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.
OK, 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.
How to Teach Your Dog to ‘Leave it’
Once he’s nailed it, move onto step 2.
Now it’s time to add the ‘leave it‘ command to the action of him moving his head away.
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.
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.
You’re going to make even harder for your dog now.
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.
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.
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.