Today I’m going to share how to get your dog to drop socks or other items.
My puppy Remy likes to steal socks and run off with them for attention. I’m working on “drop” with Remy every day in short sessions to hopefully make the command automatic. If not, I might have the worst “bird dog” ever!
Thankfully, he doesn’t become possessive of the socks. He wants to carry them and tease me but will let me open his mouth and take them back.
The one time Remy became possessive:
We had one “incident” where Remy took a shower loofah, and when I went to grab it he became possessive.
He clamped down on that loofah like his life depended on it. He ignored “drop” and prying his mouth open was out of the question. I was worried he would swallow the loofah or bite. Thankfully, he didn’t do either.
He finally did drop it when I went to get some food and my husband tried to take the loofah with a more playful approach. (I believe my tension triggered the possessiveness initially.)
We haven’t had an issue since, but I’ve made a point to work on “drop” every day with treats because the last thing I want is a possessive dog.
How to get your dog to drop socks and other items:
1. Select some highly valued treats.
Find something your dog is willing to work for! These are small, soft treats you can easily tear in half. They come in duck or chicken & fish flavors and my dogs seem to find them really motivating.
2. Plan multiple, short training sessions each day.
Ask your dog to drop different lower-valued toys in exchange for a treat. Hold the treat to his nose and say “drop” in a happy voice. When he drops the item, give him a treat, take the item and then give the item back.
Repeat 3 or 4 times, and then quit while you’re ahead.
As your dog gets the idea, you can work on getting him to drop higher-valued items like bully sticks or rawhides. Right now, we’ve been working a lot with the Kong.
3. If your dog likes to play fetch or tug:
- Ask your dog to “drop” when playing fetch. Hold the treat right up to his nose. When he drops, give him the treat. Then throw the toy. Repeat 3 or 4 times. End with giving him a few treats and putting the toy away. If your dog won’t drop the toy, try different types of treats or perhaps start out with a lower-valued toy.
- Ask your dog to “drop” when playing tug of war. Hold the treat right up to his nose. When he drops, give him the treat. Then continue playing. Repeat 3 or 4 times. End with giving him a few treats and putting the toy away.
These above tips also come in handy if you have a dog with a ball obsession.
4. Be aware of your energy and how it affects your dog.
My puppy responds better to a happy, positive tone where “drop” is a fun game. Sometimes tension or aggression from the human can create possessive aggression in dogs.
I’m not saying this will be an issue for all dogs, but I do notice my puppy is more successful if I keep the situation fun and light.
5. Keep small items picked up.
Obviously, to get your dog to drop socks and other items, it’s best if you can prevent your dog from stealing items in the first place! Pick up laundry or close bedroom doors, use baby gates, etc. Try to view the room from your puppy’s point of view and put away items he might find tempting.
6. Randomly surprise your puppy.
When he’s randomly playing with a toy by himself, just tell him “drop” and then hold a treat to his nose. Then let him go back to playing. He won’t believe his luck!
7. Randomly drop socks or other items.
Walk by your dog and drop a sock or some other item he likes to steal but be prepared to guide his nose away with a treat. Tell him what a good boy he is, give another treat, then put the item away. Repeat a few times.
You can use the “leave it” command here if you’d like. Block your dog from taking the item, say “leave it” and reward with a treat.
- It’s generally best to keep dog toys picked up. Bring them out a few at a time so you control the toys, and rotate which ones you use. On the other hand, you might want to keep a toy or two out to keep your dog interested in toys vs. other items like socks or shoes. It’s about finding the right balance.
- Carry a few treats in your pockets. That way you’re always ready for a quick training session when opportunities occur in “real life.” He picks up a sock? You say drop and you have your treats ready.
- Sometimes it’s worth it to reward the dog by letting him keep the original item. Even if it’s disgusting! For example, Remy picked up an orange peel off the sidewalk but dropped it when I asked. I rewarded him by letting him have the orange peel! He ate it. No big deal.
- In emergencies, ring the doorbell. If your dog has something potentially dangerous and you can’t get him to drop it, try ringing the doorbell. This will likely get your dog’s attention and he might drop whatever he has. Also try opening the dog treat cupboard. Peanut butter on a spoon is another good bribe.
My list is not perfect!
What would you change or add?