Today’s blog is dedicated to the human pet owner and how to teach us the “Leave It” command. I know, I usually talk to you pups, but today is for them – I hope that’s okay. 🙂
So, I’m still new to this training thing. I learn something new every day. I mean…I learn, per se, but I’m a kid so I do try to push the boundaries. Doesn’t every kid?
I know the tricks too. We pups have a short memory and need to be caught in the act of naughty. The trick is to catch us! Weeeeeee! Try to catch me. I’m sneaky and cute.
If you’re yelling at us to stop doing something really important…we aren’t listening. Not really; what we’re doing is “reacting”. Screaming and yelling doesn’t work, but sometimes you might get caught up in the action and forget. When you raise your voice in excitement, we get excited too! It must be time to PLAY AND RUN!
You need to teach us the behavior you want. You need to teach us to leave that thing alone (whatever that “thing” is).
That’s the topic today…
Human Pet Owners. This is an important command AND easy to teach. It protects us. It keeps us from eating potentially dangerous or inappropriate items and it teaches us good manners. We LOVE putting things in our mouths. After all, we can’t pick up things and hold them. We have to sniff and taste it…it might be delicious.
I’m great at this command. My maw and paw can put food in my bowl and I sit there looking at them until they tap my bowl and say “yes!” When I hear that release word – I know I can eat. One time they forgot to say yes…and I sat there a LONG time. They went to sit down in the den. I finally went in there and stared at them until they remembered. They felt so bad, I got an extra treat for being a good boy, then they released me to eat.
If I’m in the yard fussing at something I shouldn’t, when they say “Leave It” I stop, look up then run to them. I get a treat or my favorite toy, or even better…WE PLAY!
The Benefit of “Leave It”
When you teach this command you can direct your pup not to mouth, pick up or go near certain items or dangers. It can stop us from eating toxic substances or chewing on your favorite shoes or eating holes in your favorite clothing, it keeps us safe from dropped medications or from picking up unidentified items on the sidewalk or in the park.
What You Need:
- Pick a high-value treat like chicken or cheese, a favorite toy, or one of your favorite homemade yummies! It should be small enough to cover with your hand.
- Pick a release word like “yes!” or “ok!” or “good!” to mark the behavior. Pick one and stay consistent. NEVER use the “NO” command. You want your pup to choose to ignore not be commanded to do so.
- Find a quiet area with no distractions.
- Carve out 5 minutes 2–3 times daily for practice.
How to Teach It
My pet parents enrolled me in level one basic training at Petco. We learned sit, stay, down and leave it. Our trainer was so knowledgeable and kind – I learned so quick! Here was his process:
- Place a treat in each hand, close them to form a fist.
- Pick a fist and lets us sniff it.
- When we sniff your hand, say “leave it!”
- Watch closely for our reaction. The instant we look at you or turn away, say “yes” or “good” then give the treat from your OTHER hand.
Repeat step 1 several times until we leave the treat alone the instant you use the command. We will probably turn away from your hand and try not to look it. Good!
- Now, present the other hand for the “leave it” command.
- Yes, practice with both hands.
- Repeat the exercise until we get it right every single time.
This exercise will stop your pooch from taking food out of your hands or stealing items from your kids hands! VERY useful!
Time to RAMP IT UP
- Show the treat.
- Put a treat on the floor and cup your hand over it. Let your pup know it’s there, but can’t get to it.
- Give the “leave it’’ command and reward with a different treat when they obey.
- Repeat this step several times.
- When we master that…remove your hand. Repeat command. Eventually we’ll look away from it! We know we can’t have it!
RAMP IT UP, Again
Put a treat on the floor at a slight distance from your dog. Give the “leave it” command and reward us for ignoring the treat on the floor.
If we snatch up the treat – be quick but calm, gently open our mouth and take it back (don’t do this with an assertive pup – in that case you just need to be quick before they grab it). I know what you’re thinking…but trust me. It works. If your pup knows you will come get that treat, it establishes a whole new level of understanding. Really. When maw come and got that treat I snatched up – I was shocked! After two more times I NEVER did it again.
Advanced Imprinting “Leave It”
Once your dog consistently responds to the “leave it” command in steps 1– 4, begin to practice in other locations outside of your house; the backyard, on walks, in the car, at the park. At this point, you should use things other than treats as bait (use toys, tissues, clothing and even things your dog may find on walks).
Practice makes perfect. Say “leave it” while the item is on the floor – move it closer, closer, closer. Do we back up and try to get away from it? Do we look at you or away from the item or ignore? Good.
Go for walks. Put a treat out on the sidewalk. Say “leave it” and walk on by. Follow a treat trail. If we were good – go back and pick the treat we can have. Tell us “sit” and give it to us. Get excited and give us love and pats.
Say “leave it” and put the item on our foot. Maybe put it on our nose.
Put a plate of leftovers on the floor. Say leave it. Turn your back and leave it there for a bit.
Heck – if you’re in the other room from your pup, surprise them. Out of the blue…pop back into the room and say “leave it!” Your pup will think you have eyes in the back of your head. We may be doing nothing at the time, but be assured…WE’RE PROBABLY THINKING ABOUT IT! 🙂
Have fun and try this… My maw would be in the kitchen all casual, then all of a sudden throw a whole handful of treats on the floor, or drop several cookies or a donut and then say “leave it!” and ignore me. I left it alone…all of it. I’m so smart!
After the command, she said nothing…then took her time to pick up all the delicious carnage. Then it happened! She called me to sit, then gave me a piece of delicious cookie! WHAT??? Delicious!
You know what I do now? If anything hits the floor – I look at it and ignore it; even a NEW TOY I’ve never seen before! I’m a good boy.
I already know I can’t have it until it’s given to me.
I get a GOLD STAR…and maybe that new toy!!
Don’t forget…PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!