Norwich Tales

Just Drop It Will You? • September 2005

Really, who's training who?

It is always wise to teach your dog the “drop it” command. Divot, ever eager to please caught on easily but on the other hand, though a highly intelligent dog, Nigel never seemed to connect the dots with this particular one. Perhaps it was not a question of catching on, but more that he did not want to. Maybe he figured that he had worked hard for whatever it was that he picked up, and trading was not in his plan. Several weeks ago however, the importance of obeying this command became very real, when I had to struggle to remove part of a golf tee from Nigel’s mouth. Over the years, I have removed things from his mouth that are gross, such as discarded gum, and once I wrestled him for a decomposing toad (a match which I unfortunately lost, much to my later dismay as the toad went through the digestive process), but the pointed end of a golf tee is truly dangerous.

After the golf tee incident, I decided that the “drop it” command was top priority and we set to work on it immediately. As we prepared for our

morning walk, I put a handful of venison jerky treats in my pocket and we headed out. Near the end of our walk, Nigel picked up a small stick and I seized the opportunity to shove treats under his nose as I firmly said, “Drop it!” He dropped the stick and chose the treats. I lavished praise upon him and he seemed to be very proud of himself, and quite pleased with the trade we had just made. The next day, as fate would have it, he picked up another small stick and again, I firmly said, “Drop it” and put the treats under his nose. As I had hoped, he dropped the stick and took the treats.

Nigel is a very smart dog and when I figure out how to properly convey my thoughts to him, he catches on quickly, but nevertheless I was still surprised at just how quickly he was catching on. Days went by, and our daily walks allowed us to practice the new command. The outcome was always success. One morning as we walked along, Nigel picked up a clump of cut grass and dropped it as I gave the command. It all happened so fast that I had not quite gotten the command out when he dropped the grass. He actually dropped it a little too fast but I gave him a treat and praised him. On a walk the same evening, he picked up a stone and dropped it immediately. He stood looking up at me, quite pleased with himself. It was then I realized that not only had he caught on to the command but had gone beyond it. He was now picking up objects that he could drop for me, to get the treat. The tables had turned – he was now training me.

Divot and Nigel – listening intently hiking in Sedona, AZ.