The ‘leave it’ cue means to ignore something. Many times this is taught using some form of punishment but it can be (and should be) taught without intimidation. Just like all the other behaviours we have worked on, it is important to encourage and reward what we like and ignore the incorrect choices made during the training process.
This exercise teaches self control and to ignore something that your dog really wants. Your dog may be tempted to snatch the treats from you so you will need to be quick to prevent reinforcing inappropriate behaviour. Say nothing to your dog during the process in order to allow him to think and problem solve. Limit this exercise to no more than five minutes (use a kitchen timer).
I want you to be focusing on your dog’s actions without staring at him. Staring directly at your dog could be seen as intimidation. I find it best to look just to the left or right of my hand. This exercise is not about luring but capturing the moment when your dog decides to NOT grab at the treats. By not snatching what is in front on him he will actually earn the treat.
Start in a comfortable position with your dog in front of you and a few smelly treats in the palm of your hand. Now cover the treats by making a fist and allow your dog realise that you have food. Hold your hand still by resting your arm on your leg or the arm of a chair. Do not move your hand as this will encourage your dog to follow your hand signals like we did when luring.
Wait for an acceptable behaviour – backing away, sitting or laying down – as long as he has moved away from your hand. When he does offer an acceptable behaviour open the hand revealing the treats. If he moves towards the treats immediately close your hand again. Say nothing and be patient. Once your dog has shown some self control and will leave the food alone (if only for a few seconds) then you can hand him a treat by using your other hand to deliver the treat.
Gradually move the treats so you can place them on the floor. Cover them quickly if they attempt to steal them. Once they have shown good understanding of this behaviour you can start adding the cue “Leave It”. Make this game a little more challenging by using toys instead of food. They are only allowed to have the toy when given approval with an “OK-get it” command.