Training Your Dog - LEAVE IT
Dogs have a habit of grabbing anything within reach and gulping it down before anyone can react. Whether it's your dinner on the table, your car keys you've dropped on the floor, or some potentially dangerous substance spilled on the ground, this is a very bad habit. By teaching your dog the command to "leave it" you can put a stop to this behavior---at least when you're watching him.
Here’s an easy way to teach it:
- Put a treat in your hand and show it to your dog before closing your fist over it.
- Ignore him as he tries to get the treat from your hand. As soon as he looks away give him a treat from your other hand.
- Continue until he starts to look away immediately. Then introduce the cue “Leave it” just before presenting your hand with the hidden treat.
- Next place the treat on the floor with your foot over it. Do the same as you did with the treat in your hand. He must look away before he can have a treat in its place.
- Once he can leave that, place the treat on the floor and coverit.
- Once he's doing this reliably, uncover it. If he lunges for the forbidden treat, you may have to take remedial action such as tying the treat to a piece of peg board so he can't pick it up. Or just make sure it's not nearly as good a treat as the one in your hand, and if he goes for the forbidden treat, don't give him the good treat.
- Substitute other enticing objects---such as toys, your cat, or just something novel---for the forbidden food, and reward him with even better toys or treats.
- Next plant some food and toys along your walking path. Say "Leave it" as soon as he looks at them, and give him a better treat when he turns from the forbidden object to you.
- Eventually your dog should be able to leave anything he encounters as soon as you say “Leave it!” because he knows he will be getting something even better from you.
But what if you come across your dog when he's already grabbed a forbidden object? This is where the "Give" command comes in. Dogs love to play keep-away, so chasing him is never a good idea. Each time you chase your dog with a forbidden object, it rewards him because it is fun and he usually wins. Some dogs are naturally possessive, and will not give you their treasures whether you chase them or not. They may engage in a game of tug o’war, may lie on top of the treasure, or may even growl to prevent you from taking it.
Note: If your dog is truly being aggressively possessive, growling in earnest when you try to take something from him, do not attempt the following training. The advice that follows is only for dogs that playfully or stubbornly prefer to play tug with their possessions, not those that guard them. To teach a playfully possessive dog to relinquish objects on command:
- Start with an object the dog doesn’t care about, perhaps a book or cup. Place it near the dog, pick it up, return it, and reward the dog for remaining calmly in place.
- Gradually move the object closer to the dog and repeat.
- Gradually keep the object for longer times.
- Replace the object with one only slightly more interesting to the dog, and repeat.
- Again replace it with a more interesting object.
- When he is calmly staying reliably, add a cue word: “Give!”
- If he picks up the object, which he probably will eventually as it becomes more interesting, give the cue “Give!” and reward him for letting you take it.
- If he does not give up the object, don’t fight him for it. Just leave the room and ignore him. Game over.
- You may have to work with a slightly less desirable object and encourage him to first take it, then drop it, before working up to a highly desirable object. Remember to always praise and reward him with something worth getting.
Teaching "Leave it" and "Give" may sound like a lot of work, but it will be worth the work the first time you're able to turn your dog away from garbage, a dead animal, or possible poison when you're out on a walk. These are tricks that could save your dog's life.