Training A Puppy

7 Easy Steps To Teaching Your Puppy To 'Leave It!'

Training a puppy to 'Leave It' on command is probably one of the most important dog training exercises you'll ever teach him, and you'll be surprised at how often you use it!

Golden cocker spaniel puppy being trained, wearing red neckchief

Inside the home, this command may be used in many everyday (and potentially dangerous) situations, such as keeping your Cocker Spaniel puppy away from electrical cords (and the temptation to chew them!) and hot ovens.

Outdoors, the command may be used to stop your puppy from drinking from a dirty puddle, eating spoiled and rotten food from rubbish bins, or eating poisonous plants.

There are many other situations where you'll find training a puppy to 'Leave It' very useful, such as where you want to stop your puppy from touching or approaching a young child, an injured bird, or another dog.

There are several progressive stages to training a puppy to obey this command and they're set out below.

Take them one step at a time and don't rush; move on only when you feel your puppy is ready.

Good luck!

Step 1 - Training A Puppy To 'Leave It'

  • Find a quiet spot and ask your puppy to sit.
  • Hold a special treat in your hand and offer it to your pet. As he takes the treat say, 'Take It' and give him lots of praise.
  • Next, let your puppy see you placing another treat in your hand but, this time, close your fist around the treat, palm facing upwards. Allow your puppy to sniff your hand for the treat.
  • As soon as he stops sniffing, looks away, moves his head away from the treat, or looks at you, open your hand and, as you allow him to take the treat, say the words 'Take It'.
  • When training a puppy, don't forget to reward him with praise as well as his treat.

    By using these words each time you offer your puppy a treat, he will eventually associate them with being allowed to have the treat and will wait until you give him the relevant command.

  • Repeat the above exercise, gradually increasing the length of time you make him wait, until your puppy is able to ignore the treat for 60 seconds.

Step 2 - Training A Puppy To 'Leave It'

  • This exercise follows on from the above, but this time, as you offer your closed fist to your puppy, say 'Leave It'. Your puppy should not move towards you fist, and shouldn't try to get at the treat inside.
  • Practice this as often as you can. If you do, your puppy will soon begin to learn to avoid the hand with the treat in it as you give the 'Leave It' command.
  • Practice this at different times of the day, in different rooms, and ask other members of the family and friends to do this exercise. These variations will help to strengthen and reinforce your puppy's training.

Step 3 - Teaching Your Puppy To 'Leave It'

  • Next, place a treat on the open palm of your hand and ask your puppy to 'Leave It'. If your puppy moves towards it, don't move your hand away, but close your fist around the treat.
  • If your puppy looks at you, or pulls away, open your hand and ask your puppy to 'Take It'.
  • Repeat this exercise, gradually increasing the amount of time you make your puppy wait.

Step 4 - Training A Puppy To 'Leave It'

  • For the next exercise, place a treat in your open hand and tell your puppy to 'Leave It'. Have another treat in your other hand, or in a handy pocket.
  • If your puppy doesn't make any attempt to take the treat from your open hand, reward him with the treat in your other hand.
  • Practice this exercise thoroughly before moving on to the next.

Step 5 - Teaching Your Puppy To 'Leave It'

  • At your next training session, drop a treat, or a piece of food, on the floor. If your puppy moves towards the treat, place your hand or foot over it to stop him getting it.
  • When your puppy looks at you and not the food, give him a treat from your hand or your pocket and say the words 'Take It'.
  • Do not give your puppy the treat from under your hand or foot - you are rewarding your dog for looking at you and ignoring the food.

  • Repeat this exercise regularly to strengthen his training. Move on to the next exercise when you believe your puppy is ready.

Step 6 - Training A Puppy To 'Leave It'

  • Place three treats on the floor and tell your puppy to 'Leave It'.
  • If he complies, give him a treat from your pocket and then give him the treats on the floor, but pick them up off the floor, one at a time, before giving them to your puppy.
  • Use the 'Take It' command each time you allow him to take a treat from you.
  • Occasionally, let him pick a treat up off the floor, but only on your command.

As your puppy's training progresses, it's important that you don't always reward him with the treat on the floor; instead, reward him with a treat from your hand or your pocket.

Outside of training, you may need to use the command to ask your dog not to touch a dead rat - you don't want to condition him to believe that he'll be rewarded with the rat because he obeyed your command.

Step 7 - Training A Puppy To 'Leave It'

The final part of this training exercise is designed to teach your puppy to follow your 'Leave It' command whilst on a lead.

  • Put your puppy on a lead before walking him past a treat on the floor. He may try to sniff it; if he does, tell him to 'Leave It'.
  • As soon as he looks at you, or walks on past the treat, praise him and give him a treat from your hand.
  • Try varying this exercise with objects other than food treats, such as his favourite toy.

Training A Cocker Spaniel Puppy Outdoors

When your puppy has mastered the 'Leave It' command indoors, progress to training him to outside, in the garden. But don't leave it there - you must continue training your puppy from time to time to reinforce his learning otherwise he may forget, and all your (and his) hard work will have been wasted.

Remember to give your puppy lots of praise, as well as food rewards, when he gets it right.

Puppy Training Tips

When training your puppy, it's not only important to take your time, it's also important to praise him when he gets it right.

This will let him know that he's doing what you want him to do.

However, don't reward your puppy if he gets it wrong.

Instead, give him a 'verbal sign' that he got it wrong, for example, say 'No', 'Too Bad', or 'Ah Ah' - don't shout at him, keep it low key.

Eventually, your puppy will learn that when you use your chosen 'verbal sign' he will have got it wrong.

If he gets it wrong, don't let your puppy have the treat; pick it up and begin again in a minute or two.

Training a puppy takes time and patience.

Please don't get annoyed if your Cocker Spaniel gets it wrong - simply end the training session and try again later.

The exercises given in the above 'Training A Puppy To Leave It!' article are also suitable to use for training adult dogs and, although it may take longer to achieve, you just need a little more patience.

Remember, practice, patience and perseverance are the keys to successfully training a puppy - find more puppy training tips here.

More Titles In The Training A Puppy Series

Training A Puppy - The 'Watch' Command

The 'Sit' Command

The 'Down' Command

The 'Stand' Command

The 'Wait' and 'Stay' Commands

The 'Down and Stay' Command

The 'Come' Command

The 'Drop It' Command

The 'Be Quiet' Command

Crate Training Your Cocker Spaniel Puppy

Potty Training Your Puppy

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Photo Credits - In order of viewing:

1.Michelle De Kock at



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