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Teaching the "Leave It" Command to Your Dog

Although the "Leave It" command is not among our list of basic commands, it is a very important command for your dog to know. The reason that you dog should know how to "Leave It" is because it can provide you with a way to keep your dog from getting into things it shouldn't have. It will also teach it to pay better attention to you.

To begin: take your dog into a quiet area of the house or yard where there will be no extra distractions. In the early sessions you may want to put your dog on a leash to let it know that this is training and to give you a bit more control. 

Using a handful of your dog's favorite treats, put your dog in a "Down-Stay" and then sit down in front of it just out of your arms reach. 

Put a piece of treat, on the floor in front of your dog and say, "Leave It" in a firm tone. If your dog moves toward the treat, Say, "NO, Leave It" in a loud (Firm not frightening) voice and block access to the treat and return the dog to the original "Down-Stay" position. If the dog stays in position, reward with calm verbal praise, a treat from your hand or a tactile reward. NOTE: Never give your dog the treat from the floor. You are trying to teach the dog that what is on the floor is NEVER to be taken. 

Another way to teach the "Leave It" command is to put your dog in a "Sit-Stay" next to you. 

Place a treat on your coffee table or on a chair. With the dog on a leash, move toward the table or chair. As the dog starts to take the item, give a leash correction and say, "NO, Leave It" in a firm tone of voice. As mentioned above, if the dog does not take the treat from the table or chair, give it a reward of calm verbal praise, a treat from your hand or a tactile reward.

In later training sessions you will be allowing your dog to move freely around the house or yard. When you want the dog to leave something alone, simply wait for the dog to begin to take the item and say, "Leave It". Your timing is critical. Do not allow him to get the item and move away with it. The goal is to entice him, give the command, and then reward him for paying attention to you instead of the item. When your dog obeys, it is important to give the verbal reward IMMEDIATELY for following your instruction. Any other reward should follow very shortly thereafter.

You want the dog to learn that HIS action (ignoring the item and looking at you) got him what he wanted (your praise or another reward), which in this case is a treat. 

As with all training, keep your sessions short! Keep sessions to under 5 minutes and repeat these sessions 2-5 times per day. Always end your training sessions with a successful result. (In this case, the dog leaving the item and receiving a reward). After each session, reward your dog with some playtime with you and it's favorite toy. 

Over the course of a few weeks you should be able to decrease and then remove the treats, and your dog should respond to verbally praise and/or tactile rewards. 

After your dog is very reliable with this in the house or yard, you can begin using the command during walks. When he goes to sniff or eat something in the street, give the command, stop his progress with a  leash correction, and then give lavish praise when he obeys. Do NOT let him have the item; use your praise as a reward, then move on.

Final Note: Rewards such as Verbal Praise, Treats or Physical Petting will help your dog learn that his action causes good things to occur. The reward you give must be something your dog wants more than the item he wants to chew on.

If you do not want to use treats as a reward, feel free to substitute your dog's favorite toy.

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