Leave It

Leave-it is an excellent skill to train your dog just as part of their normal behavior repertoire. It can be used in many common behavior scenarios including stopping them from begging and grabbing potentially dangerous non edibles — or poisoned edibles.  Unfortunately, dogs don’t come having any idea what “leave-it” means so training this skill is essential!

 

How to Train Your Dog to “Leave It”

 

The following 4 Scenarios are progressive.  When your dog masters 1 then you move on to 2, etc..  Depending on how quickly your pup catches on, you will need to practice this exercise over the course of several sessions. Keep the sessions short — no more than 5 minutes at a time, and follow these steps:

 

  1. 1 – THE HAND

You’re teaching your dog that ignoring the treat is rewarded with praise or a treat.



 

  1. Hold a treat in the palm of your hand.  With your palm facing up, show the treat to your dog.
If he tries to snatch the treat say “Leave it,” and close your hand into a fist, and if necessary, turn it so that your palm now faces down.  He will most likely continue to try to get to the treat by nuzzling or nibbling your hand, or he may start barking.  Continue repeating “leave it” until he makes no attempt to get the treat.

  2. When he stops trying to grab the treat – reopen your hand and repeat “leave it” until he ignores the treat for 3 seconds.  He may stare fixedly at your hand, he can make eye contact with you, or may look away.

  3. Once your hand has remained open for 3 seconds – and your dog has made NO attempt to get it - give your dog the treat and say – “take-it”

  4. Repeat and practice until your dog looks at you or ignores the treat the first time you give the “Leave It” command and don’t have to shut or turn your hand over.


 

SCENARIO 2 – THE FLOOR

This scenario is more difficult than the first.  You need to be quick & watchful as your pup may be faster at getting to the treat than you can cover it.

 

  1. Make yourself comfortable on the floor, and show your dog a treat while placing it on the floor, and covering it with your hand.
 If his attention is on your hand or he tries to get to the treat,  say “Leave it”

  2. When he stops trying to grab the treat – uncover your hand from the treat and repeat “leave it” until he ignores the treat for 3 seconds.  He may stare fixedly at your hand, he can make eye contact with you, or may look away.

  3. Once your hand has been removed from covering the treat for 3 seconds – and your dog has made NO attempt to get it – push the treat toward your dog and say– “take-it”

  4. Repeat and practice until you are able to place the treat one inch in front of your dog and he ignores the treat the first time you give the “Leave It” command and don’t have to cover it with your hand over.


 

SCENARIO 3 – THE DROP

This is advanced control with the “leave-it” and requires lots of practice with the Hand & Floor Scenarios before you can move on to this.

 

  1. Hold the treat in your righ hand and show it to your dog, and then casually drop the treat on the floor.
When he tries to get to the treat, say “Leave it.”

  2. If he responds and ignores or walks away from the treat – wait 3 seconds and pick up the treat and tell him “take-it” while giving it to him. 

  3. If he makes a dive for it, quickly cover it with your hand or foot – repeating “leave-it” until he responds appropriately for at least 3 seconds.

 

SCENARIO 4 – THE REAL WORLD

  • test your pup’s new skills in a real-world situation, you'll need to have done all 3 previous scenarios as they’re the foundation for this final step.

 

  1. Pick an area outdoors where food items can be readily visible in the grass or the ground and take a few treats or “dog safe” food items - such as crackers or popcorn.

  2. Drop four or five pieces of food in the area where you’re taking your dog for the big test.

  3. Put some of your regular treats in your pocket, and take your dog for a walk on leash in the area where you left the food.

  4. As soon as his nose goes toward the food, say, “Leave it.” If he responds appropriately – wait 3 seconds and praise enthusiastically and give him a treat.

  5. If he attempts to go for the food – repeat “leave-it” and use leash if necessary to guide him away from the food. 

  6. Repeat step 4 until he has successfully responded.

  7. If he manages to snag a cracker or kernel of popcorn - you’re too slow on the uptake. Take a few steps away from the food and practice walking around the food-contaminated area until he ignores the food from a further distance on command.

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