Saturday, May 13, 2017

Teaching Your Dog to "Leave It"

By:  Robin Sockness
My Best Buddy Dog Training

Has your dog ever discovered something gross, or possibly dangerous that you don’t want him to pick up? It happens all the time - especially with puppies, and the “Leave It” command is your solution. The goal of the "leave it" command is to bring the dog’s attention back to you, away from an object that attracts him, to disengage -- so you can reward your dog. 

There are many ways it can be taught, here are a few ideas:

1.  Get a yummy, smelly treat and hold it really firmly in your hand so that the dog can not easily pinch it from your fingers. Hold the treat in front of your dog's nose so that he can sniff it, but not get it. Say the words “Leave It” firmly, but not being unkind. You may have to say it more than once before your dog loses interest. As soon as your dog moves his nose away and quits showing interest, praise him and give it to him, saying “take it!” (in a very happy voice) when you give him the treat.

You will need to repeat this exercise and build it up in tiny steps. Treat as soon as he moves his nose away, looks away, moves his head away, etc. Couple this with the command 'leave it' depending on your preference. He will come to learn the difference between leaving something alone and being allowed to have it.

As you progress, you should be able to hold the treat in front of the dog, tell him to “leave it” and he will make no attempt to get the treat. Don't forget to say “take it” when you treat him. Start upping the criteria by placing the treat on the floor and asking him to leave it - you must make sure to keep your hand near to the treat or be able to body block at first so that if he goes for it you will get there first!

2.  Put your dog on a leash that is attached to you. Toss the treat so that it is out of reach of your dog. Say “leave it” and when he stops trying to get it and looks to you for direction, hand him a treat!

3. Put your dog on a lead and walk him past the treat, always asking him to “leave it”. Praise and treat when he does. As you progress, start applying the command to other objects, a purse, a toy bin, a child's toy, litter outside and so on.

4. Have two different types of treats. One can be fairly boring to the dog like a dry bland treat, but the other type should be a high-value treat like a moist and smelly treat. Put one type of treat in each hand. Place both of your hands behind your back. Make a fist with the hand that is holding the boring treat and present your fist to your dog, letting him sniff. Say “leave it” and wait until he finishes trying to get the boring treat. As soon as your dog is done trying to get the treat, offer the higher-value treat in your other hand and say "take it".

When your dog is reliably responding to the "leave it" cue with treats, you can teach him that “leave it” applies to other things. Repeat the exercise with  different items that are fairly boring to your dog.
After using the "leave it" command the “boring” items, start using slightly more exciting items.  To increase the chances of success at learning "leave it", you want to work up to high-value items gradually. 

The ultimate goal: Anytime you say “leave it,” you want to be confident that your dog will indeed leave whatever you are asking him to leave, disengage and pay attention to you.  

Most importantly:  Keep it fun! Even though you’re practicing “leave it” as a way to keep your dog safe, you want him to see it as a fun game you play so that it remains a reliable behavior.©

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