Take/Leave It

The “leave it” cue may also come handy during the preparation phase of brain games when you place food on the floor or inside a container, and the “take” cue is handy when you want to give our dog permission to eat a treat or ask him to pick up a toy or other item. For safety, when you progress to practicing with items instead of treats, use only items that are safe around your dog in case he ignores you when you tell him to “leave it.” Don’t practice with socks if he has a history of swallowing them, and don’t practice with the TV remote if he has a history of chewing it apart!

How to Train Your Dog to Take/Leave It

The “leave it” and ‘lake” cues teach your dog to avoid or to pick up certain items. To train these cues, start with a simple exercise.

Keep one high-value treat in a closed fist hidden behind your back, and place a lower- value treat in your other hand (in the middle of your open palm) and present it to your dog. Keep your hand open so your dog can see the treat. Most likely he will move forward, hoping to eat the treat.

When he tries to grab the treat, quickly close your hand and say “leave it.” Your dog may start nudging, licking, or nibbling on your hand. Ignore all of this and keep your hand clamped shut. Wften he finally stops trying, use your verbal marker or click the clicker, then present to him the closed hand you had hidden behind your back and open it, telling him to “take” the treat. Repeat this exercise several times.

Einstein stops trying to get the forbidden treat. I now rlick the clickar/use my verbal marker, then present and open the hand from behind my back, say “take,” and let him have the treat that was inside.

Through trial and error your dog should learn that being pushy and trying to get the treat yields no results, while staying calm and ignoring the treat yields the reward. In time, he will learn that “leave it” means “don’t try to get the treat,” and that when you say “take° you are asking him to take something.

As your dog begins to understand this exercise, it’s time to increase the difficulty. Many dogs believe that when an item is on the floor or falls to the floor it’s automatically theirs. In this exercise we will introduce a new rule.

Keep two or three high-value treats in a hand hidden behind your back, then place a lower-value treat on the floor. When your dog goes to get the treat on the floor, say “leave it” and cover it with your foot. He may paw or nudge your foot with his nose, but ignore this. The moment he gives up, ctick the clicker/use your verbal marker and open the hand from behind your back to him, say “take,” and let him eat the treats that were inside. The reason you give your dog the treats in your hand instead of the treat under your foot is because in a real-life scenario he might not be allowed to eat the item you asked him to leave especially if it’s something harmful.

With enough training, your dog should begin waiting for permission before taking items you drop on the floor.

Einstein stops trying to get the treat under my foot. I now click the clicker/use my verbal marker, then present and open the hand from behind my back and say “take,” allowing him to eat the high-value treats that were inside.

You can also practice “leave it” with toys. To do this, place a toy on the floor in front of your dog, then when he goes to get it, tell him to “leave it.” If he successfully leaves it, click the clicked or use your verbal marker and reward him with treats that you‘ve kept hidden behind your back or in your treat bag/pocket.

During other training sessions, you could work on the ’take” cue using toys. Simply place some toys on the floor around the room, then point at them and tell your dog to “take.” We will be using this skill throughout the course in a number of brain games and training exercises.

Remember to avoid getting your dog to leave and take toys during the same training session, as this could cause confusion.

If your dog seems uninterested when you begin using toys, you can hide them behind your back and then present them to him first, or move the toys around to increase his interest in them before putting them on the floor.

Troubleshooting Problems

In these exercises you need to be very quick at closing your fist or stepping on the treaVtoy before your dog gets to it. Keep those reflexes sharp, because dogs are fast! Imagine the item he needs to leave is something harmful to your dog. Pretend you are protecting him from harm and need to intervene swiftly. When he leaves the item, use your verbal marker or click the clicker and reward him lavishly with high- value treats you’ve kept hidden behind your back or in your treat bag/pocket.

For the exercise to work well, remember to always reward your dog with treats that are higher in value than whatever it is you are preventing him from getting. If the rewards are smso, he may not be interested in them and will be more interested in the item you are not letting him have! This can affect learning and put a dent in progress.

If your dog iS hesitant to “take” items, there are a couple of things you could try. First, try moving around the item you want him to pick up to increase his interest in it before you place it on the floor, then point at it and say ’lake.” Alternatively, you can try shaping the behavior. To shape the behavior, click the clicker or use your verbal marker to reward your dog for looking at the item, then for sniffing it, then for mouthing it, and finally for picking it up. Do not reward retrogression unless your dog seems confused.For example, if your dog mouths the item, stop clicking/verbally marking and rewarding him for simply looking at the item. Once he starts picking up the item more and more to earn treats, you can put the behavior on cue by saying “take” just as he goes to pick it up, followed by a click of the dicker/verbal marker and a treat the moment he completes the action. With enough repetitions, your dog should learn that “take” means he needs to pick something up.

As a reminder, it‘s always best to go gradually. Start practicing “leave it” with more desirable items only after your dog has proven his ability to reliably leave items that are less desirable.

Increase the Challenge

You can get quite creative in adding challenges when training your aog to “leave it.” After your dog begins reliably leaving items on the floor upon hearing your leave it” cue, try dropping a treat from the table and saying “leave it,” placing your lunch on a chair and saying “leave it,” or even telling him to “leave it” on walks when he wants to sniff something on the ground.

You can increase the distance at which the cue is effective by chucking a piece of hibble and telling your dog to “leave it” from across the room. The best part is that ‘leave it” can also work if you want to stop your dog from chasing a cat or squirrel, or if you want to tell him to not pick up the TV remote. Just be sure to use praise and high-value treats to reward him for leaving these particularly tempting items or animals on cue. If you’re really up for a challenge, you can try practicing this exercise with safe items your dog has an interest in. For example, if your dog loves to steal and play with socks but has never shown interest in swallowing them, you could drop a sock on the floor and tell him to “leave it” when he goes to sniff it or pick it up. If he successfully leaves it, dick the clicker or use your verbal marker and reward him with some treats.

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