Introduction to Leave

09/02/2022

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INTRODUCTION TO LEAVE

Leave it is a great game to play to help your dog develop self control and could even save your dog’s life one day!

The end goal is that your dog will notice things in the environment that are tempting and instead of moving towards them, will automatically look at you. You can also cue your dog verbally to leave things alone.

To teach this behaviour you are going to start out with a piece of your dog’s regular kibble in one hand and a higher value reward in the other.

Make a fist with your palm facing upwards and the kibble inside. Offer towards your dog and let them investigate. They will sniff, lick, nibble or paw at your hand but wait until they choose to move away. Mark and reward with a high value treat from the other hand.

Reset your hands and repeat the game.

Soon your dog will realise that the reward they get for moving away is far better than the kibble they don’t get to have. They might even choose to stay away from your kibble hand when presented. Reward this choice every time.

Next open your hand around the kibble slightly so your dog can see the food. If they stay where they are, or back away from the kibble, mark and reward with a higher value treat. If they try to come and take the food simply close your hand.

When your dog is doing well, progress to opening your hand fully and lowering your hand to lie flat on the ground. Eventually you will be able to place the food on the ground and reward your dog if they choose to stay where they are. Be ready to cover up the food if your dog approaches.

When your dog can happily look at you and doesn’t approach the food you put down, you can add a cue word. Simply say the word before putting the food down and reward your dog with something else every time.

Practice cueing your dog to leave, but also set them up to make good choices and manage situations so they can’t pick up undesirable objects or food throughout the day. Let them know what they can have by pointing it out and encouraging them to investigate. Reward every good choice your dog makes and you will see them start to offer to look at you when they notice things they would like in the environment.

This skill can totally save your dog’s life one day, so make sure you practice lots and make it easy and fun so that they LOVE playing this game!

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