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At this point my dog will take a hold of the toy or object, but always drops it. I've been trying to shape holding the toy for longer, but it doesn't seem to be working.

It was easier with Stay because I could continuously treat during the stay and could use a no-reward marker when he started to get up. But you can't treat when he's holding a toy! And the no-reward marker doesn't work well because then the toy is now on the ground instead of in his mouth (gravity and all...).

I guess my approach at this point is to have him take the toy, tell him to Drop it, and then reward for the drop it. So if he takes it and drops it on his own (too early), no reward. Obviously I need to cue him to drop it early enough that he is succeeding as often as possible. But he still seems to be getting frustrated easily so we are not making much progress.

Any suggestions on encouraging him to hold it for longer?

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Does your pup know "Leave it"? I've found it's easier to teach leave it and take it together, as opposed to take it and drop it.

If your pup doesn't know leave it, you can start training him on that and make sure there's a clear distinction between when he's supposed to leave something and when he's supposed to take it. For example, sit on the floor a foot or so away from your dog, hold a treat in your hand without your arm extended, say leave it, if your dog leaves it for 3 seconds say "Take it" and put the treat right up to his mouth.

In lieu of food based rewards you can offer verbal praise while the toy or whatever is in his mouth.

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  • Thanks. He knows leave it, and I guess I'm doing that. Leave it, then Take it, then Drop it for a reward. He'll leave it indefinitely, take it and drop it immediately. – jmilloy Oct 19 '16 at 17:03
  • You should try mixing it up a bit. When you do something in a pattern your dog learns how to get a treat the quickest way possible. So he's probably anticipating the Drop It command and thinking if he drops the toy quickly he'll get the treat right away. Try practicing the Take It and Drop It commands separate from Leave It. Also mix up giving food treats with verbal praise for all commands, and once he learns a command phase out food treats asap (give a treat every other time, then every third time, and so on until you're only giving verbal praise). – LMGagne Oct 20 '16 at 15:44

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