Question: How can I teach my dog to let go of something that she has in her mouth? She just thinks that it is a game and won’t let go.
Answer: Teach this with a big toy, so you can hold one end while your dog holds the other. Playfully wiggle it and tell your dog “take it.” When she does, let her chew or tug a few seconds while you continue holding. Now say your release cue—“thank you” or “give”—and show your dog a treat in your other hand about six inches from the side of her mouth, so she’ll have to let go to reach it.
When she does, praise her, but don’t pull the toy away. After she swallows the treat, immediately offer the toy back, saying “take it.” She will soon understand there is a big reward for letting go—a treat and the toy.
Repeat several times, then cue the release without showing treats. Most dogs release expecting a treat, so praise, treat and re-offer the toy. If she doesn’t release on the first try, cue and show the treat a couple more times and then try again without showing it.
After several days of playing this game, omit the treat and just playfully offer the toy back. If she steals something she shouldn’t have, don’t scold, just cue the release and reward with praise, a treat and a favorite toy.
Category: Vet Q&A