canine foundations
week 5 homework

Drop It
Sometimes we’re a little too late giving the Leave It cue (or the cue didn’t work) and we need to take something away from our dog (we left something out or we don't want them to finish a long-lasting chew in one sitting). Instead of making it a game of tug or chase (or an even worse situation), teach your dog to drop things – and, better yet, that spitting something out is a GOOD thing!

Option 1: You approach your dog.

  • While your dog is lightly playing with a toy, calmly approach your dog with a small handful of delicious treats.

  • When your dog notices you coming and looks up at you (even if they haven’t, yet, dropped the toy), scatter your handful of treats a couple of feet off to the side of your dog.

  • Ideally, your dog drops the toy to go clean up the scattering of treats; if that’s the case, pick up the toy and wait for your dog to finish cleaning up.

  • When your dog is finished, hand the toy back to your dog and calmly walk away.

  • After a few moments, your dog will likely go back to playing with the toy (instead of bothering you for more treats). With another small handful of treats prepared, calmly approach your dog again.

  • This time, when your dog looks up at you, they may anticipate that you’ve got a handful of treats and drop the toy. After they drop the toy, scatter your handful of treats a couple of feet off to the side of your dog.

  • Pick up the toy as before and hand it back to your dog after they’ve finished cleaning up the treats.

 

Over time, as you’re practicing this, your dog will begin to anticipate your approach as a signal of treats to come and will likely be spitting their toy out quickly and consistently! When that is happening, you’re ready to add the verbal cue to the behavior:

  • While your dog is playing with a toy, calmly approach your dog with a small handful of treats and say, “Drop It,” (or whatever verbal cue you’d like to use – Drop, Out, Give, Trade, Exchange).

  • In anticipation of the scattering of treats, your dog should be readily looking up at you and dropping the toy; after they drop the toy, scatter your handful of treats a couple of feet off to the side of your dog.

  • Pick up the toy as before and hand it back to your dog after they’ve finished cleaning up the treats.

 

Option #2: Your dog comes to you.

If your dog is in the habit of running away from you or hiding when they have a "prize" or something you want from them, get in the habit of having them come to you instead!

  • Make a ruckus in another room (similar to our Hide & Seek Recalls)!

  • Use noises familiar to your dog (like the fridge door, the crinkle of a treat bag or bag of shredded cheese, etc.) to get them running to you for good stuff and dropping/forgetting about the "prize" they had a moment earlier.

  • You may even use a trail of treats if you really needed to or couldn't get close to your dog without them trying to scoot away!

Drop It Tips:

  • Think of the Drop It behavior as a trade with your dog: they drop something to trade up for the tasty, smelly treats you have to offer them.

  • We always scatter the handful of treats a couple or a few feet away from where the dog currently is playing with the toy, so that they have to move away to go get the treats and there are multiple treats to clean up; this gives us the time and space we need to pick up or clean up the item(s) we asked them to drop.

  • The vast majority of the time, we want to practice Drop It with a toy or something that can be returned to your dog. We want them to think that not only is this Drop It a sweet trade (for delicious treats), but they also get the dropped item back to keep playing!

  • Practice your Drop It at least a couple times a day every day with your dog.

Leave It (Phase II)

As you're continuing your Leave It practice, work on increasing difficulty slowly. If it doesn't appear that your dog has any reaction to the Leave It cue (they do not look at you in an easy, low-distraction environment), keep it on easy mode before working in more difficult environments:

  • Practice in the home until you're consistently able to click/treat for eye contact.

  • Then move outside to a familiar outdoor area; again, wait to move on until you're consistently able to click/treat for eye contact.

  • Begin offering the Leave It cue on walks (when your dog is not distracted or it would be fairly easy for them to offer you eye contact).

 

As you start introducing more distractions and in a variety of scenarios, you may begin using the Leave It cue with actual "temptations"! I put that in quotes because I encourage you to practice a lot with things that don't matter and with things your dog is not actually that interested in - a tree, a fire hydrant, a leaf on the sidewalk, something your dog only glances at (instead of gets glued to).

While practicing, we talked about practicing two skills (skills for the human end of the leash): give your Leave It cue as soon as possible (as soon as your dog notices something or even before that) and keep your feet moving (specifically, move your feet away from the thing of interest):

  • If your dog has already tunnel-visioned in on something tempting, the chances you'll get their eyes are pretty slim!

  • The sooner you give the cue, the easier it will be for your dog to offer eye contact and the easier it will be to avoid the thing you're pretty sure they wanted.

  • We don’t stop right in front of the thing we want left alone – why hang out next to the dead squirrel?

  • We don’t slow down to see if your dog will notice the thing – if they don’t see it, they don’t see it and everyone is happy.

  • And we don’t stop at a point that allows your dog to tunnel-vision in on something we don’t want them to have.

 

So, give your cue early and keep your feet moving; make it easy for your dog to offer you the eye contact you're looking to click/treat for!

Leash Walking Skills

This week, we talked about the Look at That (LAT) Game as another skill you and your dog can take advantage of on your walks! This game rewards your dog for looking at a distraction or trigger calmly and quietly. Rewarding dogs for looking at objects or beings that distract them seems counter-intuitive, but it can be really useful!

 

And it’s simple:

  • When your dog looks at the trigger (whatever it is), click and then offer a treat.

  • When your dog looks at the trigger again, click and treat again.

  • Rinse and repeat.

 

Generally, if your dog is already barking at or lunging toward a trigger, you are too near it; give yourself and your dog some extra space from the trigger. And repeat!

Contrary to how it might feel, this clicking and treating is not reinforcing your dog for fixating on the trigger; instead, it’s helping to lower the distraction value of the trigger. We’re making the activity of looking at something a behavior that can obtain a reward; over time, the behavior of looking at the trigger (and the current pattern of barking, lunging, general freaking out) becomes less and less emotionally-driven, reactive behavior. Actions and behaviors become more deliberate, thoughtful, and much more calm, making walks more enjoyable for both ends of the leash!