Your dog will learn to ignore food or other items that have been left on the ground, or are dropping to the ground in front of your dog. The cue is also useful for leaving other people and dogs alone.
Why is it an important skill?
Your dog has to be able to move around in the real world without putting his nose into everything. For some dogs this is a tough skill to learn.
Consider the current level of your dog:
• Level 1: Can he leave food alone that you’re holding in your hand?
o Yes? Move to Level 2
o No? Start teaching him at Level 1
• Level 2: Can he leave food alone on the floor?
o Yes? Move to Level 3
o No? Teach him to leave stuff lying on the ground alone (Level 2)
• Level 3: Can he ignore other items everywhere?
o Yes? Move to Level 4
o No? Expand his repertoire of items that he should ignore (Level 3)
• Level 4: Can he ignore items that are dropping in front of him?
o Yes? Well done. You really have a nearly bombproof dog. Keep reminding your dog about the various leave-it items
o No? Work on letting your dog understand that objects dropping in front of him are also to be ignored (Level 4).
Teach your dog to ignore food offered in your hand
- 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 mark her (i.e. click or say ”yes”). Then give her a treat from your other hand. Repeat until she no longer bothers to sniff your hand.
- 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 mark and reward, then gradually increase to 5 seconds.
- 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”.
- Repeat Step 1, but now hold the treat on your open palm, again slowly building up to 5 seconds before you mark and reward. 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.
Teach your dog to ignore food on the floor
- 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. If he goes for the treat, again close your hand into a fist, but do not jerk your hand away.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, mark and reward.
- Ask your dog to sit (or down) and stay, then place a treat on the ground about 4 feet away from the dog. When he hesitates and/or looks at you, mark and reward.
- 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, mark and reward.
- Repeat Steps 1 & 2 with a different object.
- Repeat Steps 1 & 2 with a person as the “leave it” object.
- Repeat Steps 1 & 2 with another dog as the “leave it” object.
Practice with dropping objects in front of your dog
- 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.
- Continue training and/or refreshing this cue to your dog periodically until your dog can resist food/objects dropping to the floor in response to the “Leave it” cue.