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There are many reasons why you might want to have your dog drop food he has in his mouth already. First might be teaching your dog manners. You may want to offer him the food that he snatched off of your kitchen counter, but he needs to know to have manners and wait for you to offer it instead of taking it himself. Second, and a more important reason, would be if your dog has food in his mouth that could potentially cause him harm. Foods such as grapes, avocados, chocolates, cherries, and other items that are not safe for dogs need to be dropped because your dog could possibly become sick if he continues to eat the food he has put in his mouth. And finally, your dog could be eating a food that he could potentially choke on. Dogs who chew on tendons until they are the perfect size to get stuck in the throat often need to be told to ‘drop it’ before it does become lodged.
Getting your dog to drop food is as simple as teaching him ‘drop it’ commands. You can do this in several ways using treats and building up to using food so your dog understands even though he gets treats, he cannot have the food that's in his mouth. To work on ‘drop it’ commands, your dog should be trained in basic obedience. You will need some patience and some time for short and repetitive training sessions. These commands can be used not only for food that might be in your dog's mouth, but other items that could cause him harm, so this is an important one to teach your dog. Toys can become lodged in a dog's throat or your dog could hold onto items including food that you wish for him not to have. So, once you get basic commands down, be sure to teach this one to your dog.
You are going to need a few supplies:
- Toys, preferably not his all-time favorite toys at first and then build up to something he loves the most.
- Treats for rewarding when it is appropriate.
- Enthusiasm, excitement and lots of verbal praise.
- If you are clicker training, be prepared with a clicker.
Have fun with each session. Remember your dog wants to please you, while you want to keep him protected and well-behaved.
The Drop It Method
Begin to teach your dog the ‘drop it’ command by enticing him with a toy. Starting with a few of your dog's less favorite toys and working up to his favorites. Have treats handy. Hold a toy comfortably in your hand and wait for your dog to try to take it from you.
As soon as your dog begins to mouth the toy, place the treat very close to his nose and say the command ‘drop it.’
Praise and reward
When your dog opens his mouth to release the toy from your opposite hand, give him verbal praise and the treat.
Practice these steps, allowing your dog to put the toy in his mouth before offering a treat and using the ‘drop it’ command.
Once your dog has successfully repeated dropping the toy to receive a treat several times, begin to use the ‘drop it’ command without the treat reward visible.
Repeat this several times without a treat, mixing in a few times with a treat to create the repetitive habit of dropping the object with and without being rewarded.
Use with food
If your dog has taken food he’s not supposed to have or even food that could potentially hurt him, use the ‘drop it’ command to get him to release the food.
Praise and enthusiasm
You can verbally praise your dog for good behavior. Be sure to include lots of enthusiasm so he understands how proud of him you are. If you are trying to get your dog to drop food, you may not want to reward him with a treat. This is when love and affection are good rewards.
The Trade Food for Treat Method
Give your dog a toy and encourage him to put it in his mouth.
Offer your dog a trade. Show him a treat and ask him to ‘drop it’.
When he drops the toy, give him the treat.
Repeat these steps several times, rewarding your dog each time he accepts your trade, toy for treat.
Increase the challenge by enticing your dog with something tasty such as a bone and asking for a trade. Repeat this until your dog trades with no hesitation.
Place food on the ground and offer a trade when your dog shows interest. Be quick so you can get your dog to drop it before eating it. You may want to make your trade offer a bit tastier than the treats you traded for toys. Cheese or meat may entice your dog to trade more than a dog treat.
The Clicker Training Method
Have different treats and toys readily available for training. Be prepared with your clicker as well.
Pick an item for your dog to chew on. Once he starts chewing, place a treat near his nose and say, ‘drop it.’
As soon as your dog opens his mouth to release the object, click and treat. Offer verbal praise as well so he knows he’s done well.
Encourage your dog to choose different objects from your pile and repeat the steps above.
A tasty bone
Using a bone or tendon, encourage your dog to mouth the delicious bone.
As soon as he puts it in his mouth, say the command, ‘drop it.’ And offer him an empty hand to entice with a pretend treat. Once he drops the bone, give him a real reward with a click and treat.
Repeat this several times using different pieces of food to entice and others to reward.
Once your dog has ‘drop it’ down for various items including food, you should be able to use the command anytime he puts food in his mouth he should not have. Once he drops what he shouldn’t have, you can reward him with a click and treat he is allowed to have.
By Amy Caldwell
Published: 12/26/2017, edited: 01/08/2021