Many dogs will do the “drop on recall” better the first time you try it than ever again in their lives. This is because the element of surprise is so powerful that first time that the trained dog simply complies with the command on the spot. Later on, he tends to come more slowly and drop quite slowly. For this reason, this command is used sparingly. If not, you will really slow up your dog’s recall.
If used carefully, this command can be a life saver. If you call your dog and then see danger approaching the path he is taking, you can stop him by dropping him and save his life in the process. Therefore, do not use this flashy command over and over to prove yourself, your dog or to entertain your friends. Teach it and then save it for an emergency.
Once your dog learns to readily drop from a distance on verbal or hand signal alone, you can begin to train the drop on recall. In this command, the dog is asked to come from afar and then dropped (given the down at a distance command) when he is half way to you. With practice, your dog can be dropped at almost any time along the way so that if you need to drop him at any point, you will be able to do so.
In order to teach your dog to do this, place him on a “Sit, Stay” position at some distance. Six feet is not enough since that would allow him to get too close after the “Come” before you had a chance to drop him. Ten or twelve feet should do the trick. Call him to come. When he is one-third of the way toward you, raise your arm in the distance signal and say “Down” in a good, strong, and firm voice. Your dog may drop on the spot. If so, wait one second and then call him to come, using both voice and hand signal for “Come.” As soon as your dog gets to you and sits in front, make sure to give him lots of love and praise. Do the exercise one more time and then move on to another command.
If your dog does not drop when told, run to meet him and drop him with the raised hand that gave him the down signal. This procedure works very well and, with patience on your part, your dog can learn to accomplish this very stunning looking but very practical exercise. Practice it twice a week, with no more than three times per session.
What if your dog does a perfect drop on recall but consistently creeps in on the come, expecting every plain recall to turn into a drop on recall? In this case, and it is a very common occurrence, work on exercises to speed the recall and defer practicing the drop for a couple of weeks while you do so. Call the dog to come and run away from him, turning at the last moment to let him catch you. Praise wildly.
Occasionally when you are heeling the dog, break away without warning and call “Come, Come” to him. Again, let him finally catch you and be praised. Play recall games with several family members calling the dog to come in random order and zestfully praising him when he does so. When you do practice the drop on recall again, only do it once or twice, following it up with some fast, active work, some speedy straight recalls followed by lots of praise.