Ahh, the drop. It’s a key behavior for the sport of disc. Having a fast, reliable drop on a verbal cue from anywhere on the field can allow you to get more throws in Toss & Catch and smoother sequences & more options in Freestyle. It opens up new strategies in games like Time Warp & 4Way Play. It’s one of the most basic building blocks in our sport. Yet it’s one that many people struggle with.
There are a number of ways to teach a drop, and I’ll outline a few here. However, my best advice is this. Never make your dog feel conflicted about dropping the disc. A dog who isn’t happy to drop the disc is likely to keep a grip on it under stress. When are they most likely to feel that stress? Yeah. In competition. So, to prevent them from feeling conflicted about the drop, I never want to do the following to get a drop: lean over them intimidatingly, drop my voice in an authoritarian way, or try to wrench the disc out of their mouth. All of these behaviors on my part may get the dog to drop the disc at that moment, but at the expense of them doing it less than voluntarily. It can lead to avoidance behaviors, like circling when they return, ducking a hand reaching for the disc, a slow return after making the catch, chomping the disc before releasing it, or tugging on the disc instead of releasing.
A good strategy to avoid conflict while training the Drop cue is to use two discs while playing. This way the dog can always “keep” the disc in their mouth, and they only drop it voluntarily, when they want the new disc. Another good strategy is to keep sessions short. When a dog starts getting tired & hot, they may start showing some of those avoidance behaviors in order to catch their breath, or leaving the field altogether in search of shade or water. Keeping the sessions short prevents rehearsing these behaviors.
You always want a drop to be followed by something good for the dog. In training that’s often a cookie or a roller throw. Once the drop is trained, the cue is often followed by another throw, which is enough to maintain the behavior. But what about the last throw? Or when the dog digs in your disc bag & pulls out a disc? Those drops are often not rewarded at all. If you have a reluctant dropper, or a dog for whom the disc outshines all other reinforcers, you may want to consider two cues. One is exclusively used on the field and ALWAYS means another disc is coming. The other is used when the game is over, or in other life situations. This has the advantage of keeping your competition cue pristine & sharp. It also comes with the disadvantage of finding other strategies to reinforce the second cue.
A popular method for teaching a drop is shown in this tutorial from popular YouTuber Kikopup (Emily Larlham). If you use this method, you will want to make sure your dog doesn’t learn that the only place to drop a disc is right at your feet, so there is additional training you will want to add to this method. While bringing the disc directly to you is wonderful for Toss & Catch, you’ll want the extra flexibility of a drop at a distance for Freestyle, and some strategy games.
Another method is shown here by Chirag Patel of Domesticated Manners. This method has the advantage of teaching the drop at a distance early in the process. This method starts without a toy present. If your dog already has a problem with releasing the disc, this method can be a good way of starting over with a new cue.
A game often played to bring the Drop cue into disc is the two-toy game. Ron Watson demonstrates in this video. This is a good way to teach the dog that your drop cue means to pay attention because another throw is coming.
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Ron Watson also has extensive resources on teaching a Drop. A Google search on Pvybe Drop Cue yielded too many results to post here, but I encourage you to check some of those articles out! There’s some really great info there!
Do you have any favorite resources for teaching a Drop? Post them in the comments!