Teaching your dog to “leave it” is a top skill that every dog can learn and should learn. I find that once my students teach their dog this skill they use it all the time.
I actually used “leave it” just the other day myself when I was out with my dog. I had him at a park practicing obedience and a homeless man offered my dog some left over KFC I simply told my dog to “leave it” and was very thankful that we practiced this cue.
We all have scenarios come up where “leave it” would be perfect. Just think of your last walk….
I’m sure that your dog was interested in pulling towards some garbage, maybe goose poop, or even a dead animal.
Another reason I enjoy teaching my dog to “leave it” is we will really get to see how our dogs solve problems. It also builds up their doggy impulse control.
When teaching “Leave it” we use capturing and start by asking our dog to solve a mystery. That mystery is “How do I get the yummy treat?” Your dog may try to answer this question by pawing at your hand, licking your hand, nibbling on your hand or staring at your hand.
Okay are you ready to get started?
Leave it step 1:
You will have a bait hand and a reward hand. Your bait hand will have just one treat and your reward hand should have at least 5 treats. You will never give your dog the bait. You want to present your hand nose level or below nose level.
Present your bait hand to your dog and watch your dog try to problem solve. Wait until your dog looks like he has given up trying to get the treat from you then say “yes” the second he looks away or moves away from the treat. 2-3 seconds after saying “Yes” take a treat from your reward hand and treat your dog.
Tips for this step:
1. Don’t say “leave it” yet, the only word that you should be saying is your marker word.
2.One treat per “Yes”.
3.Repeat this until your dog does 5 correct on each hand.
During this next step your dog may understand the game. If you present the bait in an open hand and your dog doesn’t try to steal it, say “yes” and give your dog a treat. Don’t try and trick your dog into going for it. Your job is to help your dog be successful. A lot of people start to actually try and get their dog to go for it, don’t if your dog doesn’t try to steal from you then mark it “Yes.” and treat that behavior.
Leave it step 2:
Still try not to say “Leave it”, I know its hard, but for now only say “Yes”.
Now when we show our dog our bait hand it will be open.
If your dog goes to snatch or steal the bait just close your hand. If you move your hand around too much it will make it really hard for your dog.
When your dog stops trying to steal the treat when your hand is open say “Yes” and give your dog a treat.
Once your dog does 5 of these correctly on each hand check back in with us and you will be ready for the next step.
We finally get to say “leave it”. During this step it is important that you say “leave it” only one time. The cue “Leave it” is the equivalent of asking a child “What’s 9 x’s 9?”. If a student is counting dots to get to the correct answer it won’t help the child get to the answer by repeating “9 x’s 9” over and over right? Keep this in mind while training. Your hint for your dog is closing your hand and letting them try different behaviors until they get to the correct answer.
Leave It Step 3:
Okay, so as you present your bait in a open hand say “Leave it” if your dog leaves it say “Yes” and reward with a treat. If your dog trys to steal the treat shut your hand and wait for your dog to give up stealing the treat. Practice this until your dog can do 5 correct leave its in a row where he doesn’t try to steal the treat. If your dog seems to have a hard time go back a step or try rewarding with a even yummier treat.
Excellent job! Your dog is now starting to understand the “leave it” cue. Will this really work if you drop a piece of chocolate or if a squirrel runs by? No, not yet your dog isn’t ready for that. You can easily get your dog to that level by using our 3 D’s of Doggy Impulse Control.
I like to start with Duration with “leave it’s” so having your dog leave it in the open hand longer and longer. Say “yes” each time your dog can leave it a little longer then he did before.
For Distance you could practice having the bait closer to your dog or closer to the floor. Try doing 5 leave it’s with the back of your hand on the floor. This will be harder for your dog, so be ready to close your hand quickly if needed. The closer to your dog the treat is the harder the exercise and the closer to the floor the treat is the harder the exercises is.
For Distraction you could practice with outside in the yard or while there are other people around. The more that is going on around your dog the harder the exercises are!
We know that your dog will be a master at leave it in no time and you’ll have a great time showing this off to your friends too!
How often should you practice?
Practice doing three sets of 15 sets a day, but if you can sneak in extra sessions you are sure to see even faster improvement.
When should I practice?
You can practice leave its while you are snaking though out the day. Sometimes I like to “Accidently” drop a treat while walking around the house, then tell my dog to leave it. That will teach your dog to check in before rushes for dropped food, which could be medicine or chocolate
Where should I practice?
For the first day or two you may only want to try in the house or yard but as your dog starts to get it really well you need to go places to practice. Have the kids practice this one every time they want to give your dog a treat! Practice while out on walks too.
If your dog gets suck or seems to have trouble with the cue “leave it” at any point in time go back to step one, and give your dog a reminder. They have brain farts just like we do. If they aren’t performing it correctly you may have to practice more in a less distracting area, go back and give them a reminder or use even yummier treats.
I’m sure you will be super impressed with your dog’s progress after only a few sessions!