Finally! Get your dog to drop things on command with this trainer’s one simple trick

Dog playing with rope toy
(Image credit: Getty)

Getting your dog to drop things on cue is one of the most important safety skills you'll ever teach them. Whether they've counter surfed and grabbed one of the longest lasting dog chews without your permission or they've got hold of something that could cause them harm, knowing your canine companion will drop something when you ask them to offers you great peace of mind. 

However, it's important to note that teaching your dog to drop something is very much a long game, with most pups taking a while to master this vital skill. To help your dog learn what's expected of them that much quicker, Julianna DeWillems, the founder and head trainer at JW Dog Training & Behavior has put together a handy Instagram video for you.

In the short clip, we're introduced to a Labrador Retriever who has just stolen an item he's not supposed to have - a sock. The pup runs off with the item but DeWillems stresses the importance of not chasing after him in this instance given that the sock does not present a danger to him.

"I intentionally don't chase him as this could create either a fun and rewarding game of keep away or a higher and more dangerous stakes situation where he starts resource guarding the item," she explains.

Because the pup isn't at risk of being harmed by holding onto the sock, DeWillems doesn't pressure him to drop it or give it back and instead gives him a minute to realize she's not going to snatch it from him.

She then uses a previously taught cue of 'do you want to trade?' and in response, the dog immediately lifts his head from the item - a move that gets rewarded with a treat.

The sock remains with the dog at this stage because once again, it doesn't pose a threat, so DeWillems chooses to use the moment as a teaching opportunity for the dog to send the message that people don't always take away the stuff you care about.

DeWillems says it's important dogs learn that when they have something of value, good things will happen to them. "While this response may seem counterintuitive for dealing with this behavior in this moment, this is actually part of a long-term goal of preventing resource guarding and increasing the likelihood that this dog will give up dangerous or important human items next time."

Teaching your dog to trade an item they have for something else will turn a situation that is potentially a losing one for your dog into a win-win. "Every repetition of trading your dog for something they have - whether they are supposed to have it or not - builds trust and increases the chances you’ll be able to get something from them next time," DeWillems explains. 

"Because next time could be something even more dangerous, or more important to you, or more expensive — and your dog having a history of positive experiences when they inevitably “steal” something (stealing is a human construct) makes it way more likely you can safely get that item back without conflict."

For more great training tips, check out our guide to how to stop a dog from jumping up.

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.