Teaching Your Dog to “Leave It”

Sometimes dogs will try to eat something they shouldn’t, or they try to pick up something they shouldn’t, or otherwise bother something they shouldn’t be bothering. The “leave it” command can get your dog to refrain from doing these things, and in some circumstances, it could even mean his life.

Consider the following scenario. You are walking through some area and someone you don’t know throws your dog a piece of food. You really don’t want him to eat just any food because for all you know, the food could be poisoned. You think not? I knew a dog that liked to chase cars. One day someone threw the dog some food out of a moving car. He ate it, and later died because it was poison. Sadly, no one had ever taught the dog the leave it command, or maybe he would still be alive today.

Training Steps

One way to teach this is in a controlled environment where you on purpose have a tasty morsel of some sort of human food lying on the floor. When you dog tries to eat it, shout, “leave it” and instead of letting him eat the food, give him a dog treat instead. Be sure to shout “leave it” before he actually manages to eat it.

Another way to teach it is to actually put a dog treat on the floor while you dog is watching, and then say “leave it” and don’t let him have it. He may whine or bark or even try to get it anyway. If your dog knows the sit command, you can make him sit for a few moments. Then, when he calms down, you can say, “ok” and let him have the treat.

Practice Makes Perfect

You need to practice this a few times a day for several days until it appears your dog understands. The real test will be if you are out in public and he sees something he wants, either food, maybe a cat, etc, and you are able to use the leave it command and he will not try to go after whatever it is.

You can train for this in a controlled way by having someone else leave a few dog treats in a specified trail so you know it’s food that he left and not some stray piece of food.

You want your dog to look at your when you say, “leave it.” This way he knows exactly when you will tell him it is ok to either get the item or then give him the praise or treat for obeying the command.

Other Than Food

The “leave it” command can be used for situations other than not wanting your dog to eat something questionable. You can also use it to get your dog to give up or drop something you don’t want him to have. For instance, if he picks up one of your socks or some other item, then you can say, “leave it” and he will.

Better than the word “no”

Teaching your dog the “leave it” command is much better than just yelling “no” for everything you don’t want your dog to do. If he hears the word” no” too many times, then all that will happen is that he will tune you out when he hears it, and that could be a bad thing in a life or death situation like the one I described earlier.

The “leave it” command is much more specific and your dog will understand exactly what you want instead of just knowing that you are yelling at him again, and then he may ignore you.

All  in all, the “leave it” command is a very valuable tool for getting your dog to give up something that he shouldn’t have or to keep him from getting sick or worse by eating strange things off the street.


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