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Teach Your Puppy to Leave It

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

jack russell terrier puppy

We need to teach should and shouldn't to pups of all ages, all sizes, and all breeds.

Along with "No" and "AH-ah", there's another phrase you can use when you don't want your puppy to do something.

"But won't I break my pup's spirit and make him distrust me if I tell him No?"

No, absolutely not. When we show a pup that he shouldn't  do something, we also show him (or he quickly figures out) what he should  do instead.

  • We teach him that he shouldn't  pull on the leash, that instead he should  walk with the leash loose.
  • We teach him that he shouldn't  bark in the crate, that instead he should  be quiet and relaxed.
  • We teach him that he shouldn't  rush through doors ahead of us, that instead he should  wait until we give him permission to go through.

Dogs perfectly understand the concept of "do this, not that." You're not hurting your pup's feelings or harming your relationship with him by teaching him what he should and shouldn't do – you're doing precisely the opposite by reassuring the pup that you have everything under control and have worked out these clear do  and don't  concepts. It's another one of those important leadership things.

So what is this new phrase to tell your pup not to do something?

It's "leave it" or "don't touch."

With this phrase, you're going to teach the pup that something is off limits, or that you want him to come away from something even though it interests him.

For example....

  • You're on a walk and he spots a bag of spilled chips on the ground. "Leave it!" is the perfect command here.
  • You're walking with him in a pet store. He stops to sniff at a display stand where other dogs have probably left their urinary "calling card." You decide that you want him away from there before he gets any ideas! "Leave it."
  • white hamster in a cageYou bring home a hamster in a cage. When your puppy approaches the cage, sniffing, you say, "Leave it." You want him to back off and look up at you, showing by his respectful body language that he understands.

Teaching "Leave it"

  1.   Put your puppy on leash and place his favorite treat on the floor. Make sure he sees it, then put your foot over it so it's covered by your shoe.
  2.   Say, "Leave it." If he sniffs or licks or paws at your shoe, say, "AH-ah" and use the leash to guide him away. Be gentle. He doesn't yet know what you want.
  3.   When you've moved him away from the treat, loosen the leash. If he goes after it again, repeat your "AH-ah" and leash guidance. If he persists and persists and won't quit, increase to a sharper tug or switch to some other corrective technique that you know works for him.
  4.   When he is no longer going after the treat, praise him, "Good boy." Pick up the treat and put it in your pocket. Take a break, play a game with him or something, then repeat the exercise. You can use different kinds of tempting treats, if you have them.
  5.   You want him to learn that when you say "Leave it", he must not pursue something any further, even if he would love to have it.
  6.   blue and tan french bulldog looking attentively at ownerAfter a good number of repetitions, place the treat on the floor and say, "Leave it" but don't cover it with your foot. Just be ready! If he goes after it, be quick with your "AH-ah!" and get your shoe over it! Again, do as many repetitions as necessary until he no longer goes after the treat even when it's in plain sight.
  7.   Next, hold the treat in your hand. Say, "Leave it" and bend over until your hand is only a few inches off the floor. Drop the treat onto the floor. Be ready to block the puppy and protect the treat with your shoe if necessary.
  8.   The next step is to say, "Leave it" and toss the treat a few feet away from the dog, being prepared to block him or check him with the leash, if necessary.
  9.   When he's doing well indoors, practice in your backyard. First go outside without your pup and place some tempting treats or toys in different parts of the yard. Then with your puppy on leash, meander around the yard. When he notices one of your "planted" items, say "Leave it" in a firm voice.

Timing is very important. You want to say "Leave it" the moment your pup "locks onto" or makes his first move toward a treat or toy. If you're too slow and he's already lunging after it, it will be much harder for him to stop.

My book covertraining program is for puppies 2 to 18 months old. It explains, step by step:

  • How to establish good patterns and routines that govern everything your pup does.
  • How to teach your pup to be calm and to look to you for guidance, direction, and permission.
  • How to make yourself important – the most important thing – in your puppy’s life. How to show your pup the clear, black-and-white rules and routines he is to follow. And how to make sure he does.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.