How to Teach Your Dog to “Leave It”

I hate it when I have dog treats on me and a dog keeps nudging me physically for the treat.  Wouldn’t it be swell if there was a command for the dog to “leave it?”  Well, there is and as you probably guessed, it’s called the “Leave It” command.

“Leave it” is a very useful command.  What it teaches your dog is that if you “leave it” then you get it.  This is counter intuitive to a dog but I’ve never seen a dog not figure it out.

There are many ways to teach the leave it command.  In future articles, I’ll teach alternative methods for this command.  For now, let’s focus on the simplest way to teach the “leave it” command.

What I do, is present a treat to the dog.  I like to start with a low value treat and work my way up to a high value treat.  An example of a low value treat is kibble.  An example of a high value treat is steak.

I place the treat in a closed hand and wait for the dog to react.  They will do all kinds of things to get the treat.  Some examples include: nudging, pawing, licking my hand etc……

The moment that the dog resigns or looks away, I click and treat.  I recommend buying a high quality clicker for this.

When I click, I always say “leave it” or “good leave it.”  I never say things like “good girl.”  I always say things like “good leave it” or “good stay” or “good fetch” etc…..

I also use a chipper voice when the dog does something right.

Basically, you are conveying to the dog that “leaving it” means getting it.  Being pushy about it means that the treat will remain inaccessible.

To summarize:

  1. Present a treat in a closed fist. Alternatively, You can put a treat on the ground and cover it with your hand.
  1. Wait for the dog to do everything possible to get to that treat.
  1. Be Patient. Remain unfazed by the dog’s behavior and keep the treat covered until the dog leaves it alone.  This usually takes anywhere between 30 seconds and 7 minutes.
  1. Click and treat at the moment the dog leaves the treat alone. The second after you click, say: “good leave it” or “leave it”…. eventually, you’ll say “leave it” before they look away.  At the beginning, we just want the dog to associate the command with the action.

After the 4 steps are down, you can expand the lesson.  You can experiment with lengths of time, types of treats etc….  The most important thing is to set your dog up for success.  Know their limits and what they can achieve.  Success comes in increments.  Don’t rush your dog.  Guide your dog and make learning fun!

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Ivan Petersel

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Sure thing. Learning with dogs are really fun and I always look forward to the different learning experience with mine. She’s quite a fast learner and I’m super proud of her. I’ve taught her a lot and she gets a hang of them all with ease. With patience and continuous practice, your dog is sure to learn a lot.

  • Oh my. This looks and sounds easy but would it actually be easy to achieve considering I have a dog who never gives up until he gets what he wants. Well, we could give it a try first and see how it goes. I’ll hope it works out cause I’m fed up already.

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