For Dreizehn, who doesn't have it down 100%, I watch for when he has things in his mouth and when he drops it I tell him "Drop it" at the same moment and then praise him as if he just did my taxes for me.
I've had better luck with "give." I'd say the command and then actually put my hand in the mouth and pry the item out of his mouth (nicely, of course) if needed. Then I'd praise and give him something tasty. This was when he was a "little" puppy. Now he's pretty good with it.
I trained it originally with the flirt pole(he hadn't moved to a tug yet). We would play and once he caught it and I gave him his little tug session. I would "kill it", or make it no fun un interesting. This is alot harder than it seems, he would use his paws wiggle and tug harder. Eventually the dog will release it, and at that very moment the toy springs back to life more fun than ever. This was done over the course of multiple training sessions, once he knew that to get the toy back he had to give it up the command was then associated to it. I do remember the first few go around I think I literaly held on to that rag and didn't move while he fought for a good 2-3 mins. He caught on fast though. Now I will add that if I said "OUT" when he had something he should not have I doubt he would just Drop it. It is a command only used when playing tug or doing bite work. I have seen him just drop the bite item though on command just don't he would associate the word if used outside of bitework.
My boy has really high drive for a game of tug. He will drop other things, but not his rope. A member on here (sorry I can't remember who) helped me massively with this tip. It's easiest to first do it sitting down, hold the rope with both hands, bring it up to just below your ribs, brace yourself, push your feet into the ground and hold it STILL. No matter how much he pulls, you should be in a strong position and be able to hold it. I am a weed compared to my boy and it was the only way I could match his strength. Once he realises its no fun to just keep tugging by himself he will drop it. Praise immediately and offer him the toy again, his reward for dropping it is that he gets to play more!
Doing this standing up, I found alot harder, as Diesel would either try and spin me round, or he would start to grapple up my leg. But with more practice he got much better at it. Then I discovered Susan Barretts "Ruff Love" tug of war game. As soon as the dog drops the toy, he has to sit, then he gets a release word and gets to play again. After 3 or 4 repetitions of this game I was AMAZED to see that I could wave the rope around his face in the sit position and unless I said "pull" he would not break eye contact with me or touch the rope. (You then progress to moving, 1, 2 then 3 steps away whilst the dog is sat )He went from a high drive, uncontrollable, tugging maniac, to an impulse controlled superstar in the space of ten minutes. Once your dog's drop command improves, I highly reccomend you look up this game.
I train alot of commands, especially ones that dogs often do on their own, by marking and rewarding even if I didn't give a command. Example, puppy sits, I didn't ask, but "Yes" reward. Puppy lays down, "yes" reward. Puppy drops something, "yes" reward. After a few repititions, and they start to understand what they're being rewarded for, put a name to the command. If a dog picks something up, they're eventually going to drop it. So I mark that behavior, and reward it. Adara gave great advice as well.
Dogs think in real time (approx. 1.5 second, attention span).
Humans complicate their thinking...because our brains constantly revolve around:
- past / present / future events (good or bad)
My talking points in bold (and I teach, without giving treats or toy exchange..while that works to):
Your trying to train "DROP IT" with the wrong game & toy play / as a starting point.
Dobes are generally too smart to drop a "tug-of-war" toy, initially.
- the whole premise of the game is to "keep-away / win-win", dog knows this, we simple mortals don't always...lol
I never train drop it on a play game, when it doesn't make any sense to drop it...in the first place.
However, teach drop it, while playing fetch-the ball...dobe knows this reasoning, soon enough.
- as the real life play fun is over...if he/she does not "play-by-the-rules" of the game / & figures this out, quickly
- no dog can: fetch a tennis ball and throw it across the lawn, 10 seconds later / by themselves (takes 2 to play) Select the right game, during training...that is easy KISS principle.
- dog learning, will be less confusing & new skills absorbed, much quicker !!