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by Joe Chanda April 14, 2015 2 min read

One of the highest marks of an obedient dog is one who will leave something alone if it is dropped near him. Maybe it’s a piece of meat, or a potato chip. Perhaps it’s a bit of cookie you know your dog shouldn’t be eating, or a dead bird you come across on the sidewalk. Once your dog knows how to “leave it” then you don’t need to worry about him or her eating everything in sight and getting into as much mischief as puppies typically do.

Teaching your dog to “leave it” is more than obedience training; it helps your pet socialize appropriately with others and can protect your pet’s health. For example, if you or a friend drops a piece of bread on the floor (or worse yet, chocolate!), you can tell your puppy to leave it and not worry that he’ll gobble it up before you get a chance to whisk it away. Since most table scraps are unhealthy for dogs to eat, managing your puppy’s foraging instincts is much easier once you’ve taught them to “leave it.”

Why Dogs Forage

Foraging for food, or eating or licking anything dogs come across, is a natural instinct most dogs have. It’s an instinct that keeps wild dogs and wolves alive in the wild, when there is little food around. However, foraging isn’t always a good instinct to have when living around humans. Not everything your puppy finds should go in his or her mouth. People drop a lot of unhealthy food. Your dog might come across a half-empty bottle of rancid wine at the beach, chocolate (which is toxic to dogs), or bits of junk food on the sidewalk. If your dog gobbles up everything he ever comes across, he could be at risk for developing obesity, digestive issues, or even poisoning.

 3 Steps to Teaching Your Dog to “Leave It”

Use these simple steps to teach your puppy or adult dog to “leave it” on command.

  1. Hold a treat (or a favorite toy) in your hand
  2. Drop it near your dog and tell him to leave it
  3. Pick it up in a few seconds and reward him

When you first try this command on an untrained dog, it may feel like your puppy will never get the hang of it. Once your puppy can “stay” he is ready to learn how to “leave it” on command. Remember to be patient and reward your puppy every time he or she gets it right. If your puppy goes for the object you drop right away (and your dog will do this at first), simply say, “no” and repeat the command. Try having your puppy “stay” at first, to give him the idea.

At first, your puppy may only be able to “leave it” for one or two seconds. This takes a lot of effort for an energetic puppy. As long as he doesn’t release until you tell him to, reward him, either with treats, kibble, or affection. You can draw out the time you have your puppy “leave it” as your puppy gets better at this trick.

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