Leave It

“Leave it” is a great cue to use for calling your dog away from things not intended for him,

like appetizers set out on your coffee table, a baby’s toys or diaper, or things that are downright dangerous – like chicken bones left on the street or in the trash. “Leave it” should tell your dog that they are never going to get that item.

How to train it:

Warm up!

  1. Hold a treat in your hand. When your dog shows interest in your hand, hold it still and say, “leave it,” one time. If necessary, close your hand to keep your dog from getting the treat, but don’t move your hand away.
  2. As soon as your dog pulls away or loses interest, mark with “yes,” then reward with a treat from your other hand. Use a treat as good as or better than the one you asked your dog to leave alone.

The Treat Toss:

  1. Start with your dog on a set amount of leash, and toss a treat out further than your dog can reach. Hold steady on the leash (don’t jerk him away!) and say “leave it” just once, in a relaxed tone of voice.
  2. When your dog stops pulling towards the treat or looks at you, say “yes” and reward him with a separate treat. It’s important to say the cue only once and wait him out.
    1. *Tip: If your dog is really struggling, start further away from the treat, and gradually move closer.
  3. Once you get a 100% success rate with 10 trials (your dog never tries to go for the treats you’ve tossed), begin to toss treats closer to your dog. Be ready to prevent him from getting the treat using a body block or a shorter leash.

Table exercise:

  1. 1.Place treats on a dining table, coffee table, or counter. Stay within arm’s length so you can cover up the treats if needed. You can place them on a plate to imitate real life.
  2. 2.When your dog shows interest, tell him, “leave it.” If he looks away or hesitates, mark with “yes” and reward him with a separate treat (not one from the table). If he goes for the food, say, “ah-ah” and cover up the food. When he stops trying to get at it, mark and reward. The reward treat should be the same or better than the treat on the table
    1. – but, remember, do not use a treat from the table.
  3. Once you get a 100% success rate with 10 trials (your dog never tries to go for the treats on the table), add distance between yourself and the table.

Troubleshooting: Ask someone to help protect the food on the table or have your dog on a leash to stop him from getting at the food if he tries.

Floor/ground exercise:

  1. Repeat the table exercise, but with the food on the ground. You could also use trash with a food smell or something else you want your dog to ignore to practice “leave it” while you and your dog walk by.
  2. As you approach the item with your dog on leash, say “leave it” the moment your dog looks at the object.
    1. Begin by passing at a good-sized distance. As your dog gets better at the exercise, work your way closer to the enticing object.
  3. Repeat! You can do practice this exercise with anything you see on the ground. When your dog notices the object, tell him, “leave it,” and reward any response of looking toward you. Be sure to stay far enough away so your dog is unable to reach the object.


The sooner you give the cue, the better. If your dog is already intrigued by an object, it is much harder for him to leave it alone.

If your dog is unable to turn away from the item, he is too close to it. Create more distance between your dog and the thing he wants and try again.