How to teach your dog the "leave it" cue
“Leave it” is a very valuable cue to teach your dog, and one of my favorites. It not only means don’t eat that chicken bone on the sidewalk or stay away from that approaching dog; a strong “leave it” acts like an iron-clad recall for a dog that loves to chase bikes or cars or joggers which could potentially be dangerous.
Level 1: Put a treat on the floor and hover your toe nearby. Immediately ask your dog to “leave it.” If they go for it, cover the treat with your toe. If they leave it, reward them with a treat from your open palm (when they stop attempting to get the treat). Repeat.
Level 2: Drop a treat from a few inches off the floor. Ask your dog to “leave it” as you drop it. If they do, reward them with a treat from your hand. If your dog doesn’t leave it, return to Level 1.
Level 3: Gently roll a treat or toy behind you between your legs. Ask your dog to leave it right when you release the object. Reward your dog if they leave it. Repeat.
Level 4: Continue your Level 3 exercise but exaggerate your movements, throwing the object farther, faster, and in different directions. Repeat.
Level 5: Plant some interesting treats or toys along a common walking route. Walk by, asking your dog to leave each object and reward them when they turn away. If this is too tough, start in a quiet location like a backyard. Repeat.
Level 6: Start using your “leave it” on regular leashed walks. Try it first in quieter areas, asking your dog to “leave it” when you see anything interesting on the ground or approaching you. At this stage, you want to always reward your dog for good behavior. Work up to busier, more exciting walks.
The key is to ask your dog to “leave it” when they first notice and begin moving towards a target. If you say the cue too late (once your dog has gotten close to the target), your cue is less likely to work.
Here, Jodi works with Oakley on the "leave it" cue.
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