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Get Your Dog to Drop Socks and Other Items

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.

How to get your dog to drop socks and other items

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.

Other tips:

  • 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?

Related posts:

Does your dog really know Leave It?

How to stop a dog from guarding his owner

Barbara Rivers

Tuesday 28th of February 2017

I don't have anything to add to your list of suggestions, they're all great! I used tiny cut up pieces of sausage when I taught the puppies the "leave it" command, and it worked like a charm. I love your doorbell idea, I can see how that would work like a charm :)


Monday 27th of February 2017

I totally agree with this approach! I have a sweet but hyper border collie mix who loves to take the smaller dogs toys & chew them up. I thought he should drop them on command, he would get stubborn,then we'd have a contest of wills. He runs back to his dog bed( home base) his & starts destroying. After wasting a lot of time & he growled at me, I read your blog awhile back & started doing treat swaps with him, he can't resist the treat & i put the treat right up to his nose & I pick up the toy w the other hand as soon as he drops it, Win-win instead of confrontation. He also has times he doesn't want to go in his kennel but will make up "border collie games" if left alone which are usually result in cleaning up what he knocks over going from window to window if anyone walks by. Yesterday he ran upstairs & wouldn't come down, treats didn't work, my husband said ring the doorbell, bam! Down in a flash!

Kimberly Gauthier

Wednesday 21st of September 2016

I love that you mentioned the energy that you brought to the loofa situation. That's something that took me forever to understand.

When Rodrigo was a puppy, I played a game with him called Give it to Mommy. We still play that game and he knows that it means that we're going to play chase and tug. But years ago, I quickly learned that I had to teach him Drop It too, because he had something (can't remember what) and I said "give it to Mommy" and he took off.

We live on 5 acres so if my dog doesn't want me to catch him, I won't. That was a big lesson that still works today.


Tuesday 20th of September 2016

The doorbell idea is genius! Wish I had known that trick when I was managing a serious resource guarder!


Tuesday 20th of September 2016

I like the suggestion of using tug to teach "drop." We used that game to practice drop, wait, ready, and release. I didn't use treats, but she LOVES tug, so the game itself was reinforcement. She somehow figured out that if I stopped play and asked for a drop, I would bring her right back into the game once she complied.

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 20th of September 2016

Yes, that makes sense.