Training A Puppy To 'Leave It'!

Training a puppy not to pick up something that you don't want him to put in his mouth, (such as a rotting rabbit carcass) is essential. You'll find all you need here to teach your Cocker Spaniel to 'Leave It'! and walk on by.

7 Easy Steps To Training 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 neck-chief. Cute!

There are many situation inside your home where you might want to use this command. For example, your puppy is about to chew on an electrical cord, (yikes!) or you catch him making his way towards your best pair of shoes or your favorite handbag.

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 nibbling on poisonous plants.

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

The 'Leave It'! command will stop him in his tracks. He will learn that he's not to sniff, pick up, or bite what's currently caught his interest.

There are several progressive stages to training a puppy to obey this command and they're set out below. Take each one a step at a time and don't rush; move on only when you feel your puppy is ready.

Good luck!

Step 1: First Train Your Puppy To 'Take It'!

Before you begin teaching your puppy the 'Leave It! command, you need to teach him to 'Take It'!

Ready? Let's go!

  • 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. Let your puppy sniff your hand for the treat but don't give it to him.
  • As soon as he stops sniffing, looks away, moves his head away from the treat, or looks at you, open your hand and let him have it. As you allow him to take the treat, say the words 'take it'.
  • When you're training your puppy, don't forget to reward him with lots of praise and pats as well as his treat.

    It won't be long before your puppy links the words 'take it' with being allowed to have the treat and will wait, anticipating your giving him the relevant instruction.

  • 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 Cocker may move towards your fist and he may to get at the treat inside. If he does, just say 'No' and keep your fist closed.
  • Practice this as often as you can. Your puppy will soon be avoiding 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, onto the floor. If your puppy moves towards the treat, place your hand or foot over it to stop him getting it.
  • If he looks at you (and not the food), give him a treat from your hand or your pocket and tell him to 'take it'.
  • It's important that you don't give your puppy the treat from under your hand or foot. You are rewarding him for looking at you and ignoring the food under your hand or foot.

  • Repeat this exercise regularly to strengthen his training. Move on to the next exercise when you feel 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 doesn't make any attempt to touch the treats, give him a treat from your pocket. Don't let him pick them up from the floor.
  • Practice using the 'Take It' command each time you allow your Cocker to take a treat from you.
  • Very occasionally, you can allow him to pick a treat up off the floor, but only on your command.

As his training progresses, it's best if you never reward him with the treat on the floor. Instead, reward him with a treat from your hand or your pocket to make sure he doesn't come to expect to be given the treat from the floor each time.

There will be many situations where this will come in handy.

Imagine your dog stumbles across a dead rat outdoors. 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 favorite toy.

Training A Cocker Spaniel Puppy Outdoors

When your puppy has mastered the 'Leave It' command indoors, move on 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 strengthen 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.

Don't reward your puppy if he gets it wrongInstead, give him a 'verbal sign' that he got it wrong, for example, say 'No', 'Too Bad', or 'Ah Ah'. Use it every time he gets it wrong and he'll soon understand he got it wrong.

Don't get annoyed if your Cocker Spaniel gets it wrong. Don't shout at him, keep it low key and move on. Pick up the treat and try again in a few minutes.

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.

Drop It!

Great! Your puppy now understands the 'Leave It!' command.

However, Cockers will be Cockers and sometimes it may be too late to give this command. He may already have something in his mouth that you don't want him to have, such as a dead rat!

Thankfully, the 'Drop It!' command will teach him to drop whatever is in his mouth immediately.

Max, my golden cocker spaniel sitting in the shade of an apple tree.

You'll find a link to all the puppy obedience training commands here.


» » Training A Puppy to 'Leave It!'

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