Leave it is a super important thing to teach all dogs, young and old!
Why is Leave it important? Because dogs are dogs. They pick up everything they find, they will try to steal food, toys, socks, etc. Leave it teaches them self-control, not to grab something even if they really, really, really want to. I was able to teach Henry leave it one sitting. He caught on super fast and now listens to that command most of the time!
Teach Leave It step-by-step
Step 0ne – get them to look at you. (If you have not taught Look at Me – read that post first). This is critical because you want to make sure the dog is focused on you and paying attention.
Step two – put a yummy, smelly treat in your hand. Close your fist. Let your dog smell your hand, and try to get to the treat. The dog will probably bite your hand, paw at it, and lick it. Let him do it. The second he stops trying to open your house reward him with a click from a clicker, or use your reward word and praise him!! Then you can open your hand and say ‘take it’. Let the dog have the treat.
step three. Try again. Put the treat it your close fist. The dog will probably try to get it again. Same as before, as soon as the dog stops trying, click and praise! Then open your fist and say ‘take it’. Do this a couple times. The dog will learn that if he ignores the treat he will get it! Its amazing how quickly they realize this.
step four. Now say ‘leave it’ and show him the closed fist with the treat inside. Hopefully he will ignore it and just sit and wait for you to open your hand to give it to him. Always click and praise when he ‘leaves it’.. And always let him ‘take it’ while you are training.
And here’s a little twist on that method.
A little different twist is to now have the dog lie down. Say ‘leave it’ and throw the treat on the ground. If they start to go for it, cover it with your hand. Wait for the dog to ignore it, then click, praise and pick up the treat. Then put it in your hand and let him ‘take it’. I dont want my dogs to ever grab things off the ground, so I am picking up the treat and having them take it from my hand.
Once they get more reliable with ‘leave it’ try with other things. Like say ‘Leave it’ and drop a sock or something else irresistible on the floor. Same as before, cover it up if the dog starts to go after it. Now, with a sock you are not going to give it to him, but you could give a treat instead.
Now you are ready for ‘Drop it’.. which will be in a different post.