A huge part of being a dog parent is teaching your dog basic commands. One of those basic commands which teach self-control is “leave it”. This keeps your dog safe and out of trouble, and lets him/her know what is within or out of bounds. Here’s how you can teach your dog to “leave it” in no time:
The only proven ethical way to teach a dog anything is through positive reinforcement. There is no force involved and your dog is allowed to make decisions. The way this works is by influencing positive behaviors which in turn leads to positive decisions. Usually, treats or encouragement is used when your dog makes an agreeable choice. When an inappropriate choice is made, there are no treats or encouragement given.
Step 1: Encourage your dog to back away from a treat
This might seem impossible at first especially if you have a dog that seems to gobble everything up. Just stick with it and in time, you will see results.
Start by showing your dog a treat that he/she loves. Do not give it to him/her. This leaves the choice up to him/her whether to focus attention elsewhere or on the treat.
You should be sitting at your dog’s level with the food in your hand. Your hand should be extended, but closed. If your dog tries to get it, keep your hand closed until he/she does what you want, i.e back away and ignore it.
Once the right decision is made, say ‘Yes’, and open your hand. If your dog approaches the food, repeat the process.
Step 2: Reward your dog
Once your dog backs away, it’s time to reward your dog. Open your hand and say, “Yes, good, leave it” in an encouraging tone. Keep playing this game until your dog gets it.
Step 3: Make it harder
Once your dog gets the hang of it, you can increase the difficulty by making it harder to resist. You can do this by placing the treat on the floor, walking across the room, then covering it when your dog tries to get it. You can also try leaving food unsupervised to see if the training has been successful. Don’t forget to reward your dog after!
Some common mistakes made during “leave it” training is being too forceful or making the situation too challenging. Allowing your dog to make the choice is way more effective in the long run since it teaches appropriate behaviors. Forcefulness and punishment do not always equate to understanding.
Keep it as simple as possible for the first time. If it is too challenging or has too many distractions, it will take longer for your dog to learn and your dog may begin to feel overwhelmed or confused.