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Leave It and Take It!  

Teaching your dog to leave an object can be important to your dog’s health and safety. Imagine if you dropped medications on the ground, or were on a walk and passed by some garbage on the ground; teaching a dog to leave something alone is extremely useful in the real world.

Teaching a “leave it” and “take it” cue is easy to do. Included are tips to help make this cue fool proof.

What you need to begin: Your dog on leash, some kibble, small rewarding soft treats and a marker word or clicker.

Things to remember when practicing this exercise:

  • Do not yank or pull on your dog’s leash.

  • If your dog needs to depend on a correction to leave an object alone, has the dog truly learned what you want him or her to do? What will happen if your dog is off leash? Chances are slim that they will listen to you. Always use a marker word or clicker so that your dog knows when they did what we asked.

The point of this exercise is to teach your dog two things:

To choose to leave something alone AND check in with you willingly or take something AFTER checking in with you. It is important to make sure you build a solid foundation of understanding what this cue is before adding more challenges. Remember, dogs do not know English! Therefore, we begin with baby steps.

Let’s get started:

  • With your dog on loose lead, drop a piece of kibble and quickly cover it up with your shoe. In a firm voice say “LEAVE IT!” AS SOON as your dog moves away from your shoe (stops sniffing or pawing at it), click or use your marker word (Good!!! Or Yes!!). Then give them a delicious reward from your hand.

  • Repeat this until your dog is no longer going towards the shoe, and is waiting patiently for the treat from your hand.

  • Now try leaving the kibble uncovered by your shoe. As soon as your dog goes for the kibble, give the “leave it” cue. If dog leaves it alone, mark immediately with your clicker or marker word and reward. If your dog still tries to go for the kibble, simply cover with your shoe and start with step one again.

  • Teach a “take it” cue. Any time we tell a dog what NOT to do, we should also teach them what or when they can do something. While “leave it” may sometimes keep your dog safe, such as the case of litter on the ground while on a walk, sometimes we simply do not want our dogs to acquire something without our permission. This is where the “take it” cue comes in handy. Every now and then give your dog permission to “take it”. Take it is a cue that should be given in a voice that is not firm, but gentle.

  • You may alternate “leave it” and “take it”, just be sure that your dog does not always expect to receive what is on the ground.

  • Once you get to the point where you are able to drop the kibble on the ground and are able to say “leave it!” without covering the kibble with your shoe, begin proofing the behavior. As you proof you will probably need to begin with the first step, so your dog will begin to generalize what “leave it” means. Some options:

    • drop more than one piece of kibble

    • drop a more exciting treat

    • walk by food on the ground in a pile on loose leash (you may need a second person to cover this pile with their shoe if needed.)

    • Begin at step one in as many locations as possible.