How To Teach “Leave It”

Someone dropped half their lunch on the sidewalk. As you and Fido walk past the discarded food, he tries to take a bite of it. What behavior would come in handy at a moment like this? “Leave It”.

Step #1: Show Fido that you have a low value treat such as a dog biscuit. Tell him, “Leave It” and slip it under your shoe. Be careful that none of it is exposed and easily accessible.

Step #2: Fido will most likely dig at your foot. He may be a bit persistent. Simply wait for him to stop digging and look away from your foot. Mark (either with the clicker or the verbal marker, “Yes”) and reward him with a treat from your hand for giving up on the temptation. If he continues to stay away from your foot, continue to mark and reward so that he understands that not going back to investigate the cookie is also very rewarding.

Step #3: When Fido has mastered Step #2, make the exercise more challenging. Instead of stepping on the cookie, hover your foot over an exposed treat. If at any time he moves in to try and take it, quickly step on it.

Step #4: Further increase difficulty by placing the treat next to your shoe, always with your foot strategically positioned so that you may step on the treat if Fido tried to dive for it.

Step #5: Ask Fido to leave a cookie that is being tossed on the ground, behind you. If he tries to run and grab it, use body blocking to stop him.

Step #6: Translate this behavior to a leash-walking context. Place down a few temptations (in containers or zip top bags, if needed, so you know your dog won’t accidentally eat the forbidden item if he got too close) in various parts of your home. Walk Fido close, but not too close, to each of the items. When he orients his body towards it and shows interest, tell him, “Leave It” and wait for him to turn away. Mark, move him away from the temptation,  and then reward. Continue to mark and reward if he decides not to go back and investigate the temptation. Practice with a variety of temptations in a variety of locations, including the street.

© Give Paw Dog Training LLC 2017