Training A Puppy To 'Drop It'!

Training a puppy to "Drop It!" is essential and could help to keep your Cocker from harm. This article gives you all you need to teach your puppy to drop whatever's in his mouth the minute you ask him, and without hesitation! 

Training Your Puppy To 'Drop It!' 

When training a puppy it's important that the "Drop It!" command is amongst the first few commands that you teach him.

Max, our golden cocker spaniel sitting under a tree after being told to drop his ball

There are several good (and obvious) reasons for this.

If your Cocker picks up something that you really don't want him to have, his understanding of the 'drop it'! command is essential.

Situations where you might want to use this command:

  • your Cocker Spaniel puppy picks up a rotting rabbit carcass while you're out walking,

  • he may pick up something that could cause him harm or poison him,

  • you may decide that playtime is over and you want the toy or chew bone that's in your puppy's mouth to be given back to you,

  • he's picked up something that doesn't belong to him.

Your eventual aim will be for your puppy to drop immediately whatever he has in his mouth the moment you give the command. Easier said than done, huh?

Of course, training a puppy to drop something he has hold of, especially if it's something he wants to keep hold of, won't happen overnight. However, it will come slowly, in stages, especially if you keep practicing with him.

So, the sooner you begin, the better!

Stage 1: Training A Puppy To 'Drop It!' On Command

Decide what you are going to use as training treats.

I'd recommend something really tasty, for example, cheese, chopped chicken, liver, or hot-dog; something he would willingly trade his for.

  • Give your puppy a toy to play with, but don't give him his favourite. He may not want to give this up no matter what you bribe him with!

  • When he has his toy in his mouth, offer him one of your chosen treats; place it close to his nose so that he can smell it.

  • The moment your puppy begins to open his mouth to take the treat, say the words "Drop It!". When training a puppy it's essential to get the timing right. If you leave the command until after he's dropped the toy, he won't link  your command with the opening of his mouth and giving up his toy.

  • As he opens his mouth to take the treat, dropping the toy in the process, let him take the treat and give him lots of praise to let him know you're happy with his behaviour.

  • Give him back his toy and let him play with it for a couple of minutes before trying the above exercise again. Gently remove it from his mouth if he doesn't readily drop it.

  • Continue to practice the above exercises whenever you get the opportunity. Your puppy will soon begin to associate opening his mouth with the words "Drop It!".

Stage 2: Training A Puppy To "Drop It!" On Command

Once your puppy is happily opening his mouth and letting go of what he had, it's time to mix it up a little!

  • At your next training session, ask your puppy to "Drop It", but this time don't give him a treat until after he's dropped his toy.

    He should automatically drop the toy in anticipation of a treat, in which case, praise him and give him his treat.

    If he doesn't respond, you're not ready to move on yet. Go back and practice Stage 1 a few more times.

  • Practice this exercise several times a day until your puppy gives you whatever he has in his mouth as soon as you ask him, and without hesitation.

Gradually Remove Treats 

When you're puppy training it's important that you begin to gradually remove the use of treats otherwise your Cocker will only ever work for treats. He may also become overweight!

Try rewarding your pup with a food treat one in every three times he gets it right.

Keep up with the praise and/or give him his toy to play with because these are also forms of reward for him. It doesn't always have to be about food.

You'll be glad you did this if you find yourself in a situation where you don't have any treats with you, but desperately need him to drop something. This is where rewarding with praise pays off.

Tips On Training A Puppy

Here's a few tips on how to get the best out of your puppy's training. As with all dog training, continue with these exercises from time to time to help keep his manners 'fresh'.

Don't just stop them suddenly, keep it going!

Golden cocker spaniel lying on the grass. Training your puppy to drop it on command could save his life!
  • When your puppy has mastered the "Drop It!" command without the use of treats, try the same exercise with toys that are of higher value to him, for example his most favourite toy or a chew bone.

    You may need to go back to using treats to help him give up his favourite toy, but persevere and follow the above steps. Once he's mastered it, drop the treats again.

  • If it becomes obvious that your puppy stops taking his toy from you because he's anticipating a treat, end the training session and practice this exercise during the day when he's not expecting it. Don't forget to keep a couple of treats handy so you can be spontaneous.

  • When training a puppy, if he refuses to drop something when asked, gently take it from his mouth.

    If he gives it up easily, praise him but, whatever you do, don't try to take it by force as this will end up as a tug-of-war game. Walk away. The chances are he'll get bored with it and leave it, or will drop it and follow you. You can always try again later.

  • There may, however, be times when you just have to take something from your puppy's mouth, for his own sake.

    As a very last resort, for example, where your puppy refuses to drop something in his mouth that could harm him, you could try the following:

    From above, hold your Cocker Spaniel's upper jaw between your thumb and index finger at the point where his canine teeth meet; as you do so, gently fold the upper lip over his teeth and tilt his head back slightly. Be very gentle.

    Using your other hand, put your middle finger over the small teeth in his bottom jaw and pull down gently. Whatever it is you're trying to retrieve will probably drop to the floor. 

    If your dog tries to bite you he will bite his own lip.

  • Don't always give back the object that you've taken from your puppy as there may be a time when you don't want him to have what you've taken from his mouth; occasionally, offer him an alternative toy.

  • Practice the "Drop It!" command when playing games with your puppy.

  • Practice with many different objects and in as many rooms and areas that you can, including the garden.

  • Your Cocker Spaniel puppy may pounce on an object, usually a toy, and run away with it - he may be trying to entice you into playing a game of chase with him. Don't be tempted to chase your puppy in order to get the item back; chasing games are not good games to play with your puppy!

  • Last, but not least, take things slowly; don't rush, and most of all, have patience.

Training Your Puppy: Summary

I hope you've found this article on training a puppy to "Drop It!" useful. 

I'm confident you'll use it many times!

So, if you've reached the end of this page I'm guessing your puppy will now drop whatever's in his mouth the minute you ask him to.

More importantly, you should be able to do this without the use of treats as a bribe!

Don't forget to keep practicing all his puppy obedience commands to keep his training strong.

If your puppy won't listen to a word you say, this is for you!  Begin training your puppy right now and follow these top training tips to help you get the best out of your Cocker Spaniel pup.

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