Teaching Your Dog to “Leave It”

The “leave it” command gives you the ability to tell your dog to leave something alone and pay attention to you instead.  This can be valuable when faced with a running cat, food on the floor, or a dog chewing on your sofa.  You are teaching the dog not only to leave things alone, but to ignore distractions when you are walking him or doing obedience with him.

The most common and strongest distraction for most dogs is food.  In this training session, you will need a large dog treat to use to distract your dog and teach him leave it.  You use a dog treat because it will not hurt the dog if he does grab it.

These are the steps that you need to practice every day to teach “leave it:”

1. Start this with your dog on leash and a good sized treat in your hand.

2. Put your dog in a sitting position beside you. Hold the leash tight but do not choke the dog.

3. Show the dog the dog treat. Let him smell it but do not let him grab it.

4. Tell him “Dog, Leave It” and drop the dog treat onto the ground right in front of the dog.

5. If he tries to grab the treat, and he will at first, use the leash to stop him and tell him “No, leave it.”

6. As he sits still, even if you are using the leash to hold him there, tell him “good leave it, good boy”

7. After a few seconds, pet him and use your release command and turn him away from the treat. Do not let him grab it.

8. After you turn away and praise the dog, grab the dog treat off the ground.

9. Do this five times in a row then do something else or let the dog go play.

10.  Repeat this exercise three to four times a day until the dog shows no interest in the treat after being told “leave it.”

11.  When the dog is no longer trying to get the treat when told “leave it,” put the dog on a sit stay, drop the treat in front of him, and go in front of him but facing him so he has some slack in the leash.

12.  Wait a few seconds and go back beside your dog.

13.  Turn away from him, then pick up the treat.

14.  Do not let the dog get the treat even though the leash is slack.  He must learn to leave it alone even with a slack lead.

When your dog is steady with a dog treat, try this process again, from start to finish, with bigger prey.  Use a piece of chicken, half a sandwich, or a toy and work through the steps again.  This teaches the dog to leave all things you tell him to, not just the dog treat.  Practice until the dog will reliably ignore anything you tell him to leave alone, including children, toys, food, and other animals.