How to Teach a Dog to Leave it [An Essential Skill]

“Leave it!” This common dog cue is important for teaching your furry friend a bit of impulse control – which is critical for their health and wellness. We’ll show you how to teach a dog to leave it in 8 easy steps.

No matter what your dog finds, whether it’s food that you drop or something indistinguishable outside, you need to be able to give a quick command so they back off.

This is something we have to say to our dog Toby all the time. For example, he likes to stand guard when we’re cooking and makes a quick beeline for anything he sees that falls on the floor. Like uncooked meats and other naughty things he’s not supposed to have.

Or when we’re out on a walk, he’ll find a dead animal and try to eat it. (So unbelievably gross!)

Fortunately, he listens when we say “Leave it” and will back away.

As you can see from these examples, teaching your dog to leave it protects their health and potentially saves their life.

Ultimately, you want your dog to stop themselves from picking something up if you notice them headed toward something they shouldn’t have. The goal is to say, “Leave it,” and have them do just that.

Figuring out how to teach your dog to leave it tends to be fairly easy in comparison to some of the other cues dogs need to learn.

By following a few steps, you can have your dog leaving that food that fell off the barbecue, without even batting an eye.

How to teach a dog to leave it

How to Teach a Dog to Leave it

Teaching a dog to leave it is all about impulse control. It helps them channel their natural instincts to go after anything they want and instead follow your lead.

To learn how to teach a dog to leave it, read through these 8 steps and take time to practice them with your dog.

It may take several training sessions for your dog to get a hang of it, but as they say, practice makes perfect.

  1. The first thing you are going to do is set a dog treat out on the floor and then put your hand over it.
  2. Your dog will try and get the treat from under your hand. Stand firm.
  3. When your dog stops trying to take the treat from you, celebrate it and reward them with a treat. Make sure it is a different and better treat than the one on the floor. Doing so will cement in your dog’s mind that leaving something may lead to something better.
  4. Repeat this exercise until the dog begins to ignore the treat. Then, you will do the exercise again, but this time your hand will be removed from the top of the treat. You need to stay nearby, ready to cover the treat again if the dog tries to take it.
  5. As soon as your dog turns away from the treat and begins to do something else, reward them with a different treat.
  6. Practice the exercise again while you stand with the dog on a leash. Cover the treat with your foot instead of your hand.
  7. When your dog begins to regularly ignore the treat, you will know they are gaining impulse control and is ready to learn “leave it.” Use the same method, but intentionally drop something and instruct your dog “leave it” to teach him the essential command. Reward them with a treat.
  8. Once your dog is proficient at the in-home “leave it” cue, it’s time to test it outside. Put your dog on the leash and get out there.

Figuring out how to teach your dog to leave it is easier than you think. You just need to be diligent and keep going until your dog has mastered this important skill.

Dog leave it

Final Thoughts on How to Teach a Dog to Leave it

Learning how to teach a dog to leave it is so important when you get a dog. It prevents your dog from getting into something they’re not supposed to, which is absolutely critical to their health and wellness.

And once you’ve taught your dog this skill, remember that it’ll be a constant learning process. Let’s face it, the item they’re pining for is quite tempting, so this requires firm and commanding instructions on your part.

If you find your dog is forgetting what you’ve taught them, go back to the steps above and brush up on the training. (We have to do this from time to time with Toby.)

In the end, when your dog is faced with temptation, you’ll be grateful you taught them this critical skill.

Watch a Training Video

As you learn how to teach a dog to leave it, sometimes it helps to see the process in action.

We are huge fans of dog trainer Zak George, and fortunately for us, he has put together a video on the topic.

George brings a positive, fun and informational style that has earned him millions of fans. After watching this tutorial on how to teach a dog to leave it, check out his YouTube channel for a variety of other awesome training videos.

Bonus Training Tip

As you work on how to teach a dog to leave it, you might find yourself getting frustrated or impatient. Heck, this could happen when teaching your dog any sort of new skill!

If this happens to you, don’t worry – it’s completely normal.

Training a dog does require a great deal of patience and persistence. If you feel like you’re not making progress and getting annoyed, take a few moments to get centered.

For example, you could give yourself a timeout, breathe deep and count to 10. Or take a break from training and start at a later time.

Dogs can sense if you’re hyper or angry, so taking a few moments to regroup will make the training process even more successful.

Hungry dog

Top Dog Training Books

Figuring out how to teach a dog to leave it is just one small part of the overall training process.

To ensure your dog is obedient and well-behaved, we recommend you learn as much about dog training as possible.

One great way to do this: Read a top dog training book!

The following books are tried-and-true favorites recommended by thousands of dog owners. They’ll help you train your dog effectively and provide a solid foundation for how they should act and behave.

If you put in the work now, the following years will be so much easier, we promise.

When we first got Toby, we spent months working on training. Believe me, it was exhausting at times.

The result, however, is that he became a well-behaved dog who listened and followed our commands, and that made our lives much easier in the long run.

1. Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution

You saw Zak George’s video above on how to teach a dog to leave it. He’s got even more great advice in his book Dog Training Revolution.

If you liked his style, you’ll enjoy this complete guide to raising a dog. It covers all the bases for dog training essentials.

2. The Art of Raising a Puppy

Written by the Monks of New Skete, The Art of Raising a Puppy includes invaluable information and advice every dog owner should know.

We read it when we first got Toby and highly recommend it. There’s a reason it’s a classic!

3. How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days

House training a dog is a challenging process. Ask any pup parent, and they’ll tell you how messy, frustrating and exhausting it can be.

The book How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days teaches you infallible methods that will help housebreak your pup and make life so much easier for you.

4. 101 Dog Tricks

We purchased 101 Dog Tricks for Toby a number of years ago. He had learned basic commands and we were looking for other ways to keep him mentally stimulated.

This book was a great way to find new tricks, provide mental and physical stimulation for Toby and bond with him in the process.

5. Puppy Training for Kids

If you have children in your home, Puppy Training for Kids serves as a great introduction to caring for a dog.

Dogs are a big responsibility, and this book helps kids understand all the work involved with training and raising a puppy.

We hope you found this a valuable guide to how to teach a dog to leave it. You never know when your dog is going to come into contact with something they’re not supposed to have, and it’s critical that they walk away when you tell them to.

If you’re looking for additional resources, check out our puppy guide or head over to our training section for lots of other tips and tricks.

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