The “leave it” command is an important callback tactic that allows pet parents to keep their dogs safe and under control. Teaching a dog to “leave it” allows us to discourage our dogs from inappropriate behavior, such as chasing cats or squirrels, and makes dog park visits easier and safer by allowing us to break up scary interactions. Additionally, the command can prevent dogs from eating things they shouldn’t and can help lay a safe foundation for future interactions that involve meeting new cats, children, people or dogs.
"Leave it" Command Training Steps
Fortunately, the “leave it” command is easy to teach. Follow these five steps to teach your dog this valuable trick.
1. Hold a Treat between Your Thumb and Forefinger: “Leave it” is a command best taught with food rewards, so it is important to choose something your dog loves. Small pieces of cooked chicken or cheese work well, as do store-bought treats. Show your dog the treat and, with your palm open, hold the treat in front of the dog’s face. Most likely, the dog will attempt to pry the treat from your fingers. That’s when you move on to the next step.
2. Say, “Leave it” and Hide the Treat: As soon as the dog makes a move to grab the treat, give the “leave it” command and close your palm round the treat. The dog will probably stare at your hand and may try to nudge your hand open to gain access to the treat. Don’t respond to the dog’s advances.
3. Reward the Dog: Once the dog has realized that it is not going to wiggle the treat out of your hand, she will likely stop and look at you. The moment the dog takes her attention off your hand and looks at your face for further instruction, praise her verbally and offer the treat. It is important to do this as quickly as possible so that the dog learns to connect the behavior with the food reward.
4. Repeat: While some dogs learn quicker than others do, no dog is going to master the “leave it” command in one go. Remember – when you are teaching your pooch a new skill, keep training sessions short and sweet. Ensure that you are giving your dog ample time (at least three hours) between lessons. Keep lessons under ten minutes and provide plenty of praise for good behavior.
5. Practice in Different Settings: Once you’ve mastered “leave it” at home, it’s time to practice in different locations. Practice the command in social settings, like the dog park, as well as on walks and during playtime.
Once you have taught your dog to leave it, it is important to provide constant reinforcement and reward good behavior every time. Pet parents who do this will soon have a dog that can be called out of virtually any situation with the “leave it” command, which makes walks, playtime, social outings and new introductions safer for the dog and the pet parent, alike.