Jun 24, Training Your Dog to Leave It Step-by-Step Guide

Training your dog to leave it is easy and useful. Stop your dog from chasing squirrels or eating something dangerous at the park. I will teach you how to do this with positive dog training methods.

Leave-it can be a fun command to show your friends but it can also be very useful. It is a little advance but all dogs can learn it.

However, it is important to practice this command with different item and in different places for it to work reliably.

Training your dog to leave it starts with something easy, like leaving something that fell on the floor.

Then you will do many exercises to help your dog respond in different place, with distractions, at a distance and even to stay!

Training your dog to Leave it Tips!

  • The following articles will greatly help you understand the process of training your dog to leave it: 1) Marker Word, 2) How to get a reliable dog command, 3) Training your dog to sit.
  • You do not need to train your dog all the way to the last level. It is completely up to you how reliable you want the command to be.
  • There is a lot of repetition involved in training, this is very important. Only skip it if you feel your furry friend is ready. Go back to previous steps if your dog is not getting it! (it is not his fault, just needs more practice!).
  • You can mix steps 7-10 however you want to. This could be useful to spice up training sessions.
  • Be creative with the use of rewards. Food, toys, games, petting and more!
  • To cut the amount of treats you use for training, use part of his regular food!

10 Steps to training your dog to leave it

Step 1: Get your dog to leave it

Try not to use the word “leave-it” during the first few trials. You first want your pet to understand what he is supposed to be doing before you label it.

Reward your dog for every single correct response at this point. We will cut back on treats later on.

To start training your dog to leave it, we will use the dog training method capturing. I must warn you that this exercise requires swift skills.

Find a quiet room in your house with minimal distractions. We want to start easy and help your hound succeed. Remember, in order for your pet to understand and learn he must succeed many times. Make the exercise easy and increase the difficulty level slowly. This will help him accomplish the behavior faster!

Training your dog to leave itPope tries to get the treat from under the shoe, he will eventually give up – That’s when you let him have it!

Start training your dog to leave it by tempting him with a piece of yummy food “fallen” on the floor. As soon as your dog dog starts approaching block the food with your foot. Do not step on it, just block it from you pet. Your canine friend will most likely try very hard to get to it. He might want to go around you, paw at you or bark. Ignore it all!

As soon as your dog “gives-up” and either looks away or makes eye contact with you, Mark and Reward! (or click and treat!). Mark and Reward, should be all done in less than 2 seconds following his behavior (which was looking away or making eye contact with you).

Note: The reward can be the same piece of treat you were withholding or it could be a different one coming out of the treat bag. I recommend alternating between these two methods so your furry friend understands that he won’t always get to keep what he ignored.

Repeat 2-3 more times. Did you get the timing? Now you can add the command “Leave-it”. Say it right as your pet is looking away or a few milliseconds afterwards, then Mark and Reward! (all within 2 seconds of his response).

Repeat until your dog starts doing it faster, almost anticipating that he has to look away to get the treat!

If your dog is “Leaving-it” eagerly, move on to the next step!

Step 2: Strengthen the command

Repeat Step 1 but now start saying the command “Leave-it” right before your pet gives up. This requires you to pay careful attention to his body language to predict when he is about to give up.

The idea is to start using the command “leave-it” before he acts.

Eventually you want to say the command as soon as your pet darts for the item on the floor. Even if you still have to block it.

The words “leave-it” will predict that you are going to block the food on the floor and your dog might stop.

Step 3: Cut down on treats

When training your dog to leave it you start by rewarding every single correct response. In the following steps we will be asking your pet to keep trying harder even if they don’t get a treat every time. But first we need to teach your dog the concept that he won’t be getting a reward for every single good response. This must be done gradually or your puppy will give up!

Randomly ignore a few good responses (do not give a treat but say your marker word or click). Start by missing one treat out of ten, then 2, then 3. Do not go below 70% or your dog might give up. If you stay at 7 treats out 10 good responses, you will be doing great!

You can move on to the next step when your pet is eagerly responding even if he only gets treats 70% of the time.

Step 4: Fade the body block away

Training your dog to leave it without a body block. We ultimately want our canine friend to “Leave-it” even if we can’t block him, right?

