“Leave it” is a great behaviour to teach dogs to leave items around the home or outside on the ground. This is a life-saving cue and deserves a LOT of dedicated training time. This process will likely take days to work through – don’t rush it! Work at your dog’s pace and don’t move onto the next step until they are ready. Set them up for success! 

Ideas for verbal cues: “leave it”, “don’t touch”

Step 1: Get preparedPrepare a large quantity of tasty, pea-sized treats and put them in your treat pouch. Prepare one or two larger, higher-value (to your dog) treats, as well. The higher-value treat is your “bait treat” – consider this the item that you don’t want your dog to have.Step 2: Teach your dog the gameHold the bait treat in your hand and show it to your dog briefly. Then close your fist around the treat so that they cannot sneak their tongue between your fingers. Present your fist to your dog at nose-level, keep your closed hand still, and wait patiently. They will likely lick and nose your hand, and may even paw or nibble at it! The nanosecond your dog stops pestering you for the food and pulls their nose away from your hand, say “YES!” and then feed them a treat from your treat pouch while you hide your bait treat hand behind your back. Re-present the bait treat in a closed fist at nose-level and repeat the process 4 more times. Over time you should see that your dog backs off from your hand much faster! Step 3: Adding a cueRepeat Step 2, but after presenting the treat, when your dog is engaging with your hand, say “leave it!” and wait patiently. When they stop pestering, say “YES!” and then feed your dog a treat from your treat pouch while you hide the bait treat. Repeat this process. Over time you should see that your dog backs off of your hand when you say “leave it”! When they are getting a reliable “leave it” (5 successful trials in a row), move onto Step 4. Be sure that you do NOT repeat the cue. Say it only one time and be patient.Step 4: Open hand (“The venus flytrap:)Now, present the bait treat to your dog in your open hand. Say “leave it” (just one time!). They will likely try to grab it but keep your hand in the same position and silently close your fist around the treat before they can get it. Wait until your dog stops pestering and then open your hand again. Repeat this process until your dog does NOT try to take the treat from your open hand. When this occurs, say “YES!” and then feed them a treat from your treat pouch while you hide your bait treat hand behind your back. Repeat the process until your dog is successful 5 times in a row.Step 5: Building durationRepeat Level 4, but require more duration before you say “YES!” and feed a treat from your treat pouch. Build your duration up to 1 second, then 2 seconds, then 3 seconds, and then 5 seconds before moving onto the next step.Step 6: On the floor (“The breadbox”)Place the bait treat on the floor in front of your dog about 1 foot away. Say “leave it” (just one time). Wait until they stop pestering and then remove your hand to expose the treat on the floor. Be ready to cover the treat with your hand (silently) if they go for it. Repeat this process until your dog does NOT try to take the treat from the floor. When this occurs, say “YES!” and then feed them a treat from your treat pouch while you cover your bait treat to prevent them from grabbing that one too! Repeat the process until your dog is successful 5 times in a row.Step 7: Standing upStand in front of your dog and place the bait treat on the floor in front of them, about 1 foot away. Say “leave it” (just one time). Wait until they stop pestering and then remove your foot to expose the treat on the floor. Be ready to cover it with your foot (silently) if they go for it. Repeat this process until your dog is NOT trying to take the treat from the floor. When this occurs, say “YES!” and then feed them a treat from your treat pouch while you cover your bait treat to prevent them from grabbing that one too! Repeat until your dog is able to “leave it” successfully 5 times in a row.Step 8: Accidental dropStand near your dog and drop the bait treat on the floor, about 2-3 feet away from them. Say “leave it” (just one time!) as it’s on the way to the floor. Be ready to cover it with your foot (silently) if they go for it. If they did, wait until they stop pestering and then remove your foot to expose the bait treat again. When your dog backs off for 1-2 seconds, say “YES!” and then feed them a treat from your treat pouch while you pick up your bait treat for another repetition! Repeat the process until you get five successful repetitions in a row.Step 8.5: Modify the accidental dropIf level 8 is too hard, start by dropping the treat from knee level and gradually work up to dropping it from your waist level. Take your time.