Teach your dog to ignore food
• Teach your dog to ignore food offered in your hand in response to the cue “leave it”.
Lay the Foundation:
1. The dog moves away from a treat in your closed fist: Present your fist (with a treat in it) to the dog. She will lick and sniff your hand, but eventually give up and move her nose away. The instance that she moves her nose away is the instant you click/”yes”. Then give her a treat from your other hand. Repeat until she no longer bothers to sniff your hand.
2. Teach step 1 again, but now ask your dog to stay away from your closed fist for 5 seconds. Start with a 1 second delay before you CT, then gradually increase to 5 seconds.
3. When you can see that she knows that the way to earn a treat is to keep her nose away from your hand, start adding the verbal cue “leave it”.
4. Repeat step 1, but now hold the treat on your open palm, again slowly building up to 5 seconds before you CT. Start by holding your palm out to the dog just above nose height. If your dog goes for the treat just close your fist, but do not jerk your hand out of reach.
• The “leave it” cue is great for calling your dog away from things not intended for her, like consumables or trash on the street. It’s great for helping your dog to just keep moving when it’s time for the exercise portion of your walk, instead of stopping to sniff every smell or icky dead squirrel. (Remember, though, that dogs love to use their noses—give your dog some sniffing time on his walks, too!). You can also use it to call your dog away from other people or dogs, or from picking up a dropped medicine tablet off your floor!
• To make this easier, use a lower value of treat that the dog should “leave it”, while rewarding her with a higher value treat.
• If your dog makes a mistake twice in a row, then you’ve made it too hard too quickly. Go back to an earlier step in the process.
Teach your dog to ignore food on the floor
• Build the dog’s skill of ignoring food and other inappropriate objects.
1. Lower your open palm (with treat on it) to the floor so that your knuckles are resting on the floor while saying “leave it”. Your dog should continue to ignore the treat.
2. Then start to place the treat on the floor as you say “Leave it”. Be prepared to cover the treat with your hand if your dog really cannot resist it. Repeat until your dog is reliably ignoring the food in your hand at floor level.
3. Finally, you need to start standing upright whilst the treat is still lying on the floor. You may use your foot to cover the treat if needed.
4. Repeat the entire exercise with an item that the dog may not have (e.g. a kid’s toy, a sock). Place the item on the floor in front of you as you say “Leave it”. If your dog looks away from the item and/or makes eye contact with you, CT.
• Remember to keep the tone of your voice light and easy. Do not allow anger or frustration to build in the words “leave it”. Remember that, to your dog, “leave it” means “if you leave that thing alone, Mom/Dad will give me something else instead”. Keep it fun.
Teach your dog to ignore items everywhere
• Further build the dog’s skill of ignoring food and other inappropriate objects. Food and/or objects will be placed closer to and fully visible to your dog.
1. Ask your dog to Sit or Down, then place a treat on the ground about 4 feet away from the dog. When he hesitates and/or looks at you, CT.
2. Begin to place the desirable item a little closer to your dog as you say “Leave it”. When he hesitates and/or looks at you, CT.
3. Repeat Steps 1 – 2 with a different object.
4. Repeat Steps 1 – 2 with a person as the “leave it” object.
5. Repeat Steps 1 – 2 with another dog as the “leave it” object.
6. Next, ask your dog to “leave it” as you drop a treat from your hand to the floor. Yes, drop it, and let it roll. If he can’t succeed, then go back to an earlier step and rework the procedure from there.
7. Continue training and/or refreshing this cue to your dog periodically until your dog can resist food/objects on the floor in response to the “Leave it” cue.
• Progress in small enough increments that there is no need to pick up or cover the food/ object to prevent grabbing. If the dog is unable to resist the item, place it at a greater distance and try again.
• Here is a challenge: Turn this exercise into a game: can you put a treat on top of your dog’s nose and ask him to “leave it”? Can you put multiple treats on the floor, and ask him to leave all of them? And then, maybe, only get to eat one of them, but leave the others alone? Can you put a treat on top of his front leg as he is lying down, and ask him to “leave it”. Multiple treats placed on his leg?