet Expertise or share this article with a friend. Visit our blog for more articles on how to train a dog to have good manners. We also stock lots of training aids, exercise aids, and other dog gear!