McNeil Labradors

Teaching your puppy the “Leave It” Command

Distractions are an owner’s nightmare.  “Leave It” is intended to re-channel your dog’s thoughts and interrupt possible undesirable behavior.  It simply means to “leave it alone right this minute”.  Many of us at one time have been out for a walk with our dogs when, other dogs walk up to visit, a jogger approaches, a piece of trash is on the ground in our path, or squirrels and birds are running about.  This is great entertainment for your puppy and provides a lot of distraction that can soon become very annoying to you, the owner.  A puppy needs to be trained to be under control and know the limits that you’ve established. 

There are two “Leave It” training techniques that I have used with much success.  Begin training with treats and your puppy on leash and training collar.  I usually start this exercise in the kitchen.  Pieces of  kibble that you feed are very good, or a biscuit broken in pieces.  Show the treat to the puppy as you command “Leave It”, while tossing the treat a foot or so in front of your puppy.  Repeat “Leave It” as the treat lands on the floor.  As he lunges forward, repeat the command as you give him a firm, quick, sideways snap on the leash.  Make the correction before he reaches the treat!  Repeat the exercise until he stops moving forward for the treat, then give him a lot of praise and a reward (treat) to reinforce good behavior.  Make a real issue of his good behavior with a positive tone, lots of praise and a rub or pat on the head.  This encourages repeated good behavior, encourages bonding, and builds trust.  Repeat the exercise several times until he understands that “leave it” means exactly that, and he no longer moves forward when you toss the treat.   

The other technique requires a much more stern approach, usually very effective for  mind-willed, stubborn puppies.  This technique is basically the same as using treats, and collar, except, closer contact is required.  You won’t need the leash for this method.  This technique is more effective for puppies who enjoy snapping the ends of your fingers off for a bit of food.  It’s an excellent way to condition your puppy away from possessive behavior.  Start on bended knee, holding your puppy by the collar with one hand.  With the other hand, place the treat in front of his nose as you say “Leave It.”  When he snaps at the treat, give him a gentle nose thump with your finger and say, “Leave It.”  As you continue the repetitions of placing the treat in front of his nose while saying “Leave It”, up the ante in time (seconds) that you are holding the treat in front of his nose.  For instance, start by holding the treat in front of his nose for a few seconds.  If he doesn’t snap for it at the count of three, give it to him and tell him “take it”, then tell him what a good puppy he is – lots of praise!!  Continue to practice this exercise several times until he learns that he can’t have the treat until you allow it.  With subsequent training sessions, continue to up the ante in seconds until he learns to refrain from taking the treat until you tell him it’s alright. 

End your training session with success.  When you feel that your puppy has mastered “Leave It” with treats, try more difficult things such as his favorite toy or more interesting surroundings outside, with more distractions.  Every time you start with something new (toys, or different surroundings), use the treats until he masters the task, then begin cutting back on the treats.

“Leave It” is at the top of my list when teaching puppy obedience training.  I like to incorporate the “Leave It” command  when puppies are learning the “Sit/Stay” command.  Early puppy obedience and socialization is very conducive to distractions and unacceptable behavior, so what better time and place to teach “Leave It?”  

McNeil Labradors
Statesville, NC 28677

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Last Updated:  January 29, 2008

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  Thought For The Day:

"We give dogs time we can spare, space we can
spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It's
the best deal man has ever made." - M. Facklam