Introduction to Leave




In this tutorial you’re going to learn how to teach your puppy to leave things alone, automatically.

Leave it is a great behaviour if you drop something on the floor which you don’t want your puppy to pick up, or if you’s like your dog to look at you instead of staring at another dog.

The long term goal is that your dog looks at you instead of going after whatever has gotten their interest in the environment

To teach your puppy this game 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.

Have your clicker in the high value treat hand or use your verbal marker in this game.

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

Reset your hands and repeat the game.

Reward your puppy every time they move away from the kibble hand. Soon your puppy will realise that the reward for moving away is far better than the kibble and they will be quicker every time. If your puppy chooses to stay away from your hand when you offer it, this is a great sign your puppy has gotten the idea.

The next stage is to bring your kibble hand in front of you and open it slightly – like a cage around the food. Your puppy can see the food but if they try to come and take the food simply close your hand. If they stay where they are, of back away from the kibble, mark and reward with a higher value treat.

From here progress to having your hand open fully. As soon as your puppy sees the food, if they remain where they are, or back up mark and reward. If they try to approach, close your hand quickly to prevent them taking the kibble.

Gradually, you can start to lower your hand with kibble to the floor in stages, always marking and rewarding your puppy for choosing not to approach the food each time.

Progress to putting the kibble on the floor with your hand close by- cover up if your puppy approaches, and reward your puppy where they are, with a high value treat if they stay away.

When your puppy is really good you can add a cue word to this if you’d like to. Say the cue ‘leave it’ as you place the kibble on the floor, before rewarding your puppy with something better if they stay away from the food on the ground.

Don’t rely on the cue word too much – you want your puppy to offer to leave things through their own choosing as much as possible. This is because you won’t always be aware of things in the environment that your puppy is. Often these things can be dangerous so teaching your puppy to naturally avoid them and look to you for a reward is the best option. 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.

This skill can totally save your puppy’s life one day, so make sure you practice lots and make it easy and fun so that your puppy LOVES to play this game!

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