How to Train a Dog to Give Things Back Willingly

You never know what your dog might decide to investigate and chew on, or possibly even eat. Training your dog to give things back willingly, and having the ability to get things out of his mouth quickly, is very important no matter how old he is.  Learn how to train a dog to do this and it will make your life easier and safer in the future.

When you begin teaching this, your first training lesson shouldn’t be after the dog has already latched on to something forbidden, such as that sneaker that was just lying around. If your dog does decide to grab something illegal, fight the impulse to chase him.

How to Train a Dog:

Step 1 – Grabbing Hold

Start with a pocket full of treats and a toy your dog plays with but doesn’t go crazy for. Make sure it’s something you can grip outside the dog’s mouth. Rope toys are good for this type of exercise.

Try the exercise off-leash at first; however, if your dog seems distracted, put him on-leash. Say “Take It” and try to get the dog to grab a hold of the toy.

Step 2 – The Release

Get his attention by showing him a treat.

If all goes well, once the dog sees the treat, he will open his mouth to get it. As soon as he opens his mouth, say “Give” and when he releases the toy, Click or Verbally Reinforce and reward him.

“As soon as he swallows the treat, give him back the toy.”

If the dog doesn’t “give” the toy back, just stop playing with him. With a firm grip on the toy (no tugging), just ignore the dog. Do not make eye contact with him and do not talk to him. Just look down, or even away from him and continue ignoring him.  Any type of attention at all could spark additional interest in him to keep tugging.

If the dog continues tugging, just keep reducing the amount of material he has to tug on by moving your hands slowly up the toy until they are right up to his mouth.

Continue to keep a firm grip on the toy (use your waist and hips as additional leverage if you need to) while the dog’s nose is up against your hands. Just let him try to tug away now. At this point, many dogs will give up because it just isn’t as much fun anymore. You’ve really limited the amount of tugging they can do.

Once he gives the toy to you, practice the exercise again. If your dog is mouthy and likes to nip, try putting an anti-chewing spray on your hands before you play. If his teeth touch your skin, the game immediately stops.  Training your dog to give things back is not always easy.

If he’s still not letting go – For real persistent dog’s that won’t seem to let go, just drop your end and walk out of the room. Don’t say anything. He got the toy, but he lost his playmate and his “tugger”. Give it a shot.

Keep Trying

Try this exercise at least three times a day for 5 reps each time. This should build up a pretty good foundation of exchanges.  When you can do this exercise easily 9 out of 10 times, try using the word “Give” without showing him the food. Make sure you keep it hidden.

“As soon as you get the toy, you can give him his reward.”

When he really starts getting pretty good at this game, try mixing up the times he actually gets rewarded. Maybe he has to “Give” the toy back twice before he gets his reward. Maybe it’s three times. Just mix-up the reward schedule so you’re dog won’t become accustomed to knowing when he might or might not get his treat. This will keep him interested in playing.

Training your dog is similar to playing the slot machines. The unknown keeps us coming back for more, and it will work the same way for your dog.  Give it a try.



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