Teaching your dog the “leave it” command is one of the most useful investments of training time and effort that you can make! Once your dog has mastered this command, you will be able to tell him to avoid things that could be dangerous, including unsafe foods, trash or debris such as broken glass. In addition, it is very useful for getting him to avoid potentially hazardous encounters with unfriendly dogs or people who don’t want your pet jumping towards them.
When teaching your dog the concept of “leave it”, it’s important that he realises tha by obeying you and leaving something that he is interested in, he may be rewarded with something he likes even more- such as his favourite treats.
Incorporate the following steps into your dog’s training sessions to successfully teach him the “leave it” command.
Step One: Teach the Basics
In order for a dog to master any new command, they need understand the basics of what you are attempting to teach them. You cannot simply step outside and yell “leave it”, expecting them to stop and walk away from whatever it is that they are doing! Introduce the concept to your dog in small, basic steps so that it is much easier for them to understand and succeed at learning the command.
– Begin by sitting down with your dog , showing him that you have one of their favorite treats tucked inside your hand. If you do not have any treats to hand, use a piece of lunch meat or another small food item that you know they enjoy.
– Next, use the cue word “leave it” (or anything else you choose, just keep it consistent!) After you’ve said this, hold out the hand in which you are holding the treat, closed into a fist so that your dog cannot get to it. Allow them to sniff and lick your hand for a few minutes. They may try to bark or open your hand with their paw. Ignore this behavior and just wait it out.
– After a minute or so, they will become uninterested in what you are holding. The moment that your dog moves away from your hand, praise him and reward him with the treat.
– Repeat this process several times each day, in various locations, until they instantly move away when you say “leave it” after you present to them your closed fist with the treat inside.
Step Two: Begin to Increase the Difficulty
Once your dog has learned the basics of the “leave it” command, it is time to start increasing the difficulty so that you can begin to apply it in real world situations. This will involve practicing on the floor whilst the treat is right where he can see it. It is recommended that you use dog food as the bait on the floor and one of his favourite treats as the reward.
– Give the command “leave it” as you place the bait on the floor. Keep your hand elevated an inch or two above the food. Hold your hand in place until your dog stops trying to reach the bait.
– The moment he stops trying to get the bait from under your hand, praise him and reward him with a treat. It is important that you do not use the bait on the floor as the reward, as this will simply teach your dog that it is okay to eventually pick up what you have previously told him not to.
– Repeat the process, raising your hand higher above the bait on the floor each time. Eventually, you’ll be able to practice standing up with your dog on a leash. Stand next to the bait, tell him to “leave it” and place your foot over the food if he tries to snatch it up. If he keeps away from the bait, reward him with a treat.
– You’ll know that your dog has mastered the concept when, instead of straining at his leash or lunging for the bait, he looks up to you in anticipation of a treat whenever he hears the command.
Step Three: Real World Practice
Once you have practiced in your home and feel that your dog is starting to get the hang of it, it’s time to start practicing in real world settings, such as in your backyard or on your walking route. Do not practice with items that may harm your pet (such as anything potentially toxic), instead, practice with clothing items, toys, food or other objects he finds interesting.
– Place the bait in obvious spots throughout indoor and outdoor areas of your home, the more areas you can practice in the better! This is especially effective when you place bait in random spots along your dog’s regular walking route.
– When you see him attempt to approach the bait, command them to “leave it” and proceed to keep walking. If he continues to go for the bait, immediately pick it up and state “no” in a stern tone in order to show them that what they are doing is not right.
– When he obeys the command and stays away from the bait, or anything else you tell him to leave, praise him! At this point in the training process, you don’t need to reward him with a treat every time, but lavishing him with praise each time he obeys you will help to reinforce and solidify the behaviour.
When teaching your dog to “leave it”, it is important that you never allow him to get at whatever it is that you’re asking him to leave. You want him to know that when you tell him to “leave it,” he will never be able to get that item.
Always be aware of your tone and the way in which you deliver the command. For example, if you command your dog to “leave it” in an angry tone, you could scare or confuse him, undermining the process and making it much more difficult for you to successfully teach the command. Instead, it is important that you make your training sessions enjoyable for your dog, as this increases his chances of success.
Finally, always be patient. Teaching your dog something new is always going to take determination and hard work on your end, but it is important that you don’t give up!