Feb 03

Teach Your Dog The Command “Leave it”

Have you ever dropped a pill, a piece of chocolate, food, or anything you didn’t want your dog to have?  If your dog is like most dogs, he is all over these items before you get a chance to pick them up. This can be dangerous to you and your dog and extremely costly in vet bills.  Fortunately, there is a very simple command you can teach your dog to prevent him from grabbing something he shouldn’t.

In my opinion, “Leave it” is one of the most important commands you can teach your dog.  “Leave it” can prevent unnecessary emergency vet visits, it can help stop your dog from chasing rabbits or squirrels and can stop him from taking cookies or candy from young children.

I have seen several methods used to teach, “Leave it”. Some have involved pulling or jerking the leash in order to get the dog to leave something and other methods have involved positive reinforcement.

One of the best methods I have seen and used involves no punishment what so ever. It involves teaching your dog to leave something he wants for something even better.  Once the behavior is taught and practiced in multiple areas and at varying distances, your dog will leave things he wants even when he’s not standing next to you.  So, what is the secret to teaching this magical command?

Teaching, “Leave it”, is fairly simple.  Healthy pet treats or dog toys can be used to help teach the command.  The key is to always provide him with something better than the item you ask him to leave. To teach the “Leave it” command, you will need two types of treats (one okay treat and one great treat) or two different toys.  .  I like to use plain old biscuits and liver treats.  Here are the steps.

  • Hold an “okay” treat in one hand and a liver treat in the other hand behind your back.  Show your dog the biscuit, close your hand and present it to him. Don’t say anything while presenting your closed hand.  He will try to get the treat by sniffing, licking, nibbling and pawing at your closed hand.  Don’t give in.  As soon as he pulls his nose away from your hand, say “good boy” and give him the better treat from your other hand.
  • Repeat step one until you can present your hand with the “okay” treat and your dog pulls away immediately.  This is when you want to add the command “Leave it” as you present your hand.
  • Practice this until you can offer an open hand with the “okay” treat.  Present your open hand and say, “Leave it”.  If he tries to take the treat, close your hand and pull it back.  He’ll get the idea that if he leaves the “okay treat alone, you will give him something better.
  • Once he is leaving the treat with an open hand, try placing the treat near your hand on the floor and say, “Leave it”. Make sure he can’t get the treat!  If he tries, cover it with your hand.  Practice this step until he won’t even try to take the treat.

After your dog is consistently leaving treats placed on the floor, it’s time to take it to the next level. Try dropping a treat near your feet and say leave it.  You will want to make sure it is close enough so you can prevent him from taking the treat.  If he tries, cover it with your foot.  If he leaves it, jackpot him with the good treats!

Continue to practice by slowly adding distance and distractions. You can also start phasing the treats out by randomly treating him when he leaves the item in question.  Before you know it, you will have a dog that knows to leave things alone when asked.

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