“Leave It” – Get Started with Impulse Control and Good Manners

What is the “Leave It” Cue

“Leave it” is a cue to teach impulse control – a key to good manners.  Specifically, it means “take your nose away from that.”  So, it helps to make leash walking more pleasant as there are times when your dog will sometimes investigate things that are off limits.   It can be lifesaving when used to keep a puppy from picking up a spilled bottle of something dangerous like prescription medicine.  Or it can be used to say get your nose away from your sandwich, or stop paying attention to that other dog.  Here’s how you start.

How to teach Leave It

As always when training, start with a dog who wants to eat. Fill a bowl with 20+ small treats. Then, sit in front of the dog in an area without few distractions.

Place a treat in your hand in front of the dog with a closed palm, or on the floor with your hand covering the treat.  The dog will sniff your hand. Wait for the dog to pull her nose away from your hand. The instant she pulls her head away, mark the behavior (yes or click) to let her know that taking her head away was the right thing to do and quickly open your hand and deliver the treat to her.

Once the dog is reliably moves his nose away from your baited hand you can begin to give that behavior a name:  “leave it.”   Present the treat in your baited hand and then say “leave it,” to teach the dog the cue.  When the dog pulls his head away mark and treat.

Do not allow the dog to approach or take the treat after you give the “leave it” cue. If he does, you must close your hand or cover it quickly.

The first few times you do this your dog may mug your hand or get a little frustrated.  Be patient and look for that moment when your dog moves his nose away from your treat even the slightest bit.

Once your dog has a hang of the game you can begin to raise the criteria. In the video you can see that the lab owner waits for eye contact before she marks and gives the treat.

About Laurene

Laurene von Klan is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer serving West Los Angeles
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