Training Your Dog To
"Leave-It" Alone

Training the command “Leave it” is useful when your dog is snooping around in a trash can, about to chase a squirrel, is about to pick up something in his mouth he shouldn’t or is barking at a group of people and you want the dog to “leave it alone.”

Dogs are naturally curious creatures and love to stick their noses into every bush and tin can along the road. They can come across everything from bird nests to cakes of rat poison and pieces of old Frisbees, none of which they need in their mouths.

The command “leave it” is different from “drop it.” With “leave it,” the dog has not yet picked anything up and you essentially want him to “forget about it.” Training a dog to “leave it” will solve the problem and isn’t that hard to do.

Teaching “Leave It”

There are several ways of teaching leave it. You can use food or a favorite toy. You must use treats and if you have one, a clicker is handy for reinforcement.

  • With your dog on leash, toss a small bit of her favorite food/treat on the floor in front of her.

  • As she reaches down to get it, pull on the leash to prevent her from going near the food while telling her LEAVE IT, loud and clear.

  • As she looks away from the food to see what’s going on, CLICK and treat and praise her.

  • The goal; is to show her that “leave it” means there is something better than what she was going after.

  • Training “leave it” is basically showing the dog that what she she wants is really not worth going for and there is something better when she hears the command word.

    Next, try this.

  • Get two very different treats that she likes, such as freeze-dried liver and peanut butter chips for dogs or little tidbits of cheese. Only let the dog see ONE of the treats.

  • Put a treat in front of her so she can see it. When she goes for it, tell her one time only, LEAVE IT! Move the treat if you have to, but she is not to get it.

  • Wait a second and then praise her, click and give one of the really tasty liver, peanut, or cheese "unseen" treats you have hidden in your pocket. The idea is, again, what the dog THOUGHT was going to be good before she was told to "leave-it" was replaced with something much, much better!

Repeat either of the above everyday for a week and your dog should start to react to the new command. It’s an important one, so be sure she learns it. Her nose could be headed for a bear trap someday and training her to “leave it” will save the day.

While out walking your dog, if you see her heading for a clump of bushes or stagnant pond water or whatever, tell her LEAVE IT! And tug quickly on the leash. Practice this regularly so she learns to associate the command word with the action.

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