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Training Tips with Jeff Stoneman – Leave It

Teaching your dog the command to “leave it” on cue can be very useful. For instance, if you’re out for a walk and your dog smells something that could be harmful or just gross you can use the “leave it” cue to get your dog to turn away. Also in your home if your dog decides that your favorite shoes would be nice to play with, “leave it” will come in handy as well.

We will start this exercise by identifying a toy that your dog likes to carry around. Make sure to have tasty treats with you as well. Do the following in order:

1) Get your dog excited about his/her toy, then let them carry it around.

2) Call your pup to you.

3) Then hold out your treat when they begin to sniff the treat, your dog should drop the toy in order to get the treat. Pick up the toy quickly and praise your dog for a job well done.

4) Give the toy back to your dog and repeat several times.

Do this for next few days. Repetition is the key. The treat is the reward for giving up the toy. Soon your dog will begin to anticipate the treat and loosen their grip on the toy as they approach you.

Now that your dog is beginning to get the idea, start to put your hand on the toy when they release. Once they release, you can reward with a treat and give praise. For some dogs the toy may be a higher value prize than your treat so you may need to find a tastier treat like hot dogs or cheese.

Now it’s time to begin teaching the cue words “leave it”. Do the following:

1) Hold your treat in an open palm.

2) When your dog goes for the treat, close your palm and ignore your dog’s struggle to get it.

3) When your dog gets tired of trying to get the treat and backs away, open your palm again, then when he goes for it close your palm again. Repeat this exercise until your dog stops going for the bait.

4) Use a low value treat as bait, like dry kibble, to get him to go for it. Once your dog displays self-control and doesn’t go for the bait, I use a marker word like “yes” to let them know they got it right. Use a high value treat as a reward. Repeat this several times for multiple days and practice in different locations.

5) Once your dog gets good at ignoring the bait in your hand, begin to place it on the floor. Be sure you can cover it with your hand or foot before your dog gets it. Once your dog backs away, remove your foot so that he can see it again. When your dog begins to show self-control, give the marker word “yes” and reward with a high value treat. Repeat this exercise until they can consistently show self-control.

6) Now let’s introduce the phrase “leave it”. Place your bait on the floor. When your dog acknowledges the treat and backs away on their own, say the command “leave it”. Give the marker word “yes” and reward. Repeat several times over the next few days.

7) Now that you have this down, it’s time to move on to the next step. Put your dog’s leash on and place a treat on the floor. As you walk by the treat and your dog acknowledges the bait, give the “leave it” command. If your dog turns away use the marker word “yes” and then reward. If your dog goes for the bait, use your leash to guide your dog away. Walk back to the starting point and try again. Repeat until this behavior is consistent.

You can now begin to use other distractions and try it in new locations. For dogs with high drive this may take a while. Be patient and it will be well worth it!


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