Teach Your Puppy to ‘Drop’

1. Playing regularly with your puppy will help you form a strong bond.  The purpose of play is to develop skills that will be useful throughout their lives, such as impulse control.  The more games you play with your puppy, the more he will consider you to be the most interesting thing in his world. Encouraging puppies to play with toys provides a good outlet for their physical and mental energies.

2. First we want to develop interest in the toy. Rather than just offer your puppy a new toy, take it out, play with it yourself, or play catch with another family member and act like you’re having fun.  Then put the toy away.  Repeat this until your puppy is chomping at the bit to join in the play.  Keep the toy moving/wiggling along the ground. Build enthusiasm for play first, then put in controls like sit and wait later.  Keep the games fun!!

3. Playing Tug is an excellent way to teach your puppy to Take it and Drop it Start by wiggling the toy along the floor to get your puppy excited.  Let him get the toy and then gently tug for 2-3 seconds.  Then say DROP IT, and put a treat to his nose.  Praise him for dropping the toy and repeat the game.  As your puppy gets better at the game, start asking him SIT before letting him get the toy and tell him TAKE IT.  This helps him learn to wait patiently for the things he wants.  Keep your tug sessions short so your puppy does not get over-stimulated.

4. Ideally, your puppy should have two sets of toys:  toys that he can play with by himself and ‘interactive toys’ that he can only play with you.  Keep the interactive toys put away so you initiate play and this keeps you and the toys interesting to your puppy. 

5. You never want to grab something out of your dog’s mouth (unless its dangerous).  This will only make your puppy want it more and want to keep away from you.  You want to be able to approach your puppy and tell him DROP IT.  Playing with toys is a great way to teach this since he gets the toy back.

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Socializing Your Dog or Puppy

Ongoing socialization is extremely important to prevent behavior problems.  Socialization is especially important before the age of 3 months, but should also be done throughout your dog’s lifetime. Gentle socialization plays a huge role in preventing aggression and fearful behavior. 

Lack of socialization can lead to hyperactive behavior, barking, shyness and aggression.  The younger you begin socializing your dog, the better, but all dogs can be gradually brought into new and even initially fearful situations and learn to enjoy them. 

Socialization is a lifelong process.  For example, if your dog does not see any dogs for months or years at a time, you would expect his behavior to change around them when he does finally see them again.

How to expose your dog to something new or something he is wary of:

  • Make sure that you remain calm, and up-beat and keep his leash loose, if he is wearing one.
  • Expose him gradually to what he is fearful of, never forcing him.  Allow him to retreat if he wants to.
  • Reward him for being calm or for exploring the new situation.

Try to expose your dog regularly to all of the things and situations you would like him to able to cope with calmly in the future.  Progress slowly enough so that it is easy for your dog to enjoy the sessions.  It will seem like a lot of time to spend at first but it will pay off with a well-behaved dog. 

Below are some examples, but this is just a start:

  • Meeting new people of all types, including children, men, crowds, people wearing hats, in wheelchairs, etc.
  • Meeting new dogs (do not bring your pup to areas with lots of dogs until after 4 months)
  • Exposure to other pets such as cats, horse, birds
  • Teach him to enjoy his crate
  • Riding in the car (be sure to restrain him using a crate or seatbelt for safety)
  • Being held, touched all over and in different ways, being bathed and groomed
  • Visiting the Vet’s office, groomer, daycare, boarding kennel
  • Exposure to loud noises and strange objects (example – umbrella opening)
  • Exposure to traffic, motorcycles, bicycles, skateboards, joggers
  • Getting him used to being left alone for a few hours at a time
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