Teaching Your Dog to ‘Leave’.
Teaching the leave it cue is a useful exercise for your dog and it’s also really fun to do too. Most dogs catch on really quickly and it’s a good way to help build a good bond with your four-legged friend. Read our Holidays4Dogs to find out more.
Teaching your dog to know what ‘leave’ means will be helpful for interrupting your dog, or puppy, in certain situations. For instance, it may help him to stop chewing his lead, your shoes, or when is about to eat something disgusting while out walking. It might also save him from eating something toxic or chewing something dangerous, like an electric cable. This exercise teaches self-control as well as encourages your dog to focus on you in tempting situations.
On the one hand, have a piece of bland food. It is better if you can place the tastier treats out of view in a container nearby, ready for you to grab one and give it to your dog with the other hand.
Hold out your hand with the bland treat and do not say anything to your dog. If he reaches forward to try and grab the treat, immediately close your hand tightly.
You do not need to say anything – so, don’t say No, or correct your dog in any way. You don’t need to. Now wait until your dog moves his head, or body away, or shows signs of losing interest in the treat. As soon as he does this, reward him with the tasty treat from your other hand.
If your dog is really persistent, keep your hand out of his reach. Move away if necessary and ignore him. Repeat the exercise again a few times.
You will probably find that after just a few repetitions, your dog will learn that if he ignores the bland treat, he will get a much better reward for his efforts!
When he begins to look at you without going for the treat in your palm, reward him immediately with the tasty treat.
Eventually, you will be able to keep your palm open and your dog will leave the treat alone. Once you have got to this stage, you can now start putting the cue word in – in this case, ‘leave it’ – but you can use any word you like.
At the same time, you extend your hand and put in the cue word. This will build an association in the dog’s mind between the act of ignoring the treat and the cue word. You can also use a clicker to mark the exact point that your dog moves away from the treat.
Once you have practised this in a quiet spot and your dog is responding, begin to introduce some variables like this;
- Have your hand outstretched at different levels and distances.
- Wait until you have eye contact with your dog before you give him the ‘jackpot’ tasty treat.
- Put the treat on the ground, but be ready to cover it with your foot, or hand, if your dog is too tempted.
- Train in other rooms and areas including outside, or while on walks.
- Train with distractions, such as other dogs and people.
While training in this exercise, you must not let him have the bland treat from the palm of your hand. Always reward with a tasty treat from your free hand.