How to Teach Your Dog to Leave It (Step-by-Step Videos)

how to teach your dog to leave it

The ‘leave it’ command is a safety cue that could literally save your dogs life.

I’m lucky enough to be able to work with dogs (and other animals) every day so I’ve seen and heard about all the weird, wonderful and sometimes dangerous things that dogs have picked up, chewed, eaten, or tried to eat;

All kinds of poo, chocolate, egg shells, clothing, kids toys, human medication, even poison.

In fact, I look after a dog called Hugo who once ate a pair of his owners knickers. Sounds funny but he was really poorly and needed surgery to have them removed.

She had an £1,850 vet bill.

Good job she had decent pet insurance!

So as you can see, it’s SUPER important to teach your dog to ‘leave it’ as soon as you bring them home.

So let’s get cracking!

How to Stop a Dog Pulling on the LeadOK, OK we admit it,

The training methods we write about on Pet Checkers aren’t our own.

They are the positive re-enforcement methods of world renowned dog trainer, Victoria Stilwell.

You can find out about her on her website at Positively.com or if you like her training methods like we do, you can buy her book from Amazon.co.uk

How to Teach Your Dog to Leave it (Video)

Step One:

Find the tastiest treats you can lay your hands on. Dog training treats are good but liver or hot dog sausages cut up into small pieces are just as good.
Hold it in a closed hand so your dog can see and smell it but can’t take it from you.
Hold your hand out to your dog and let him work out for himself how he’s going to get it.
He will try to lick it, smell it, he might try to paw your hand open or mouth your hand but don’t let him have it.
Reward him with the treat when he hesitates, moves his nose back or turns his head away.
Keep doing this until your dog consistently and consciously makes the decision to turn away from your hand.

Once he’s nailed it, move onto step 2.

Step Two:

Now it’s time to add the ‘leave it‘ command to the action of him moving his head away.

When he moves his head away say, ‘leave it’ in a soft, calm voice. This will create an association between the command and the action.
Keep doing this until he responds consistently.
Now ask him to leave it as soon as you offer your hand to him. When he responds as you want him to, reward him with the treat.

Step Three:

Once you have created the association between the words ‘leave it’ and your dog moving away from the treat, it’s time to make it harder for him.

Hold a treat in both hands – one on a flat open palm and the other behind your back.
Now, hold the treat in your open hand in front of your pooch and ask him to leave it – this is much harder for him now because he can see the treat staring back at him.
If he leaves it, reward him with the treat from your other hand.
If he tries to take it, close your hand and take it away for a few seconds, saying ‘uh-oh’ as you do so. This is a ‘non reward’ or ‘negative’ marker which tells your dog that he won’t be rewarded if he doesn’t obey the command. Again, say this calmly and softly.
Keep repeating until he’s got it.

At this stage it’s important that your dog NEVER gets the treat you’ve asked him to leave, which is why we reward him with the treat from your other hand.

This is because if you ask him to leave something in a real life situation – your childs favourite toy for example, he’ll need to be rewarded with something else for leaving it.

If you reward him with the treat you’ve asked him to leave, he’ll think that if you ask him to leave your childs toy, he’ll be rewarded with that toy. So the reward has to come from somewhere else.

Step Four:

You’re going to make even harder for your dog now.

Put a treat on the floor or a table or chair if you’ve got a big dog and ask  him to leave it.
If he leaves it, reward him with a treat in your hand, NOT the one you just asked him to leave.
If he tries to take it, take it away for a few seconds and say the ‘uh-oh’ marker.
Keep doing this until he consistently complies.

Step Five:

Once your pup has ‘got it’ and is responding positively to all of the exercises so far, it’s time to apply this technique as if you were walking him.

Put his lead on and walk him past a treat on the floor.
If he tries to get it, ask him to leave it – do not jerk his lead.
If he leaves it, reward him with a treat in your hand, NOT the one you just asked him to leave.
If he gets the treat, don’t try to take it off him as that might make him become protective over food. Just go back a step to where he was compliant and work your way back to having him on the lead.

Step 6:

Once he’s mastered the leave it command with treats you can start introducing other objects – things around the house you’d want him to leave alone.

A kids toy, a pair of socks – anything he might like to pick up.

Then, once he completely understands what you want from him and he complies every time, take him outside and carry on his training.

Just don’t forget your treats!

Teaching a Dog to Leave it in a Real Life Situation

Your dog might try to get hold of something not because it wants it, but because it hates it.

We look after a Doberman called Darcey who attacks the hoover when you’re cleaning. The leave it command can be used to stop this happening.

In the video below from Victoria Stilwell’s ‘It’s Me or the Dog!’  she teaches Buddy to leave the mop that he attacked every time his owners used it.

It’s a good lesson on how you can apply the technique in a specific, real world situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

My Dog is Really Good When I Ask Him to Leave it in the House but When We Get Outside He Won’t Listen to Me

If you’re struggling with the leave it cue while you’re outside, try increasing the value of the reward so it’s almost impossible for your dog to ignore you.

So if you’ve been using training treats at home, try upgrading the little pieces of cheese or hot dog sausage – something that smells really good to your dog as this will bring his attention back to you.

Final Thoughts

how to teach your dog to leave it

As with any kind of training, some dogs pick it up quicker than others.

It’s important to remain calm and not let your frustration get the better of you. If you start to feel frustrated stop the session and end it on a positive note with plenty of praise and fuss.

Never shout at, hit or chastise your dog. You should both enjoy these sessions and they can be used to strengthen your bond and bring you closer together.

Give it a try, and please leave a comment – we’d love to know how you get on!

And if you like Victoria’s training methods and you’d like to learn more from her, you can buy her book ‘Training Dogs Positively’ from amazon by clicking here.