"Leave it" or "Off"

The scenerio is your dog has your cell phone or a shoe in its mouth and is starting to chow down on it. Ypu may yell and take a chance that your dog runs off with it or you grab it and risk getting bitten. It would be so much easier if yo just said a word and the dog drops it. But how do you train a dog to do this?

First lets understand the motivation.Dogs are oportunists and will do whatever is good for them. And then understand that some things have a higher value to the dog than others. Compare, say, a rawhide to a peice of wood. You know what your own dog would prefer. The easiest way to trian a dog of relinquish its "prize" is to offer or "potentially" offer a higher-value item, until it is conditioned to relinguish upon a certain cue.

So pick a word....whatever it is...Dogs don't speak English, so the sound you make is irrelenvant at the beginning, but it must be consistent. Let's choose "off" and then picture what "off" means to you. For me "off" means "move away from what ever you are doing"...in very general terms. If my dog is looking at the garbage, or heading towards another dog, or about to jump on a freshly painted park bench it is all the same to me and him. I say "off" and he stops progressing or he comes to me..the lattter being the preferable. To my dog "off" means "stop what you are doing and come get a treat". Wishful thinking in a lot of cases.

To start this the dog is totally unrestrained...no leash, no holding of a collar, and no "sit" command...The dog is completely free. You place a "high valued" treat in your hand.,,like a piece of chicken or hot dog or cheese. Something your dog loves. Close your fist over it, shove it in front of your dog and say "off". Your dog may lick your hand sniff etc, but say "off" again and again until he pauses or steps back or makes the slightest motion AWAY from your hand. Open your hand immediately and say "take it" and let him take the treat. Do this very quickly. Then do it again. It will take no time before your dog understands that as soon as he moves AWAY he gets it. Great stuff! As soon as yourd og wil move away the first time you say "off" and he does it 10 times in a row, you are ready for the next step.

The next step is to have the treat covered by your thumb so the dog can smell it and even taste it, but cannot get it. Do the same as above, and eventually the dog will move away because that is how he will get the treat. You must repsond very quickly by releasing the treat as soon as he moves away. Don't say "good dog" or pat him or anyting like that. He doesn't care and it distracts him from his training. Once he will back off comletely 10 times in a row he is ready for the next step.

The next step is to have the treat open, and uncovered. Be sure to be able to cover it with your thumb if required, He can NOT win until you say"take it".

When this is working 10 times in a row perfectly, you can start to put it on your knee, or your shoe, or the ground...making sure that there is NO way he can get it unless you want him to. Actually to make things easier you can give him his reward from your other hand. What this does is takes the dog's attention away from the object, and makes him look to you for a treat. Picture a piece of garbage on the sidewalk. You say "off" and he looks at you so you give him a treat and leave the area.

After several practice sessions he should be fine.

Make sure that you break this up so that you only go as far as 1 step a few times before you go to the next step. Each step should take you at least 3 training sessions of 10 minutes each. No longer than that, as it is too much for the dog to take in.

Take your time and make sure each step is good and solid before you move to the next one. And ALWAYS carry some treats with you. It doesn't hurt and if it keep your dog from eating garbage it is a good thing.

Good luck!
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I need this for Joy after the incident the other day. Jasper has it down - I just tell him "Drop", and he drops whatever is in his mouth. It's harder to work with Joy - she's a lot more stubborn than Jasper. lol Thanks for sharing!
Yay! for the leave it command!

Joan tells me that Mulligan found the remnants of some fried chicken by the side of the road. A quick "LEAVE IT!" and he dropped it out of his mouth.

This now makes two dogs who have dropped fried chicken from their mouths for us. Woo hoo!

(I need to figure out who is discarding fried chicken remains out their car windows...)
What a great post - thanks!!!
I agree, "leave it" is great. I teach "leave it" in my beginner obedience classes. It is an invaluable command, because it covers anything and everything.
Leave it is the greatest command Daisy has learned, seconded by DROP IT.

leave it means to leave it alone - DROP IT means to get rid of it quickly and you are NOT getting it back no matter what.

She hears leave it a lot, and while she does generally listen, the DROP IT command is less frequent and when used, more firm and she never questions it - she drops it immediately and does not try to pick it up again (at least at that time - on other walks if it is still there, she will try again)
I love the leave it command, it works great, prevents the dogs from getting the cat, the kids toys, food dropped...
I've never specifically trained this command but my dogs seem to have learned it anyway. If they are after something (like a cat) I'll say stop, and they do. If they have something in their mouths, I say drop it, and they do and then come running to me for kisses usually. If it is something really tasty obtained via counter surfing, they usually have inhaled it faster than I can say anything. :lol:
Love this post....very informative!!! Thank you
Great post. We were needing to know how to train Oliver "leave it". Thanks!
This is how we have trained our dogs and it is quite successful. our command is NO OUT! My husband even trained the neighbors dog this way and when they get really good you can have them balance a hotdog on the nose and they wont eat it until we say OK. We havent got that far with Beauie tho he just cant seem to balance it. BUT he is doing good with dropping things he shouldnt have......... like the cat :roll: BUt that silly cat comes back for more. Last night she was trying to cuddle with him and rub against him and she knows where that leads.......... A chase around the house :? :roll:
we used to use swap with our old sheepiel So been doing it today with new puppy. If she has a toy I get a treat say "swap" and take the toy and give her the treat. Hopefully it will work used to come in handy with the old dog. She used to spit things out if I said "Swap!"
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