You would like to play fetch with your dog, but puppy just won’t cooperate. Tug of war can a fun game for people and dogs, but again, your pooch just can’t let go of the toy.
Do not despair! You can teach your dog to release his treasures on cue. It is fairly simple, just have treats (really good ones, like turkey or beef) and a toy. Put your dog on leash for the first few lessons. This will prevent Fido from running away with his new toy. Stand on the leash, and both of your hands will be free for training. Second, pick the cue you will teach to your dog, “drop it” and “out” are popular. Put the treats where you can easily get to them, but your dog cannot. Get your puppy interested in the toy, then give the toy to the dog.
The training begins. With the treats in your easy reach, say your cue, “Drop it” or “Out”. Be very careful to avoid looking at or touching the treats at this time. Wait two seconds. Ok, your dog will not let go of the toy when you begin this exercise, but at some point, he will. You must wait these two seconds to give the dog time to demonstrate his understanding of this exercise. You have just started this training, so Fido hangs on tight. Take a treat and hold it a quarter inch from his nose. Let the dog smell the treat, and decide if he wants it. Fido will have to let go of the toy to eat the treat. Yeah! He did it! If Fido does not let go, use a better treat, real meat or cheese. Repeat this exercise ten to twenty times a day.
If your pet is doing well, always letting go before you offer the treat, you can try the new cue while you are playing tug. Do not try tug first, as it is much harder for puppy to let go when you are playing with the toy. Show your dog the toy, and say “tug!”. Wiggle the toy if necessary. When puppy is tugging like mad, give your let go cue “Drop it!” or “Out!” Remember, you have not reached for the food yet. Count your two seconds. If your dog lets go of the toy, give him a treat right away. If he does not let go, hold a very yummy treat a quarter inch from his nose. Wait. Give your puppy the treat when he lets go of the tug.
Give your puppy a treat each and every time he lets go when asked. Remember, it is not the cue (Drop it or Out) that causes your dog to let go, it is promise of a reward. Reward your dog’s good behavior. Your puppy will learn to trust you, and you will have fun playing with your pooch.
Tricia Fagan CPDT-KA