  1. Repeat the same thing you did in step 2 but make the body block less obvious. Maybe instead of blocking the treat completely with your foot, now just leave it in plain sight (even though you are still blocking).
  2. Go back to rewarding 100% of good responses.
  3. Your puppy might want to increase its efforts now that the treat is visible. DO NOT let him get the treat!
  4. It will turn out to be a silly dance between you and your furry best friend. Say the word “leave-it” and do a weak block. If your dog comes too close, make the block more obvious. As your dog backs-up start moving your feet away, if your pet doesn’t move say “leave-it” once again and Mark and reward! If he does move towards the treat, block again…and so on and so forth…

A beautiful dance!

Note: you can use a little bit of shaping. Reward your pet for smaller approximations of the final behavior. For example, start by rewarding your pet when your block is only slightly less obvious but still a block. Repeat then cut back down on treats. Now only reward your dog when your body block was even less obvious. Continue doing this until you have succeeded!

Your dog knows the command “leave-it” when you drop food on the floor, say the word “leave-it!” and he doesn’t try to get it. He is ready to move on to the next step when he is doing the above and only being rewarded 60-70% of the time.

Will you always need treats?

A reliable response to your commands needs to be rewarded often! But because you will be doing it only half of the time and randomly, your pet will ALSO respond when you do not have treats! That is the beauty of positive reinforcement!

Step 5: Training your dog to leave it and stay!

Dogs are bad at generalizing a concept, we need to specifically teach them that “Leave-it means Leave-it until I say so!”.

Repeat Steps 1-4 adding time. Start with with short periods (seconds) and move on to longer ones slowly. Your pet MUST succeed every single difficulty before moving on to the next one. For example: ask for 2 seconds, reward every single good response until reliable (your pet responds to the command 8 out of 10 times you ask). Then cut down on treats (reward only 7 out of 10 good 2 second responses. Now ask for 4 seconds, reward 100% of the time. When your pet is doing it reliably, cut down on treats…add more time…and so on.

If at any point your pet seems unable to respond correctly, go back a step or two and help him succeed!

Read the article “Teach your dog to Stay” for more information.

Step 6: Training your dog to leave it in different places

Leave-it means your dog must leave-it anywhere!

It might seem obvious to you, but dogs need to learn this with additional training. The best way is to teach the behavior, from the beginning (steps 1-4) at many different locations! You will notice that your pet will learn faster and faster!

Read Sit Level 2 for detailed information on how to do this!

Step 7: Training your dog to leave it with distractions

Leave-it commandYou can help your dog generalize the concept of “Leave-it” by using it with other things that are not food, for example dogs.

The same is necessary with distractions. The idea is to teach your dog he must “leave-it” even if there are other animals around or you get distracted!

The recipe is the same. Repeat steps 1-4 in different situations (dog playing far away, then dogs playing closer, when you turn your back on your dog, when you leave the room, etc).

At this step you can also try “dropping” different things, not just his food. Try toys, balls, anything he loves to chase!

Please read Sit Level 2 step 9 for ideas and detailed instructions!

Step 8:Training your dog to leave it at different distances

Adding distance to a command is easy since your dog already knows the command! But again, you must train each difficulty level (in this case it will be distance: 1 step away, 3 steps away, etc.) from the beginning.

Always reward 100% of the time when you introduce something new, when your dog gets good at it (80% accurate) cut down the treats, practice to perfect the behavior…then add a new level of difficulty and repeat all over again!

Read Sit Level 3 step 11 for more information on how to do this!

Step 9: Combine steps 5-8!

If you try to get your dog to leave-it while you do jumping jacks for 3 minutes, guess what?

He probably won’t succeed and will grab the treat on the floor! If you train each of those separately and then combine them slowly and always repeating steps 1-4 then he will succeed! Try it!

Your best friend might do the behavior a little sloppily when you combine difficulties. Don’t worry…Practice practice practice and your puppy will get it perfect again really soon!

Step 10: Training your dog to leave it, make it real!

It is time to take the reality test!

Can your pet respond to your command on a real situation?

While you are out for a walk try the command leave-it. In the beginning I suggest you try it on something that he is likely to succeed on. Then try it on a squirrel! If he stops in his tracks….You did it!

If not, just keep practicing. You will get there if you are consistent and give your pet lots of opportunities to succeed!

You can use the command leave-it for many things, not just items that are on the floor. Does your dog like to chase your cat? Is he pushy with other dogs? Does he pull on the leash whenever he sees something he wants to go after? Try using leave-it to let your hound know that he must stop doing it!

Don’t forget to tell us your story or share your comments and questions on the box below!

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