Leave It

Teaching your dog to leave objects or food is a very important part of your dog’s training. It is many Times a matter of safety for your dog since there are so many things that he naively can try to take in his mouth. Having a dog that responds well to “leave it” is also important for therapy dogs who find themselves often in hospitals and other places where pills and medicine can be found on the floor. In these situations the ‘leave it’ cue can save your dog a lot of pain and discomfort.

  1. Prepare in advance a clicker and some highly reinforcing treats.
  2. Hold one treat in one hand and the other treats with the clicker in the other.
  3. Show your dog the treat on the palm of your hand. Wait until he tries to get it. The second he does, say ‘leave it’ and close your fist over the treat.
  4. Your dog will try to get the treat and you simply need to wait. Don’t say a thing and don’t move your hand. Let the dog experiment and try whatever he wants to try in order to get that treat. You are waiting for the second he gives up.
  5. The second your dog gives up and stops trying to get the treat – click and treat from the other hand.
  6. Repeat several times until your dog stops trying to get the treat immediately and waits for the treat from the other hand.
  7. Now, change hands and repeat the exercise. Your dog will show some regression in his performance but it will build up very fast.
  8. Now, put the treat on the floor. When your dog goes to get it, cover it with your hand or foot. Again, let the dog try to get it and simply wait until he gives up. When he does – click and treat.
  9. Repeat until you don’t even have to put your foot or hand over the treat.
  10. Note: you need to be concentrated in this exercise. Your dog is fast and you need to be faster than him and stop him from getting the treat!
  11. Now, start proofing and generalizing. Repeat the exercise on walks, in parks, etc. Show your dog a treat during a walk, throw it in front of him. When he goes for it, say leave it and step on the treat. Again, click and treat when he gives up.
  12. Try to up the stakes. Use better treats as bait, use environmental baits such as a stick on the ground, garbage that fell off a garbage can etc.
  13. During this exercise, your dog never gets the treat that was the bait – only the treats you have as a reward for leaving the bait.
  14. Be patient – It takes time and consistency to have the dog generalize this cue, but it’s all worth it.

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