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Training Your Dog to Leave It

This is the third in a series of pet travel training guest posts by Eric Goebelbecker of DogSpelledForward

You never know what you may run across when traveling. For some of us, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? But when you are traveling with a pet, unexpected pleasures can quickly turn into unexpected problems. That’s why you need to have a solid “leave it” in your training regimen.

Leave it means “knock it off, you’re not going to get it.” It’s the behavior you want your dog to perform before she gets her teeth on something and need to say “drop it” or “give.” For your dog, it’s another exercise in impulse control. For you it’s an exercise in being proactive in managing your dog’s movements and behavior. Watch this short video for a demonstration:

The training in the video above can be broken down into three parts:

  1. Rewarding Jewels for not trying to get the treat from my closed hand.
  2. Rewarding Jewels for not trying to get the treat from my open hand.
  3. Rewarding Jewels for not trying to get the treat from the floor.

A key part of this training is the “marker.” Whenever Jewels does what I want, I immediately say “Yes” and then give her a treat. This marker allows me to, well, mark the exact moment that Jewels performs the behavior I’m looking for, without racing to get treats in her mouth. Some trainers use a clicker instead of the word “yes.” The clicker provides a trainer with many advantages, not the least of which is being able to keep treats out of sight until they are needed. The marker allows us to teach our dogs to avoid one treat without inadvertently baiting them with another. From there, we can add a “command” and effectively put avoidance on cue. Here is a blog post about the marker and a  handout I give to my clients.

After your dog is proficient at leaving a treat on the floor, you can gradually introduce this behavior to other items, such as socks and shoes and eventually moving objects like other dogs and even people. This will take a bit of time, and keep in mind that you can’t move to a higher level of difficulty before mastering the one you are working on. If you are constantly repeating “leave it” while your dog still struggles to take things, you’re training her to ignore your command!

For more on leave it, check out this article on my site.


Eric owns and runs Dog Spelled Forward dog training in Maywood, NJ. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA).

  • dogloversdigest says:

    Thanks to both Eric & Rod for this. Leave it, is an essential command for any owner to posses. Not just for convenience but for safety's sake (ever drop a pill on the floor?). And as Eric shows here, there is no need for yelling or loud noise. Patience & observation on your part and the dog will learn this command own it's own. It's what dogs do!

  • Eric, you make training look so easy and fun.

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