2018-02-09 / Front Page / Pets

Can your dog read?

Cues like Give, Drop, Leave it
By Phyllis Beasley, CPDT-KA Owner/Lead Trainer, Praise Dog! Training, LLC www.praiseyourdogtraining.com


Monica Fink’s Roscoe obediently leaves the treats on the floor knowing he will receive an even tastier reward. Monica Fink’s Roscoe obediently leaves the treats on the floor knowing he will receive an even tastier reward. Don’t turn getting that toy away into a wrestling match with your dog…teach him how to surrender it willingly by teaching a Drop or Give cue. Teaching a Give cue when Fido is a puppy is also another way to prevent possession aggression when he becomes an adult.

We do this by teaching your dog that just because he surrenders his prize, he will not only get a tasty treat, but he will also get the prize back. What could be better than that?

Physically forcing your dog to give up his toy (or that stick he brought in from outside) will only teach him to try harder to keep it away from you. Our goal is to teach him to happily surrender the object you want.

To train this cue, start with your dog on lead, so he can’t take the object and run away. Arm yourself with treats of higher value than the object you want your dog to surrender.


Tica Schneiderjohn doesn’t want to give up her Jolly Ball. A “Give” cue would come in handy. Tica Schneiderjohn doesn’t want to give up her Jolly Ball. A “Give” cue would come in handy. Hold the treats behind your back, out of the view of your dog. Present him with a toy or object that is interesting enough for him to want to hold in his mouth. Let him get the object in his mouth and become engaged with it. Reach towards his nose with the hand with the treat and say “Give” (or “Drop.”

When he drops the object to take the treat, mark the correct behavior with a “Yes,” let him take the treat and you take the toy away, putting it behind your back out of his sight. As soon as he eats the treat, give him the toy back.

Practice this first with a low value toy or object and as he begins to willingly drop the object, slowly increase the value of the object you practice with, increasing the value of the treat you reward with, and always returning the object.


Samantha Roberts’ Charlie shows off his skills with the Leave It cue. Samantha Roberts’ Charlie shows off his skills with the Leave It cue. With practice, the verbal cue and the movement of the object will be his cue to release the object. When he is regularly dropping the object, then say the verbal cue and reach for the object without having the treat in your hand. When he releases the object, mark the correct behavior with “ Yes” and reward him with a treat you had in your pocket or hidden behind you.

For this training to be effective and reliable, practice it a lot and in all areas of the house and outside. Start with a low value object you want the dog to release and gradually work up to asking him to drop higher value objects.

ALWAYS reward him with a treat that is higher value than what you are asking him to release. Even once your dog responds readily if you don’t have a treat for a reward, practice it when you don’t need to use the cue and reward him with a treat.


Teaching your puppy to give up an object is a cue that will be helpful later. This is a German Shepherd Dog puppy bred by Jill Doherty. Teaching your puppy to give up an object is a cue that will be helpful later. This is a German Shepherd Dog puppy bred by Jill Doherty. Drop or Give are different cues than Leave It. Leave It means that your dog sees an object but doesn’t have it yet, and you want to prevent him from getting it. This could be a chicken bone or cigarette stub he sees on your walk or an onion or pill that you dropped on the floor at home.

The cue could also be used to tell your dog to leave the cat alone. Just like teaching the Drop or Give cue, you should practice this frequently, in many different locations and always rewarding with a higher value treat than the object you are asking your dog to leave alone.

There are many different ways to teach Leave It. The method I will explain is a good way to teach a dog to leave alone an object that is too large to hold in your hands.

Place an object of interest to your dog on the ground. Have your dog on his leash at a distance from the object. Walk towards the object, but stop far enough away so your dog cannot get it. Let your dog get really close, but not close enough to grab the object.

Stop. As your dog stares longingly at the object say “Leave It” one time and wait. As soon as your dog does anything but stare at the object mark the correct behavior ( of not staring at the object) with a “Yes,” move backwards away from the object and reward your dog with a super treat and lots of praise.

Practice this with increasingly tempting objects and increasingly yummy treats.

If your dog is not responding, check to see if you have begun with an object that is low enough value or that you are rewarding with treats that are higher value to your dog than the object is tempting. Have you practiced a lot and in many different locations? Practice makes perfect.

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