A blonde cockapoo dog playing with a favourite toy in the garden

How to get your dog to release a toy

If your dog is like most, getting them to give up and drop a favourite toy is hard. Are you met with growling, barred teeth, and generally just running off the moment you try to get close?

Getting your Happy Hound to be able to give up and release a toy when you want is crucial. Playing with a favourite toy for too long might lead to guarding issues. Or they may have chewed so much that there are now sharp edges or bits that have come away that could present a hazard. Or it might not even be a toy? Your favourite slippers, street litter, or even the bacon sandwich you accidentally dropped!

Our dogs can be like that, but there is a simple common sense technique that was taught to us by Janet Garrett at Janet’s Puppy Skool in Swindon. It should leave your fingers intact and your dog happy.

Commands not working?

Do your calls of ‘Benji, drop!’, ‘Benji, give!’ etc fall on deaf ears? No matter how many times you say it, or how encouraging your tone of voice is, are you met with an indignant look and refusal to give up the object?

And heaven forbid you reach down and try to take the toy? Do they just run off in the other direction and you find yourself chasing them round the garden? Or worse, undesirable behaviour such as barred teeth, growling and barking?

We want to get to the point where a single simple command or cue is enough. A simple calmly spoken ‘Benji, give’ should be enough. But we need to get there. We need to train our Happy Hound to release anything on command.

The toy is just too good!

The problem is the toy is just too good! It’s theirs. And they are enjoying it. Why should they want to give it up?

And that’s the key – we need to give them a reason to release it. We need to offer them something better.

Now you see it, now you don’t

Just like a magician and a sleight of hand trick, you are going to swap the toy for something better without your dog even noticing. That’s the plan.

Your dog plays with and carries the toy in their mouth, and they only have one mouth. If we can offer them something better to put in their mouth they will release the toy, or your slippers!

Generally speaking a tasty treat will be more appealing for them than the toy. Get as close to your dog without them running off, and get their attention. Show them the treat. Waft it under their nose. Hold you other hand under the toy ready to catch it. Do not try to take the toy – we are aiming for this to be your dog’s decision to release it; and you might lose a finger!. At the point they decide the treat is better than the toy they will drop it. We want your dog to make the right decision. As they drop the toy simultaneously give your chosen command, feed them the treat, catch the toy, and give them plenty of praise.

As soon as you have the toy, especially if they are particularly fond of it, you will need to get it out sight, otherwise they will be jumping at you to get it back as soon as they’ve devoured the treat. Just as the magician uses sleight of hand and distraction to perform their trick, you need to hide or otherwise remove the toy. Put it behind your back, slip it into a pocket, or into your bag. Don’t make a big deal of it, so throwing it to a helper will not work as your dog will notice this and it will become a game. That’s not what you want. It just needs to calmly disappear.

Lemon Meringue Pie

You might find that some toys or objects are more valuable to them than others, so you will need to up your game with the treats. Just as my mother’s Lemon Meringue Pie is the best pudding in the world and I will literally do anything for it, your dog has a treat hierarchy where some treats are better than others. If you want something valuable from them, you are going to need to offer them something of greater value.

Of course, you may find the bacon sandwich is their Lemon Meringue Pie. Bacon almost certainly trumps all treats you can offer, and it will probably be gone long before you can get another treat under their nose! You’ll probably have to chalk that one up to experience and remember never to drop bacon near your dog again!


You’re probably thinking this is just common sense; and it is. But as with all things, it takes a little practice. Getting your dog to release the object i exchange for a treat is pretty easy, and hopefully with a little practice the cue word will be a learnt behaviour to the point where they will give up your slippers on command without a treat.

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