January 14, 2016

How to Teach Your Dog "Leave It"

I have posted about a friends' dog, a Beagle/Jack Russell/Mountain Feist mix named Cal, in the past.

He's a very handsome, energetic guy that you can't help but love.

He's got this long nose and these sparkling brown eyes.

It's impossible to dislike him.

I actually got quite a few photos of him on New Year's Eve, but I never got around to posting them.

Well, today is the perfect day for your Cal fix!

His full name is Calvin Ernest, but really, just call him Cal.

Cal is a beautiful dog.

When he throws that hound head up to look at the food in your hand, his ears fly into the air!

This is the kind of dog that will do anything for treats.

In fact, he's so intelligent and eager to please, I decided to teach him the command "leave it". After teaching him leave it, I decided I was ready to test it out. First I showed him a cheese cracker, his favorite food in the world!

After a clear "leave it", I slowly placed a cracker on both of Cal's front paws.

Apparently it was hard work to leave those two yummy treats on his paws for about ten seconds, so Cal insisted that he get some rest.

Cal is also experienced in the field of shake!

Even very hyper, food-crazy dogs like Calvin here can easily learn to "leave it" if you teach them right. It's actually quite easy! Kudos to Animal Planet dog trainer Zak George for his tutorial on teaching a dog "leave it". That's how I learned some ways to teach my Dachshund, Chris, to leave it.

Dogs with personalities like Cal are actually more capable of learning and are more intelligent than some other dogs. Energetic and food-driven dogs like him yearn for direction.

First get a treat. Try something low value, like a hard dog biscuit, nothing very soft or meaty. Put the treat on the floor and put your hand over it. Make sure your dog is there to see it. Say the word "leave it". Your dog will likely try to get the treat out from under your hand.

He'll probably paw at your hand, maybe whine, or try to push your hand away with his mouth. However, do not move your hand! Even if it takes ten minutes, let your dog keep scratching and pawing and doing whatever he's doing at your hand. When he finally relaxes, maybe by looking away for a second or stopping his behavior, take the treat off the ground and give it to your dog. Be sure to shower him with lots of affection!

Instead of just lifting your hand and letting your dog take the treat off the floor, it's recommended that you pick it up and give it to your dog because your dog knows that you are the one rewarding the good behavior, not the floor. It sounds weird, but that's how dogs think, and your dog will learn much better this way.

Oh, and if your dog is like Chris, and is trained to respond to the clicker, be sure to use that clicker before giving the treat. If your dog is not clicker-trained, then just do as I told you above and simply just give the treat.

Continue this exercise over and over again until your dog is getting the hang of it. Be sure to use the clear words "leave it" each time! When your dog begins to realize that you reward him when he leaves the treat alone, now stop covering the treat with your hand and just say leave it. Try not to do it that long at first, for your dog hasn't mastered the skill yet.

If your dog takes the treat the first couple times you don't cover it with your hand, do not get mad at him! It's hard for some dogs to have self-control at first, but they will soon get the hang of it! If your dog takes the treat without your hand over it, keep doing the first exercise until you feel your dog is ready to move on.

If your dog excels with "leave it", even if your hand isn't covering the treat, you can now use something of higher value, like a piece of real chicken or your dog's favorite soft treat. I know I used cheese crackers above, but I would definitely recommend that you use dog treats instead. Too much human food like that isn't good for your dog!

Remember to always keep your training positive! Training should always be a fun thing that both and your dog both enjoy, and it can help you bond. If you are getting frustrated or annoyed at your dog during training, please take a break from it and try to have fun with it. Always have fun with it! Training should be a thing you and your dog are always excited to do.

Now just keep doing the exercises I explained to you and use the high value food. Little by little, keep making the time your dog has to leave it longer each time. Once your dog has mastered it, your dog should have self-control over things like counter-surfing or chasing the cat. For your dog to stay strong in this area of self-control, practice every day!

If you have taken my "leave it" advice and if you have taught your dog to leave it, please comment and tell us how the command is used to help your dog behave better!


  1. Great post! This is really an impawtent command. Stanley and me learned it as little puppies and mom uses it all the time!

    Keep Calm & Bark On!

    Murphy & Stanley

    1. It is a very important command indeed! It's a lot of fun to teach too, and it's pretty easy when you know what you're doing. I've been teaching lots of dogs I know this command recently. Are you doods clicker trained?

  2. Crikey ... I learnt that command real quick. Mum uses it on me all the time. She's tried telling me to leave it and going outside with me left in the room with the treat. I'm such a good. I still leave it but if she stayed out there too long I'd be going for it. I don't think I'd leave it if it were icecream though. I LOVE icecream.

    1. Lol! I don't think Chris would be able to leave ice cream...not that he's ever had it before, but I know that he'd like it! Doxies love EVERYTHING!

  3. I don't know that command, but mom says you gave excellent instruction and she is going to teach it to me. Are you sure it's a good thing? Lady Caroline

    1. I think it's a great command that will be fun for your mom to teach you. It's important that dogs learn to have self control. You'll have fun doing it, especially because you'll get a yummy treat at the end!


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