DROP IT – Teaching Your Dog to Let Go

Humans have a totally different value system from dogs. We judge things on a relative scale, considering such things as cost, sentimental value, rarity, age, and availability.  A dog’s judgment of inherent value is far simpler: If it tastes good or feels good it’s worth a lot. To your dog, a worn-out slipper is the same as brand new, expensive dress shoes. If the old one tastes better or has better mouth appeal, that’s the more valuable.

You would hardly be upset to see your dog chewing on a dead tree branch. But consider how you would feel if that piece of wood is the runner of the antique rocker on which your grandmother rocked your mother when she was born. That changes the relative value of a stick of wood, doesn’t it? To your dog, however, there’s no difference between chewing a stick in the yard or an irreplaceable piece of furniture.

This brings us to rule number one of teaching your dog to give up possessions: approach every object the same – without emotion.

If you’re hysterical, angry or upset, you will frighten your dog, making him protective of the object and of himself. Approach a chicken bone that can potentially harm your dog the same as you would ask him to give up a tennis ball.

Rule number two: train your dog – not when you’re angrily screaming “DROP IT!!” That’s not training.

Loudly yelling words you haven’t taught your dog doesn’t make it any less gibberish to him. Teach your dog to give things to you is when you’re calm, and are able to teach your dog that there’s something in it for him to make the trade. Exchange what he has that you want, for what you have that he wants. Train your dog to give things up when the stakes are low, so you can teach this behavior unemotionally, objectively and calmly.

Rule number three: giving something up means getting something in return. Sometimes this will be a treat, and sometimes it should be what your dog just gave up. You don’t want your dog to think that giving up the prize means you always keep it, or he’ll be less willing to let go in the future. When you’re training, have your dog give you his toy, then immediately give it back to him. Or trade for a treat.

And finally, when you ask for an object, get it. Not sometimes; all the time. If you win only some of the time, you inadvertently teach your dog to test your resolve. By your not winning, your dog learns to persevere – after all, this may be one of the times you’ll quit and leave the prize with him.

Join us at The Dog Knowledge for one of our $10.00 Polish Your Obedience Classes and we will teach your dog the art of letting go.