Part 3: Teaching the Leave-It Cue and the Importance

March 19, 2014

Do you have a dog or puppy who loves to steal things? How about garbage diving or sock snatching?? What about the infamous poop munchers? Even the extra nosey, “want to sniff everything while on a walk” dog? Well this exercise will be for you! Teaching your dog a strong “leave-it” can be one of the most important tools for you and your dog. Leave-it is the universal command for “don’t touch, eat, sniff, chase, steal or lick” whatever you are trying to go after and is extremely important for your dogs’ healthy and safety and your sanity.

How-to teach Leave-it you ask? Just follow these next few steps and your dog will be a leave-it rock star!


  1. Get a baggy of some yummy, stinky, tiny-sized, high value treats. Start by getting your dog on leash or in a quiet area. Place one treat in your hand and close your hand. Place your closed hand down in front of your dog’s nose and say “leave-it” firmly and just say it once.

  2. At this time your dog will likely sniff, lick, paw, and nibble to try and get at the treat in your hand. This is the gross part, but don’t give in. Keep your hand close and do NOT move your hand away. As soon as you pull your hand away your dog will want to follow it, so just keep it still.

  3. Stay patient. For the more food obsessed doggies, this may take a little while. Do not repeat “leave-it” and do not start saying no. Just wait it out. It will happen!

  4. As soon as your pup disengages with your hand by either sitting back and leaving it, or turning its nose away from your hand, even if just for a few seconds, immediately open your hand, enthusiastically tell your dog to “take it!”, and treat the dog.

  5. Do these exact 4 steps repeatedly until your dog instantly leaves the treat the second you say “leave it!”


Once your dog is a pro at leaving the treat in your close hand, try the exercise over again with the treat in an open hand. Then the treat on the floor. The try the treat between its paws. ALWAYS get ready to cover the treat if your dog tries to steal it. We don’t want them to get freebies while establishing a good leave-it. When you are confident with your dogs leave-it skills with the above, you can then start by just dropping treats. You will not be able to pin point the exact spot where the treat will land, so only move to this step when your dog leaves the treats all the time. Work on the leave-it exercise every day, if even just for 5-10 minutes at a time.


Once the treat leave-it is mastered, you can start working on the exercise with toys, shoes, garbage, poop, other dogs, rodents, your fingers (with a nippy pup) etc. Anything you want your dog to leave, use this exercise. If you are working with puppies who are nippy, please tell them to leave-it but replace your hands with something appropriate to chew on. Taking away your puppy’s chew object and replacing it with nothing can only make it want to find something else bad to chew on.


Just a note, if you are working on this leave-it exercise, please do NOT push or pull the dog or puppy away from the object you are wanting them to leave or give them leash corrections. Let them learn to leave the items. The more you work on this exercise, the better they will become. Have fun and watch your dog learn! :)


Ashley Reid

Tess’s Dog Training

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