One of the most important commands owners can teach their dogs is the command to “leave it.” Puppies are curious creatures and are wont to explore everything with their mouths. This is natural, but can be detrimental to their well-being.
Training begins on the first day a puppy comes into your home and continues throughout your dog’s life. It is best to instill good behavior and habits right from the beginning. Puppies need interesting things to do and boredom is not a dog parent’s friend. If your puppy does not get enough stimulation she may seek out objects in her environment that are not appropriate or are even dangerous, such as stones. Stones can cause choking, broken teeth and injury to the gums. The command to “leave it” will be valuable throughout your dog’s lifetime.
Each command you teach your puppy builds confidence for learning the next one, so begin with basic commands first, such as how to come when called, sit, lay down and stay. It’s also important that your dog views you as the pack leader and the authority figure she must obey. A good beginning command is known as “No free lunch.” Teach your puppy to sit before receiving anything she enjoys, be it food, a treat, toys or chews. Food is a powerful motivator for most dogs and this is an easy one to teach because most will pick it up right away, particularly puppies.
From the simpler commands progress to the more complicated. Teaching a dog to drop whatever is in her mouth on command can be a bit challenging and will take perseverance and time. Once learned, be sure to repeat the command frequently to maintain the reinforcement.
- Tell your puppy to lie down, then place a high value treat on the floor about 2 feet in front of her. Say “leave it” in a firm voice. If the puppy moves toward the treat tell her again to “leave it” always using a firm tone of voice. If she goes for it anyway pick it up.
- Begin again and make your puppy wait for several minutes, then give her the treat. Do not let her retrieve it herself. Next time you practice make her wait another minute and repeat the same steps.
- At each practice session continue to increase the time before allowing the puppy to have the treat. Try this in increments of ten, fifteen, twenty minutes. If your dog learns to ignore the treat, that is even better.
- When she has this step mastered try placing the treat a little closer and continue in the same way by repeating the first step. Continue the training, each session moving the treat still closer and repeating the activities in the first step. After she has mastered this skill follow the same steps but turn your back. Pay attention and if your puppy moves to take the treat, saying “leave it” in a firm voice. After mastering this step proceed to the next.
- Place the treat in front of your puppy, within reach. Firmly tell her to “leave it.” When she has at last mastered this, continue to challenge her in different ways, such as having her wait to take her food when it is placed in front of her. The real challenge will come when you tell her to “leave it” in a serious situation. Hopefully, she will comply.
- Always remember to praise and reward all appropriate behaviors your puppy displays.
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