Tips for getting a consistent "drop it"

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!


Herpaderp-apotam- us
Barked: Thu May 2, '13 7:10pm PST 
I'm working with a client who has me a little bit stumped and I'm hoping that you all may have a little advice for me.

They have a 9 month old male neutered Rottweiler who is, all in all, extremely sweet and has a wonderful temperament. But he likes to steal certain items, socks in particular, and run off to his bed with them. He doesn't destroy them, he just likes to have them (according to them). This happens multiple times a day.

He will drop his toys and will drop socks when he knows that the owner is trying to practice the drop it but in "real life," he likes to be a brat.

When he was leash biting, I recommended immobilizing it to get him to leave it be and that has worked fairly well. Problem is he can still chew and satisfy on the sock when it's being held still. Eventually he will let the sock go, but it can take quite a long time. Trading for another toy or a treat used to work, but not any more. We've also tried using a bitter apple soaked bait sock, but he apparently thinks bitter apple is barbeque sauce. I've recommended that they keep the socks where the dog can't get them but this quickly got them bickering about whose job it was to keep the laundry in the basket silenced To me, that's a part of the solution but not entirely. You need to be able to get the dog to drop it if he does get it.

So after all that text, any ideas? They don't seem interested in using a remote collar, which is what our other trainer recommended. I'd like to try a different route anyway.
~Emma~ RL1

Mixed breed,- Pure heart
Barked: Thu May 2, '13 10:25pm PST 
If they aren't willing to change their behavior (picking up their own socks) then I'm not sure how devoted they are to change this behavior in their dog. wink

Up the value of the item being traded.
Have them teach a "take it" cue along with "leave it".
Pick up your darn socks!

For me, with my current foster who is a huge stealer of socks, it's management.

Awesome video for a drop it by Chirag Patel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndTiVOCNY4M

The Monster
Barked: Fri May 3, '13 4:21am PST 
I would work on (re)teaching drop until the response is almost instantaneous and the dog responds without thinking. See this video: Teach your dog to drop

See how they start without an object around, turn it into a face paced game, and eventually get a split second response?


Got food? I- can be bought ya- know....
Barked: Fri May 3, '13 5:39am PST 
Sonny arrived as an avid "shoe chewer", but other foot wear would suffice.
Management as much as possible is always part of a training program.
A remote collar as a consequence might help, but if the client defaults to punishment rather than training a well behaved dog, this can spiral out of control.
Using trading up as a way of rewarding an alternate behavior is a good idea.

Here's the catch: Is it possible that the dog has learned that the way to get attention and treats is to steal socks? It has obviously become a game to him with the sock being an essential part.
In order to extinguish the sock stealing, the relationship between sock = game = reward must be broken.
They have to suck the fun out of sock stealing.

I would advise the client to ignore the sock stealing entirely. No more trading up for the socks. As far as they are concerned, socks no longer exist is the universe, so the dog couldn't have one in his mouth.

Start them on a program of rewarding the dog lavishly when it is doing something it should.
(ie: chewing his own toys, just resting, playing with a ball on his own, etc.) Tell them to set a goal number of 12 times a day, each person will praise and reward the dog while it is behaving well on his own. They should keep the praise and reward calm and low key so the dog continues the behavior they like.

If they see the dog has a sock, IGNORE and walk away. Wait 10-15 seconds. Then call the dog happily with an offer to do something, like go outside, sit for a treat, play with a ball for a moment, practice another training exercise, etc. All the while they must ignore the sock if the dog still holds it. If that mean the treats pile up on the floor because he did the required behavior, but still hold the sock, so be it.
If the dog does drop the sock, instruct them to leave it where it falls. When the dog is otherwise occupied and out of sight, then make the sock disappear.

This worked like a charm for Sonny, he is a reliablely reformed shoe thief
laugh out loud laugh out loud laugh out loud

Depending on the clients training ability you may have to demo this for them. I had to show a client this technique so the dog would leave the cat alone.

Got food? I- can be bought ya- know....
Barked: Fri May 3, '13 5:56am PST 
I forgot to add:
Introduce your client to food dispensing toys or puzzles. They are a great way of keep a dog busy for a few minutes. It provides a positive physical and mental outlet for the dog and may provide the owner with the distraction needed to hide the sock…..
laugh out loudlaugh out loudlaugh out loudlaugh out loudhamster dance

Herpaderp-apotam- us
Barked: Fri May 3, '13 7:34am PST 
Thanks for the video guys, I never would have thought of doing it that way. I'll give it a try!

He doesn't steal the socks to make it a game of chase or tug of war, he takes them to his bed and just mouths on them. My in-laws have a lab that has mastered the "I'm going to take something you want, show it to you and then run away" game which is so bloody irritating, I don't know how they put up with it. Trading up used to work but no longer does, he'd rather have the socks than hot dog, cheese, chicken, another toy, etc.

I think everyone's life would be a bit better if they just cleaned up after themselves a little but I still think it's very valuable for them to be able to get the dog to drop it if he does somehow manage to get ahold of one.
Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Fri May 3, '13 8:10am PST 
They need to allow him one binky. Sometimes dogs do this as youngsters. Tiller did, making collections of both anything with heels or my lingerie (no jokes, please, lol!) and also a couch pillow. Given that he was destroying the first two and not the third in his passion (again, no jokes, lol!!!!!), I allowed him the pillow. That's what I traded, and he hugged it and chewed on it.

I'd make the next sock he takes his special sock. Once they get it back, don't clean it or anything. Just reserve it for next time.

He doesn't want food, he doesn't want a toy. He wants a binky.

Tiller still loves that darned pillow. When Daniel was a puppy he was humping like nuts, too. Poor, poor pillow laugh out loud

At any rate, you don't want to be anal with dogs; a food reward may be nice, but that's not his zone at the moment. Dogs are individuals, with their wants, needs and desires, and these desires can be very natural to some dogs going through their puppy insecurities. It smells like their people, it makes them feel cozy. Allow the smells to compound (doggie and people) and it will probably be the trade up they need. If you get focused on the "drop" rather than emotional need the dog is trying to satisfy, you may come at odds. He's practicing a reassuring behavior, so rewarding with what he is actually looking for?.....there you go!

Edited by author Fri May 3, '13 8:19am PST


Herpaderp-apotam- us
Barked: Mon May 6, '13 7:01pm PST 
I never would have thought of it that way Tiller. I will certainly pass on that advice, along with recommending the training process in the video that the others posted.

Thanks guys!