Games

Drop It
Teaching the Puppy to Drop on Cue

We are going to teach our puppies to drop it when we ask, immediately followed by a sit. They must then wait until we give them the word that they can take the toy again (for this we will use the cue take it).

In Preparation

Select a toy that your pup likes to hold in his mouth. A thick knotted rope or a stuffed toy (especially designed for dogs) usually works best.

The toy that we play this game with should be kept in a place where it is not accessible to the dog; the only time he gets to play with it is when you bring it out and initiate the game. We do not want our puppy initiating games.

We start by making sure that we have a toy that the puppy is interested in taking in his mouth and holding on to.

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Excite the puppy to take the toy in his mouth, some puppies will do this very readily, others will take a little more coaxing. If the puppy is not too interested, put the toy on the ground and pull it along the floor and wiggle it, talk in an excited voice, saying things like “ya wanna get it!” (If the puppy is still not interested, read How to Get an Uninterested Puppy Playing With Toys)

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Once the puppy has taken the toy in his mouth and is holding on to it, ask him to drop it. We are teaching the drop it so don’t expect that he knows what you are talking about. You need to teach him what these words mean.
Here you have several options depending on the puppy. As you ask for the drop it, put a tiny piece of food against the puppy’s nose. As he hears the cue, he scents the food and should let go of the toy or object in his mouth. After he has let go, lure him into a sit as you ask him to sit. Once he is in the sit, praise and reward him with the treat.

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We teach the puppy to sit after we ask for the drop to prevent him from jumping up to grab the toy. This is a very important step, do not omit it.
Next you introduce the cue take it. This happens once the puppy has dropped the toy and done his sit. You start the game again by offering the toy back. The sequence goes like this; take it — drop it — sit — take it. Rinse and repeat!
You should proceed this way until you see that the puppy is readily dropping the toy. Start to fade out the treat to the nose but continue to reward the sit with a treat for a few days and then more randomly, and then not at all.


Take It, Leave It

This game conditions your dog to understand when he can take something and when he has to leave it. Depending on how old you are, you may remember a certain James Bond movie that employs this exact game. A huge piece of steak was laid down in front of two very hungry looking Doberman Pinschers and they just stared at it until the bad guy in the film says they can have it. As amazing as it appeared in the film (it was a big crowd-pleaser), it is one of the easier things to teach your dog to do! You will probably not use it in the way they did in the James Bond film, but it has some very practical everyday uses.

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Sit or kneel down on the ground with your pup. Get his attention by showing him that you have a treat (the puppy should REALLY like the treat you have chosen for this).
To begin with, it helps to keep your hand at the puppy’s eye level, or slightly higher. When the pup tries to reach out and get it, close your hand. Now wait for him to leave it.

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Once the puppy has backed off your hand, open it again in front him. Repeat the first steps if he tries to get the treat again. If you do this often enough, your puppy will learn that if he goes for the treat, he will not get it.
Once your puppy backs off or looks away reliably, you can insert the verbal cue “leave it”.

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Once your puppy leaves the treat alone, and just sits and looks at it, ask him to take it and then offer it to him. “Good Boy!”
Repeat this sequence frequently.
You can begin to hold the treat lower as your puppy gets better at the game.
As your puppy gets better at it, wait until he looks up at you before you ask him to take it.

The Benefits

This is a great cue to employ when your dog is getting into something you don’t want them to, such as a dead fish at the beach, the snacks on the coffee table, or perhaps your child’s favorite toy.


The Socializing Game

Everyone in the family that is responsible and old enough (over 16) to take the puppy out on their own should get involved in this game. Include younger children with the supervision of an adult. Some families can divide themselves into teams to play this game. Kids love it! If you are single or a couple, think about involving some of your friends. The goal of the game is to expose your puppy to as many different people, places, sensations, sounds, and experiences as possible — in a successful manner. It is a great challenge among family members. Use the ideas that we offer and make up some of your own.

How the Socializing Game Works

The person responsible for initiating the game must ensure that there is a suitable reward for the person or team that wins: ice-cream cones all around, dinner out, something good.

Pick a section in the Social Schedule. For our example, we will use all of the sections that involve people.

The object of the game is to introduce the puppy to as many of the different kinds of folks on the list as each player can in the span of a week.

This means that the puppy actually has to meet and greet and get a treat from each different kind of person.

Each family member keeps a log of all of the people they meet. At the end of the week, the person who has introduced the puppy to the widest variety of people (i.e. different ethnic groups, a person on crutches, someone in costume, a person on roller blades, etc.) wins the game.

Another Variation

Decide on a time span, for our example we will use one week. Over the course of the week, each member of the family is on the hunt for the strangest things possible to introduce or expose the puppy to. A ride in a hot air balloon, flying saucers, a ferryboat, the sky is the limit.

After the allotted time, get together and unveil the weirdest things that your were able to hunt down and introduce your puppy to. You may have to vote to decide who wins.

The Benefits
  • There are countless benefits of a well socialized dog and the life he will lead compared to that of the dog who misses this chance. In some cases it could mean the difference between the life and death of a dog. Dogs that cannot cope with new and different experiences can end up biting. Dogs that bite lead miserable lives, if they are allowed to live at all.
  • In socializing your puppy, you give him an opportunity to cope with all that modern life has to offer. The more he is exposed to, the better he can cope.
  • By exposing your puppy to the world in a positive way, you are building your dog’s confidence to deal with life as it comes.
  • Dogs that live in isolation do not respond well to new experiences. Can you guarantee that your dog will never meet a clown, a cyclist, a small unruly child? The list goes on and on. It is unrealistic to assume that your dog will not encounter some odd sights during his life. Odd from the dog’s perspective, not yours.
  • Listen up all you single people! Socializing your puppy is a great way to meet and make new friends! Everyone loves a puppy.
  • The friendly challenge of playing this game is a great way to ensure that the puppy gets the best possible early social education.
  • It encourages all members responsible and old enough (over 16) to get involved in the puppy’s education.
The Rules
  • Always remember to have yummy treats with you when you are out and about with your puppy. This could help to turn a potentially stressful encounter into something pleasant for pup.
  • Don’t lose sight of the objective. Be very sure not to overwhelm your puppy in an attempt to win this game. If the pup is stressed over a situation or person, back off and jolly him up. You can try from a distance further away or try on another day.
  • Do not avoid things that the pup is timid or uncertain about. It is very important that you take the time to build up his confidence in the situation or around things or people. Neglecting to do so may lead to very serious problems. Besides, your opponents will find you out if you insist that the pup sat nicely while a skateboarder went by, if they could not get the pup to do same.
  • Although you can not over socialize your puppy, you can do too much in one day, like walk too far for a young puppy, or overwhelm him with too many new stimuli. Be reasonable during your outings. Take into consideration the weather, hot or cold. Take into consideration noise pollution.
  • If you are going to be out for a while in warm or hot weather take some water and a portable bowl, avoid letting the puppy drink from communal water bowls that many businesses provide. Although it is a nice gesture, it is a potential health hazard.
  • Have fun!