Teaching leave it as part of your dog obedience training is really important. It could even save your dog’s life.
Begin the training at home first under low distraction, and ensure they are reliably responding to the command, before heading out to higher distraction areas.
There are a few different ways to do this when teaching leave it to your dog, so I’m going to go with a fairly controlled one.
Get your treats ready
To start with, make sure you have two different types of treats.
One should be fairly routine to the dog like their kibble, while the other should be a much higher value treat. I use the Vitapet Pocket Rewards for Vindi, but also keep Vitapet Chicken Tenders broken up in my pocket if I really to up the ante.
Keeping the pieces small helps to ensure you aren’t over-treating them, and treats should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s total daily calorie intake.
Mark the desired behaviour and add cue word
If you use a clicker to mark correct behaviour, hold this in the high value hand, make a fist and place your hands behind your back.
The next step of teaching leave it is to present your fist with the lower value food to your dog so they start to sniff it.
Say “leave it” and the moment your dog stops sniffing or looks at you, mark that desired response with the clicker or ‘yes’.
Then offer him the higher-value treat from your other hand.
Repeat until your dog immediately stops sniffing your hand when you say “leave it” and you are confident they have made the connection between the command and the action of leaving it alone.
The next step of the teaching leave it process
The next step of the process is to put your dog on lead and toss the low-value treat out of reach.
If they start sniffing in the direction of the treat or pull towards it, wait until they stop, mark it with the click or yes and give him a high-value treat from your hand.
Short, frequent, positive sessions
If you keep doing short daily sessions of these exercises, over time your dog should soon stop pulling as soon as you give the ‘leave it’ cue.
By rewarding him with a high value treat, your dog starts to learn that asking him to leave something, even food, doesn’t mean he goes without, but that he might actually get something even better.
When your dog is reliably responding to the cue, you can teach him that “leave it” can apply to other things as well, not just food on the floor.
Again, start with less interesting items, then move your way up to the fun stuff like toys and balls. All at home in low distraction first.
You can then work in higher distraction environments, and even if your dog finds something they really want to play with and picks it up before your realise, you can use ‘leave it’ to get them to drop it.
The reward he receives when he leaves an item can change as well depending on what motivates your dog the most at different times.
And remember to always make it positive and fun, it’s how dogs learn best.
For more tips and tricks visit Vitapet Central on the Vitapet website.
About the Author: Lara Shannon is a NDTF certified dog behaviourist and trainer, Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of Poochesatplay.com. Lara also runs her own dog training and boarding business in Melbourne’s Bayside area and is the Author of Eat, Play, Love Your Dog.