Leave it: Without Force or Intimidation

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This video explains how to teach ‘leave it’ using the clicker training method. Not only is this method the most effective, but it also builds a dogs desire to interact with his owner OVER distractions. Using punishment while training leave it, diminishes yourself as something reinforcing to interact with.

Training a default leave it is essential. This exercise can be used with food, toys, bushes, grass, or ANYTHING the dog finds rewarding.

This is where the dog learns to not mug the hand and is not so focused on the food, but rather learn to focus on learning. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t37zLMLT6KA

The dog gets a click and treat for not mugging the hand. For staying away from the hand or food. For giving me eye contact…

Try it in many locations or places to teach the dog to generalize the behavior. They will probably go right back to mugging the hand at first, but will learn quickly that the only way to get what they want is to not mug the hand and to not think about the food, toy, etc…

In the beginning… If you have a dog that is too excited by food, start with using something of low value, such as carrots or regular dog food. When the dog leaves the boring thing alone, he gets something of higher value. Something yummy and something that he really wants.

Once the dog understands to not mug your hand, start making it more difficult by using something of higher value. At first the dog might go back to old habits, but just hold out and wait for the light bulb to come on and for the dog to “leave it” or back away from your hand.

Next put the food on the floor and let the dog try to get the food. At first, the only behavior you will click and treat is when the dog turns away from the food.

Then you might start asking for more and wait for leaving the food, staying away from the food, and maybe even giving you eye contact. Be careful not to click if the dog is looking at your hand or the food in your hand. The dog can be looking at your eyes, legs, feet, etc. but not the hand that has the food in it.

This can help build your relationship with your dog, because instead of being that nagging person at the end of the leash telling the dog he can’t have something, you are making it worth his while for paying attention to you. You want him to care more about you than distractions in the environment. Instead of choosing to go after other stuff that might be rewarding, the dog is choosing to be with the owner instead.

In this exercise you are letting the dog make the choice on his own. You are letting him learn that he does not want to do the unacceptable behavior of getting the treat, toy, etc… off the ground. He wants to be with you the handler. If you say, “No” or “EHH EHH”, then the dog will still really want that food. Just because you tell him No, does not mean that he does not want it anymore. He just does not want you harassing him anymore, or might be worried that you his owner will become intimidating, so he will comply. Personally, I would rather have a dog that WANTS and chooses to do the right behavior instead of doing it just because I nagged him to do it.

Sophie is choosing to be with me over the food and she is learning to trust me and it is strengthening our relations through this process… She is happy and willing to leave the food. A dog that is taught to Leave it with intimidation or force will show signs of stress (lip licking, yawning, avoidance of looking away from the handler, stiffness, and his ears will be pinned back) and will use these “calming signals” to calm their owner down. With this method the dog is truly happy confident and choosing his owner over the food, toy, or distractions. With verbal punishment or jerking the dog away from the distraction the dog is FORCED into leaving it.

Keep the dog moving after the initial stage of not mugging the hand. You can practice with the dog sitting or downing, but you also want to practice with the dog moving. This way if you need the dog to leave a mean dog or move away from a dead skunk or not go after a cat, then it helps to have also worked on the leave it cue while moving.

Click the dog for looking at you instead of the distraction.

NEVER let the dog Get it, unless you have given a cue for the dog to get it.

Take your time!

Start this exercise with your dog on leash or be prepared to get to the food or distraction first to remove it or cover it before the dog is able to get to it.

Pam, Isabelle, Bandit & Twix