Autumn is finally here!! The best time of year! While the weather does NOT seem to be cooperating with our desire for sweater weather, leaves are starting to change and fall. Squirrels are out in full force, finding and burying acorns to prepare for winter. Is your puppy driving you crazy chasing leaves, picking up acorns, and going bonkers when they spot a squirrel? Read on to teach your dog how to Leave It, and bring back some calm to your walks!
Step One: Teach your puppy to ignore food in your hand.
For this first step, place a low value treat in your hand. This could be kibble, a biscuit, or something of that nature. Have your treat pouch stocked with higher value treats and ready to go! Allow your dog to sniff the hand holding the treat. When your dog stops sniffing, reward with the higher value treat from your treat pouch!
Step Two: Teach your dog to ignore food in your open hand
For the next step, you’ll still be using the same low value treat - kibble or a biscuit - but your hand will be open. If your dog tries to take your treat, close your hand quickly! When your dog backs away, open your hand again. Keep alternating between opening your hand when your dog is not trying to take the treat and closing it when he does. When your dog does not try to take the treat from your hand, reward with the better treats!
Step Three: Teach your dog to ignore food on the ground
You’ll notice that each step gets increasingly more difficult! Make sure your dog has been successful at each step several times in a row before moving on to the next step. This round, we’ll have the low value treat -still kibble or a biscuit - on the floor. If your dog tries to take the food off the ground, simply cover it with your hand or step on it. When your dog stops, uncover it. When your dog stops trying to take the treat off the ground, reward!
Step Four: Add the cue, and then generalize.
Now that your dog fully understands the behavior we want - don’t eat the cookie! - we can start naming it. When you’re dog looks at the treat on the ground, cue “leave it!” Reward when your dog leaves the treat on the ground. If your dog knows “look” you can add eye contact to cue - cue leave it and then look! Reward your dog for eye contact. Over time, fade the “Look!” cue so that your dog automatically looks at you when you cue him leave it
Expand your leave it practice to include move valuable food types, and other things your dog finds tempting to play with but are not allowed to have. You can also bring some leaves or acorns into your apartment to practice with if your dog is chasing these outside! Be creative. Make sure that the reward you use is more valuable to your dog than the object you’re encouraging them to leave.
**If at any time your dog shows aggression while you’re training them to leave items alone, we recommend that you contact us for a private session to tackle this more serious issue.