Beyond Destructive Behavior
Once your puppy has picked up an object that you would prefer him not to have, your next step is to ask him to bring it to you and reward him. If you chase your puppy to grab an object from him you will only teach him to run like mad from you or guard objects because you might try to “steal” them from him.
Teaching a puppy to relinquish an object is a very valuable behavior. “Drop it” will teach your puppy to bring you objects instead of destroying them and to relinquish objects instead of guarding them.
When your puppy has an object in his mouth show him a very valuable treat or toy. He will drop the object in anticipation of the food or toy reward. The moment he drops the object give him the food treat. Eventually, as he begins to drop the object you may add the cue “drop it” right before the behavior occurs. Once he has associated the words “drop it” with spitting an object out of his mouth, you should keep the food reward hidden until he drops the object.
Begin with objects that he doesn’t highly value and work up to his most valued toys. Your goal is to teach him to bring you objects instead of running away to destroy them.
“Leave it” means don’t put your mouth on it. Start out with a food treat in your right hand. Show the treat to your puppy. When he tries to steal the treat close your hand and wait. This will be a good time to determine how your puppy’s bite inhibition is coming! Your puppy will attempt to get the treat out of your hand. Ignore him. After a few attempts he will back off to think about the situation, at that very moment reward him with a surprise food treat from your left hand.
After practicing this exercise a few times your puppy will not attempt to get the treat out of your right hand, but instead wait for the reward from your left hand. You can add the “leave it” cue when you see your puppy attempt to ignore the food reward. He has learned that his behavior of trying to grab the food treat causes the treat to disappear, while “leaving it” causes him to be rewarded.
Your next step will be to place the treat on the ground and cover it with your foot if your puppy tries to snatch it. When he backs off reward him. Continue in this manner using different objects until your puppy learns that “leaving” an object means that he is likely to be rewarded with something much better.