How to train your dog to leave something alone

Some dogs can find it quite worrying and threatening when we take something away from them, especially something they value such as food or toys.

But sometimes as owners we do need to take things away, for example when they¿ve picked up something dangerous or when they are playing with your favourite scarf instead of a toy.

Teaching your dog to 'leave' is about teaching them that it's OK to have something taken away because it means they¿ll be rewarded.

Teaching your dog to leave something alone:

  1. Offer your dog a tasty treat and encourage them to "take it" in an upbeat, friendly voice.
  2. Hold a treat in your hand with your fist closed around it. - Your dog will likely try to nudge and lick your hand to get the treat out - don¿t respond to any of these attempts.
  3. Wait patiently and don't say anything. Wait for your dog to back-off from your hand, even just slightly/momentarily. As soon as they back-off and there is a small gap between your hand and your dog's nose, open your hand,  release the treat and give them lots of praise.
  4. Repeat these three steps until they consistently make the choice to move away from the treat.
  5. Once your dog is consistently moving away from the treat you can start to add in the cue-word 'leave'. Say this as they back off in a gentle tone and then open your hand to give them the treat and lots of praise.
  6. Practice this many times in short, regular sessions.


Advanced lesson:

Julia and Bridie training - leave alone

Once your dog has made the association between the word 'leave' and backing off from the treat, you can start to make it harder:

Place a treat on your open palm - meaning your dog can see and smell it. Ask your dog to leave it by saying 'leave'.

  • If your dog stays away from the treat you should reward them with lots of praise and a treat from the other hand. If your dog goes to take the treat from your open palm, simply close your hand up and wait for them to back-away.
  • Give them a treat from the other hand when they successfully manage to leave the treat in your open hand.


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