**“Drop It”, “Out” or “Give”
When you've messed up and left your earbuds laying on the coffee table, this cue allows you to remove anything from your dog's mouth. It's a great to use if your dog guards toys or chewies, it's used in retrieving, and it's used in tug-of-war and other games, as well. This is called a release command.
Please note: if there is something (like my earbuds) that you don't EVER want your dog to have to give up in a trade (like my earbuds) don't leave them where the dog can get them. Oh, she gave them up, and I rewarded the hell out of her. They were lightly chewed, and full of dog spit. Ugh.
If you are teaching your dog to retrieve, it's a fairly simple matter to substitute one toy for another when he gets back to you. Allow him to bring the retrieved toy back, show him the toy in your hand, and say "give it". When he releases the toy from his mouth, say "Good Give!" and throw the other toy for him -- this is his reward for the give.
In putting an end to resource guarding by using the "out" or "drop it", you first have to figure out which items he's guarding. Normally, dogs don't guard everything -- just those items within his immediate area. The problem is, there are some items that dogs tend to guard more ferociously than others -- you have to determine which these are (safety first, please!). Most of the time, those items tend to be toys made from animal parts -- rawhides, hooves, bones, and pig ears. If he's got an extra special favorite toy, and he's guarding it to the point that you are in danger of being bitten, I would toss that thing in the trash at the very first opportunity. Items that don't cause such a dire response can be picked up and put away for the future, after he's been taught some limits.
Items that have been previously guarded should not be used for these exercises, at first -- you'll be setting your dog up for failure, if you use them. The entire purpose is to teach the dog an appropriate response to your taking something from him -- he cannot possibly offer that initial appropriate response when the item used is a guarded item -- set him up to succeed, and he'll learn much faster.
Use something brand new, that he has not had the chance to guard. Buy some new toys, and only allow him access to these when working on these exercises. He'll be toy-less for a week or so -- you'll keep all your fingers. If you feel he absolutely MUST have a toy during this period, it cannot be a previously guarded toy. Give him a new toy every day -- cycle through the new toys that you bought for this exercise, and ONLY ALLOW HIM TO HAVE THEM WHILE CRATED. He has to be in the crate when playing with the toy. If he tries to bring the toy out of the crate, use a really good treat to get it off him, then toss it back into the crate and close the door.
I've had some success in using a combination of redirection/extension reacher to pick up items that might be guarded if you can't get the dog away from them. This means using something really Good, like liverwurst, to lure them away from the item (maybe have another person do the luring, into a crate if possible), then using an extension reacher to pick up the item, and rewarding heavily if he only shows interest in what you're doing.
Note: with a dog that's guarding mildly (i.e., not inflicting injury), you can set up exercises with another person so that the dog is being reinforced for interest only 10-12 feet away from where you're picking up the items on the floor with an extension reacher... put the dog on leash, or on a stationary board, to make this safer. Start with new items that have no history of being guarded, and continue with these items, moving closer slowly, rewarding interest only. Any signs of unwanted interest (like ears flattening, freezing, side-eyeing) mean that you've moved too quickly in the approximation... give an NRM, and back up in the progression.
Use sliced hotdog, or bits of cheese (or even a second toy), for his reward for appropriate behavior. Holding onto the item, place it in his mouth, allow it to remain there for a second or 2, say "drop it", take it out and give him a treat. He has to be conditioned to the point where the words "drop it" cause him to open his mouth. Giving him a treat or another toy will teach him that your taking his toy actually is a GOOD thing -- you're giving him something else!
Contact me if you need help! If you video what you're doing, I can usually help without coming to your home!
Brenda Rushman, CCBC