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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tuesday's Training TIP: ADVANCED "LEAVE IT"

Witnessed on Labor Day:  11-month-old, intact (unneutered) male black lab walks through Meijer's and ignores miscellaneous stuff on the floor.

What?!  How did this happen?

Puppy-raiser patti remarks, I'm amazed myself.  My arm usually gets a workout keeping FLD Mike's nose off the floor.  I wish I had a nickel for every time I said LEAVE IT to him.  I have been trying to break him from lunging after stuff, but I wasn't seeing any progress.  Until today!

What did patti do?  Find out here...


Once your Future Leader Dog puppy starts to understand the LEAVE IT command, you can wean him/her off treats, and reward with praise instead.  But when you expand the command into public places with more distractions and temptations (like the grocery store, if you are raising a puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind, or on a busy downtown street if you are not), you might need to reintroduce a food reward.

Here are some tips on how to work on LEAVE IT in stores, as I finally did with FLD Mike.

  • Bring a helper.
Don't try to do your shopping alone with your puppy, you will need to concentrate on what your puppy is doing.  Either work your puppy in the store without shopping, or bring someone to use your list and push your cart.  My mistake of having shopping as my first objective when I took FLD Mike with me led to frustrations with him trying to pick up every little thing he saw (and a sore forearm).

  • Prepare yourself.
Have a pocket of food morsels, or use a "highly-valued" treat such as Snausages or some other delectable dog snack (break them into small pieces).  Heel your puppy slowly through the store.  Don't worry about staging a temptation; trust me, there will be plenty.  Scout ahead.

  • Give your puppy a chance to decide.
When you spot something you know your puppy will lunge for, keep your leash short enough so he/she cannot reach it, but let your puppy make a decision before saying anything.

  • If your puppy decides to go for it, give the command, LEAVE IT.
Hold the leash so as to prevent him/her from reaching it.  Only say the command ONE TIME!

  • If your puppy ignores it, give a lot of PRAISE! 

  • Reward with a treat.
Hold your puppy from reaching the item until he/she looks at you.  THEN reward with the special treat.  Praise!

  • Distract your puppy.
After your puppy gets the idea of "leave it" in this setting, try other tactics to divert his/her attention from the floor temptations.  Tap your puppy's side with your finger.  Practice name recognition.  Talk to your puppy--Good boy, Mike!  You are so good to be walking like this without grabbing everything!  And such a nice heel, too!  Use your most expressive voice; this is actually a very good method to keep strangers from dive-bombing your puppy!  When they see your effort and the attention our puppy is giving you, they will not want to interfere with your training.

I followed this process several times in different stores and thought I wasn't making ANY progress.  Until yesterday, when Andy and I took FLD Mike to Meijer's to pick up a watermelon and a few other last-minute snacks for our family picnic.

I was surprised when Mike sniffed at but then ignored miscellaneous scraps of vegetable matter without a word from me.  Later, in the snack aisle, he made a move toward some peanuts on the floor--I said LEAVE IT and he did!  Good boy, Mike!

There is hope for him yet.  Oh, I mean me, hope for me!


  1. Really nice pictures!!

  2. Thank you! You must mean the photographs from Wednesday's post, "Photos Along Eagle Run Trail?"