Teaching Your Dog “OUT” or “Drop It” especially in Protection Training
I was asked a while ago how to use positive reinforcement in protection, police, Schutzhund, or other types of sport dog training and this article will teach you how simple it is to use psychology and good dog training and not to rely on corrections or other nasty methods.
I hear about a lot of dogs that have trouble dropping a toy, an object, or even the bad guy in protection training!
Teaching your dog to spit something out can be tricky! Some people think this is the hardest thing to accomplish in protection work.
The problem that most dogs have with “giving something valuable up” to you is that you very rarely ever let him have it again, let him have it again without a lot of work/obedience, or reward him with something better.
In the dog’s psychology, he would rather continue to possess the item than lose it to you. He may not understand that he inevitably doesn’t have much of a choice but to give it up! So the dog tries to run with the object or lock his jaws on it tighter!
Even though he wants to be obedient to your commands, he may be conflicted.
What you want is to alleviate the conflict from the situation.
Conflict creates anxiety and anxiety often breaks down obedience commands and good behaviors.
Corrections and pain increase anxiety and therefore can often make the dog latch on harder and refuse to release. If you haven’t read my article on compulsion training please do so and you can find it here .
Working as a positive reinforcement trainer in the protection training world I see this time and time again. A shock collar is applied and often misused and the dog learns to tolerate and desensitize himself to the shock driving in harder and harder and then the trainer is left with a dog that is uncontrollable.
I have also seen dogs picked up off of the object or the bite, but the fact is that this type of training often increases the drive and intensity and frustration for the object, not to mention it is horrific to witness much less consider doing to your dog!
My dogs have almost perfect OUTS; Why?
Because I have taught them since they were very young that when I say OUT (which by the way is different than “Leave It”) they will receive an equal or better reward for doing so. This awareness that the reward will always come alleviates the conflict in the command.
When they are puppies I teach them by utilizing two of the same toys, and when toy number one is dropped I tell the puppy what he is doing “OUT” or “drop it” and I throw toy number two almost immediately! Listening and doing what I want and ask equals almost instant satisfaction.
Don’t use the command prior to the action, say the command as he is spitting it out and once he is doing it quite reliably you may give the command and wait for the behavior.
Instead of worrying that I am not going to reward him he KNOWS that by doing what I ask he will get what he wants.
I begin with this as a controlled game so that I am not taking away high value items (perhaps my shoes) and not giving them back. I am controlling the situation by making sure my puppies or even adult dogs learn this in the context of a game.
Games are fun! The definition of a game is an activity engaged in for diversion or amusement. Games should be based around FUN, FUN, FUN with little obedience at first. As the game develops more and more obedience comes into play, but because of the positive reinforcement and dependability on the consistency of the reinforcer it eliminates conflict on the dog’s part.
Your dog doesn’t have to be conflicted or worry that he isn’t going to get his toy, he KNOWS he will get his toy, tug, or bite if not right away, eventually when he does what you want and obeys your commands.
When you are done with the game, you will allow your dog or puppy to take the object to his crate or his water dish and when he releases it on his own you will calmly take it with no objection or serious issue. This allows him to win the toy, so again there is no conflict for your dog. Such toys will only be used for training and should not be allowed to be grabbed or played with without you!
If you are working with a protection, police, Schutzhund or other sport dog, the next step is to teach him not to drop it unless commanded. You don’t
necessarily want him to come to you and immediately spit out the tug toy or to release the grip of the sleeve the moment the pressure is gone. Some possessiveness is required in these types of sports. If you are not involved in these sports I do not recommend this type of play!
To teach him to hold on, reach down and playfully try to take it away from him! This act of trying to whisk his toy away will kick in his possessive drive and he will grip down harder on the toy; this is why trying to force the toy away from him will only make him more possessive!
Because this holding on is what you are trying to teach him, praise him for keeping the toy in his mouth and if he did accidentally release it or let it slip out of his mouth, tease him for a moment moving it fast before letting him finally grab it, then again try to playfully whip it out of his mouth. He will quickly learn to hold on until told to release.
Then ask him to “Drop it” or “OUT” and as soon as he listens throw his other toy for him or allow him to come in and bite his tug. If he doesn’t listen wiggle his toy and pretend you are playing with it until he drops his own toy and wants to engage in your play. You may need to get animated and excited and silly when you are trying to convince him your toy is better! But that is all part of the game and dog training.
Owners who simply hold on to toy number 2 and command their dogs to spit out toy number one may be missing the boat. The idea is to show your dog how much fun you are and what kind of exciting things happen when he listens to you. If you are boring, he isn’t going to want to listen to you!
I had a friend of a friend over training with me the other day and his dog doesn’t want to listen to the out command because he tries to use the collar to correct her off of the bite. He insists that getting her to drop it for another exact same toy does not work, but I know it is because he is not making toy number 2 exciting enough for her! Get out of your comfort zone and really play if you need to!
Once your dog has conquered these feats and is holding the toy unless you tell him to spit them out, and is spitting the toy out when you ask it is time to recognize and use the OUT command selectively.
Protection, police, Schutzhund, and other sport dog trainers do not want the dogs to anticipate the OUT command, which means it should not be used very often. You don’t want your dog coming off the bite on his own, he should stick with it until told to release.
So most of the time I allow my dogs to win the suit or the sleeve and carry it around; this gives him the satisfaction of winning and gives no conflict.
And, when it is time to get him to OUT on command, I want him to know that if he does it he will get another bite and then win the object, suit or sleeve. This lessens the conflict and he learns to listen.
As your dog gets better and better and comes along in his training the delay of the reinforcement “the bite” will be acceptable because he has more control and understands the game.
I don’t have to use force or electric collars on my dogs, they know that if they listen to me there will be no conflict and I will give them ultimately what they want! It is a simple relationship that I strengthen with each training session!