OBJECTIVE: To teach your dog to take things from your hand when cued to do so and leave things in your hand or elsewhere when cued to do so.
The Take It and Leave It cues are useful when you want to tell your dog he may take a treat or toy and when you want to tell him NOT to take a treat, toy, piece of garbage, the cat, or some other object he is not supposed to have. We teach this in the following manner:
- Offer the dog a treat in your open palm, saying “TAKE IT” as he takes it from your hand. Repeat this 3 to 4 times. The clicker is not necessary for teaching TAKE IT as most dogs figure it our very quickly.
- Show your dog a low-value treat (something your dog likes, but is not crazy about, i.e. a Cheerios or piece of kibble), and place it in your hand and close your fist around it. Hold your closed fist absolutely still in front of the dog’s nose and wait. The dog will probably lick, paw, nip, and do whatever else he can think of to get the treat. The instant the dog backs off, click, and toss a high-value treat, NOT the treat in your hand. Continue to repeat this until your dog immediately moves its head away when you present your hand.
- Repeat step 2 in various locations over several training sessions.
- Repeat step 2 but start varying the amount of time the dog must ignore your hand before clicking. The goal here is to “yo-yo” between shorter and longer times (2 to 15 seconds). Repeat for 20-30 repetitions.
- Repeat step 2 with your hand close to the floor.
- When your dog does not even go for your hand you are ready to introduce the verbal cue for LEAVE IT. Start saying “LEAVE IT” just before you place your hand in front of your dog’s nose.
- Now try actually placing the treat on the floor. You may need a helper for these steps to be sure the dog does not get the treat. When the dog is leaving the treat alone, click, then and reward them with a higher value treat.
When your dog has become good at this with treats, practice the same sequence with a favorite toy then a tissue or some other object your dog will go for. With proper training you can also use “LEAVE IT to get your dog to ignore garbage found on your walks (e.g. food wrappers, road kill, etc.) and even things like the family cat.