About Teaching the Command "Leave It"

A "No" Alternative

About Teaching the Command "Leave It"

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How many times today did you say the word ‘no’ to your puppy? If you are like most people, you lost count after breakfast! In most of these instances, you probably really meant "Leave It". It is wise to reserve the command "NO" for truly dangerous things. Truly dangerous things are things that could be dangerous to your puppy, such as chewing an electrical cord or running into the street. Or, it might be dangerous to other animals, such as tackling the cat or picking on a smaller puppy. It might also be dangerous to humans, such as active aggressive biting. The less you use the command "NO", the more likely your puppy will be able to hear it! To make this easy to do, teach your puppy what I call "NO" alternatives. These concepts are "settle down", "off", "wait", and "leave it." In this article you will learn how to teach and use the command "Leave It."

You will need:

  • Collar
  • 6-foot leash
  • small easy to swallow treats
  • a puppy
  • Patience
  • Sense of humor

Teach Your Dog to "Leave It"

  1. Hold two treats in your right hand. Hold your leash in your left hand.
  2. Toss a treat just out of your puppy’s reach. Use your leash to make sure she does not grab the treat!
  3. Say ‘Leave It’ in a low, serious tone of voice. Your puppy will probably keep trying to reach the treat.
  4. Touch her on her head and call her name. As soon as she looks at you, give her the treat that you are still holding in your right hand.

It is important to then pick up the first treat off the floor. Once you have said ‘Leave It’ when your puppy is trying to investigate an ant bed, you would not then allow her to continue to go play in the ant bed! Apply this concept to the treats.

The next step is to hold the treat in your hand at your pup’s nose.

  1. Say ‘Leave It’ as she reaches for the treat. Use your leash to make sure that she does indeed leave it!
  2. Once she stops trying to get the treat, put that treat in your pocket.
  3. If she shows patience and is not trying to get the treat, you can get the treat out of your pocket and give it to her.

Teaching her to move her mouth away from your hand is very useful with playful puppy biting! It is important that your puppy move her mouth away from your hand instead of you pulling your hand away from your puppy. Ask someone to watch you as you practice this exercise to make sure that your puppy is the one actually ‘leaving it’.

What if My Dog Isn't Food Motivated?

If your puppy is not food motivated, you can still teach this command. 

  1. Walk her around on leash until she becomes interested in something.
  2. Say ‘Leave It’ using your leash to prevent your puppy from moving forward. 
  3. Touch her gently on the head, call her name, and move away from her, encouraging her to come with you. 
  4. Praise and pet her for ‘leaving it’.

When to Use The Command "Leave It"

Use the command ‘leave it’ when your puppy shows interest in doing something that you do not want her to do. Make a list of all of the things that you can use ‘leave it’ for!

  • When she is thinking of grabbing your shoe
  • When she sees the empty potato chip bag on a walk
  • When she wants to try playing with hickory nuts outside
  • When she see the pizza on the coffee table
  • When she puts her teeth playfully on your child’s arm
  • When she is barking at neighbor’s cat through the window
  • When she…..

This is the most used command in my vocabulary with puppies. It is well worth practicing this exercises for five minutes every day!