How to Teach Your Dog to Drop It: A Step-by-Step Guide

By: Irith Bloom, CPDT-KSAUpdated:

How to Teach Your Dog to Drop It: A Step-by-Step Guide
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How to Teach Your Dog to Drop It: A Step-by-Step Guide

One of the most important dog training commands you can teach your dog is to drop things on cue. In everyday situations, it’s a great way to get your pup to let go of your favorite shoes. And in situations where your dog has picked up a dangerous item, the “drop it” cue can literally be a lifesaver.

As a certified dog trainer, I have plenty of experience in training dogs to “drop it.” Here’s how it’s done.

How to Teach Your Dog to Drop It: Step by Step

1 Gather Your Supplies

To teach drop it, you’re going to need:

Pet Botanics Training Reward Bacon Flavor Dog Treats
Frisco Pet Training Clicker with Wrist Band
Frisco Rope Multipack for Small to Medium Dog Toys

2 Offer the Toy

man and dog playing with a rope toyman and dog playing with rope toy
In order for your dog to drop an object, first they need to be holding it! So, give your dog that favorite toy. This can be any toy they especially love, whether it’s a snuggly stuffed animal or rope for a game of tug-of-war. If necessary, make the toy extra enticing by wiggling it around, as if you were initiating playtime.

3 Offer a Treat

man offering dog a treatman offering dog a treat

When your dog has the toy in their mouth, it’s time to give them a reason to release it. As soon as your pup takes the toy, offer them a tasty treat. Most dogs will let go of the toy to grab the treat. As soon as your pup drops the toy, click the clicker and then give them the treat.

Repeat steps 2 and 3 with your dog until your dog lets go of the toy every time, as soon as they see you hold up a treat.

Pro Tip: The more your dog wants the treat, the more motivated they’ll be to drop the toy, so if your pup is having trouble letting go, try a high-value treat (aka your pup’s very favorite snack).

4 Introduce the Verbal Command

man training dog with toyman training dog with toy

Now it’s time to add your verbal cue. Practice the sequence above, but add an extra step: Say “drop it” after you give your dog the toy, but before you click and reward. The sequence goes like this:

  1. Offer toy
  2. Dog takes toy
  3. Say “drop it”
  4. Hold up treat
  5. Dog drops toy
  6. Click and feed treat

5 Fade Out the Treats

man praising dog with clickerman praising dog with clicker

When your dog reliably drops the toy with the training sequence above, try it without showing them the treat first. The sequence will look like this:

  1. Offer toy
  2. Dog takes toy
  3. Say “drop it”
  4. Dog drops toy
  5. Click and feed treat
Pro Tip: Using a treat pouch during your training sessions can help keep those tasty morsels within reach without having to show them to your dog.

6 Mix It Up

man with dog holding a sockman with dog holding sock

Up until now, you’ve been training with one toy in one location. Now, it’s time to practice repetitions in new places and with new objects, to show your dog that “drop it” isn’t just for one situation.

Repeat this process with as many different objects as possible, in many different places. Start in quiet locations, such as your living room, using items that are relatively boring, such as toys your dog is not too excited about. Gradually build up to items that are more exciting, such as higher-value toys and chews. You can even test it out with your shoes, if you’re feeling brave! The key is to make sure that you practice with a lot of easier items first, and that your dog is really jazzed about the treats you are using. This is not the time for low-value treats!

Why Should I Teach “Drop It”?

Whether you have a new puppy or an older dog, this command is essential. Here’s why:

  • It keeps them safe. Curiosity is a chief tenet of dog behavior—and that can sometimes lead them to picking up or chewing on things that are dangerous. Teaching them to release what’s in their mouth can prevent poisoning or swallowing objects that could be choking hazards or cause damage to their gastrointestinal system.
  • It protects your stuff. We can’t promise the “drop it” command will save every pair of shoes your dog takes an interest in, but it certainly comes in handy when you notice your new puppy chomping away on them. Remember to redirect with an appropriate chew toy after they’ve dropped the no-no item, and take steps to prevent destructive chewing.
  • It helps with playing fetch. Many dogs love games of fetch—but they struggle to give the fetched item back to their person after they’ve retrieved it. “Drop it” tells them to release the item, so you can throw it for them again and continue your game.
Pro Tip: The “leave it” command pairs well with “drop it” — it tells your dog not to pick the object back up (among other uses). Find out how to teach it here.

What Not to Do

We’ve all been there: You see your dog chewing something they shouldn’t, and your first instinct is to yank it out of their mouth. I understand the impulse, but let me warn you: Unless you think your dog’s life is actually in danger, you should never grab their head or snatch the item out of your dog’s mouth by force. Doing so will actually undermine your efforts to teach your dog to drop it.

Here’s what forcefully taking something from your dog teaches them:

  • This item is valuable—why else would you want it so much?—so they should hang on to it
  • You’re likely to steal the things they pick up, so they should protect their things by growling, biting or other resource guarding behavior.
  • To keep the item, they may have to run away or even swallow it

All of these are the opposite of what you want as a dog parent.

The best way to train a dog to drop it—and, in fact, to teach your dog just about anything—is through positive reinforcement, aka offering rewards like treats and praise for good behavior, just like we do in the steps above. Find out more about positive reinforcement in our guide to obedience training.

Another mistake: Chasing your dog. For many dogs, being chased is just as exciting as a game of fetch, so while you may feel the situation is quite serious, they’re thinking it’s a fun keep-away session! Stay calm, suppress your urge to run after them, and try your “drop it” cue. Remember that most objects dogs pick up aren’t truly dangerous. In fact, if you give them a moment, they’re likely to get bored and drop it on their own.

In an emergency situation, however, the most important thing is to keep your dog safe. If they have picked up something dangerous, and will not drop it when you say the cue, simply drop a large number of treats on the ground and then take the item away while your dog is distracted eating the treats.

Follow these steps, and your dog will learn to drop it in no time—and that means a safer and happier world both for them, for you and your belongings. Happy training!
Contributed by Irith Bloom, faculty at Victoria Stilwell Academy and certified animal trainer with multiple certifications, including CPDT-KSA, CDBC, VSPDT, KPA CTP, and CBATI.


By: Irith Bloom, CPDT-KSAUpdated: