[Noozhawk’s note: Second in a series. Click here for the first column.]

In my Oct. 3 column, column, “Here’s How to Teach Your Dog How to ‘Drop It’,” an inquisitive pet parent asked the following question:

Our 1½-year-old English bulldog just got out of the hospital, having had surgery to remove a small ball. Two other pieces of plastic were also removed. How do we get her to: “drop it”, “leave it” and “come”?

A. I covered helpful hints along with stepwise procedures for teaching inquisitive canines the “drop” cue in that previous post.

Now let’s move on to teaching your pup how to “Leave it.” This useful cue is a quick way to say, “Stop what you’re doing and come over to me for a fabulous reward!”

“Leave it” is a cue that takes patience, practice, repetition and high value rewards, but it’s also one that really pays off for devoted pet guardians.

Helpful Hints

  • Begin with items your dog is less interested in, then proceed to things that will likely be more enticing and challenging. This could include items such as children’s toys, shoes, pieces of laundry or the garbage. 
  • Practice “Leave it” while you and your dog are walking by an item. Begin farther away and practice getting closer as your dog is ready.
  • In addition to the question you asked about balls and plastic items that your dog has ingested, “Leave it” can also be handy for dogs who like to go after cyclists, runners, skateboarders and cars. 

Steps to Teach Your Dog ‘Leave It’

  • Start with a lower value item on the floor or ground.
  • When your dog shows interest, say “Leave it.” If he or she looks away, say “yes,” then reward with a higher value treat from your pocket or treat pouch.
  • Repeat until your dog just ignores the item and looks at you in anticipation of the better payoff.
  • If your dog goes for the item, you may say “Too bad” and cover the item up. When your dog stops trying to get at it, say “yes” then follow with a higher value treat.
  • You can practice this cue with anything you see on the ground. When your dog notices the item, say “Leave it,” and reward for ignoring the item, and/or looking toward you.

Remember, as I mentioned when discussing the “Drop” cue, the key is to make it clear to your inquisitive canine that there is consistently something amazing to be had as a reward for moving away from an item on cue and checking in with the handler, no matter the circumstance.

To be continued … Please watch this column for steps and tips for teaching inquisitive canines how to reliably come when called!

Until then, I hope you and your inquisitive canines enjoy this pawsitive approach for positive results in your training endeavors!

Joan Hunter Mayer is a certified canine behavior consultant, certified professional dog trainer, and founder of The Inquisitive Canine. She and her team are devoted to offering humane, pawsitive, practical solutions that work for the challenges dogs and their humans face in everyday life. Joan offers training and behavior consulting services both in person and online, dedicated to strengthening the human-canine bond. If you are feeling inquisitive and have dog training questions, email advice@theinquisitivecanine.com and click here for more training tips. The opinions expressed are her own.