Here is a game you can play with a younger puppy to teach him to release things into your hand or simply drop them on the floor. I like to start with this game as young puppies (8 – 12 weeks old) have little impulse control and will find it difficult to let go of something close by to choose something farther away – even if it’s a few feet away. This is a close-in game that teaches puppies in real-time the art of waiting, if even for a moment for a far greater reward.
To begin you’ll use a high-value treat. Start with the most delectable goodie you can think of; fresh-cooked chicken, freeze-dried liver, even roast beef.
Start the game by giving your puppy a toy or item he can take or leave. Offer it to him and once he takes it offer the treat in the other hand. Once he takes the treat offer the item again. He’ll probably not want it, but look at your expectantly. Good choice on his part. Reward him lavishly for his attentiveness and willingness to defer to you. This is the beginning of making the right choice.
Repeat the exercise with a slightly higher value item. Again, offer him a treat instead. Slowly graduate to higher value objects – all the while making sure what your treats are better. Soon he will gladly drop stuff on the floor or in your hand and accept a goodie.
You can practice this game throughout the day with toys or other objects. But here’s the important part; give him back the item he just gave up. He will probably not want it, but that’s fine. He’s learning about surrender without loss. This means, Win/Win.
As long as it’s safe for your puppy to have an item, give it back to him. Let him decide it’s not really important to him, that you’ll always have something better. Rewarding him does something rather sneaky on your part; it actually reinforces a growing awareness about give and take; surrender and I get it all!