Tip of the Month

6/24/2011 The “Leave It’ Cue

The “Leave It” cue can be taught for several different purposes. This is an important cue to teach your dog. An ABC Certified dog trainer can tell you that the “Leave It” cue may even prevent your pet from harm.

When teaching the “Leave It’ command you will want to use several different objects. Additionally you will need to gradually increase the amount of time your dog actually leaves the object. This will teach the dog to become functional in real world situations.

First thing’s first, you will need to start out in an area with very little distraction.

Next place a low value treat like a piece of kibble in your hand. Offer the dog your treated hand palm up with the treat displayed. If your dog takes the treat mark the behavior by saying “Take It” and praise him. Repeat this action until the behavior and cue are known.

Once your dog knows “Take It” cue you can begin to introduce “Leave It” cue.

Start out by again placing a small low value reward in your hand. Close your hand firmly. Wait for the dog to STOP sniffing your hand and back away or look to you for instruction.

If your dog does not offer one of these behaviors and continues to sniff your hand, you can swiftly pull your hand away and out of reach. Then give a no reward marker. A no reward marker is something you use to inform the dog he has offered the incorrect behavior and to try again. Some trainers use a noise like, “Eh Eh” others use a word like “No.” Once you have given the dog the no reward marker follow up with the “Leave It” command.

Once your dog has stopped sniffing the baited hand, mark the behavior with “Leave It.” Then, give your dog a known conditioned reinforcer like “Good” and the release cue. Remember to repeat this action until your dog has a clear association with the new cue.

Once your dog has an understanding of the “Leave It” cue you can begin to increase the amount of time in between the “Good” and the release cue.

You can start by increasing the increments of time by 10 seconds each training session. If your dog cannot perform the “Leave It” cue at a longer increment of time, start the exercise over. Make sure to use a shorter increment of time between the “Good” and the release cue until he can perform correctly 9 out of 10 times.

Once your dog can perform the “Leave It” cue for about a minute you can start using higher value rewards like toys and treats to practice. It may become more difficult for the dog to perform the “Leave It” cue once the reward value is increased. If this happens just go back to using the low value reward until he performs the correct behavior 9 times out of 10.

When your dog can perform the “Leave It’ cue at a 90 compliance rate during each dog training session using different higher valued rewards you can then increase the amount of time you make him “Leave It.” Remember if your dog cannot perform this command 9 out of 10 times do not increase the duration of the “Leave It.”

For every correct performance of the “Leave It” behavior, give your dog the “Take It” cue at least three times to increase the dog’s desire in performing the “Leave it” cue.

As mentioned above, this cue comes in handy in several different scenarios. Most cases will be in routine training exercises. However this can also save your dogs life in the event of a harmful substance or another animal. Please remember to consult a local Animal Behavior College Certified dog trainer if you need help teaching your dog this cue.

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