Best Way to Train Your Dog to Leave It

Does your dog scarf up cigarette butts or chicken bones in the street or steal defrosting steaks from your kitchen counter? “Leave it” is the command you need. “Leave it” is said with a deep tone of voice. It’s serious. Indoors, use it to warn your dog when he’s ogling the cheese and crackers set our for guests. Outside, add a pop of the leash to “Leave it” when the dog pulls toward that pizza crust on the sidewalk or the blowing leaf.

Please do remember how different breeds of dogs vary. You can teach a biddable dog “Leave it” with a few tries. But if you have a terrier, it will take many, many, many repetitions for him to take this seriously. He was bred not to give in. So if you have a terrier and a blowing leaf, a steak or crinkly paper in your wastebasket, you’re going to need more stick-to-itiveness than he has. A lot. It’s not that he’s stupid—far from it. He’s tough-minded.

Dog Leave It Best Way to Train Your Dog to Leave It

Practice “Leave it” by using setups. When you have a few minutes, place a piece of bread on the coffee table, watch and wait. If your dog is faster than a speeding bullet, tie a long string to his collar and hold the other end so that your “Leave it,” until he learns it, has more clout.

Now hear this: Do not wait until the bread is passing through your dog’s digestive system to say “Leave it.” Correct him when he thinks about stealing the bread. When he ogles the bread, say “Leave it!” and pop the string. Praise when he looks at you and admires your power. Give him one more try. Then remove the bread and eat or toss it. Never give your dog the thing you just told him to leave. If you do, you’re teaching “Wait,” which has a whole different application.

Once your dog learns the narrow use of “Leave it,” with your help, he will be able to broaden its use. We use “Leave it” to tell Dexter to ignore an approaching dog who looks like trouble. I once used it when he was off leash at the dog run. He had decided to see if a huge intact male dog, an apartment house with teeth, wanted to be his best friend. I didn’t have time to get to him before he would have reached the other dog. To my delight and relief, he understood this broader use of “Leave it” and changed his direction, heading for a gentle-looking Brittany instead. Good boy, Dexter!

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