Here’s how one dog trainer teaches the ‘leave it’ command - it’s key to improving behavior and keeping your dog safe!

Dog stealing food from kitchen coutnter
(Image credit: Getty)

Teaching your furry friend basic commands is an essential part of their training journey.  Among the fundamental commands, such as how to teach a puppy to sit, one that holds immense importance is the 'leave it' command. This command not only improves a dog's behavior but also plays a crucial role in keeping them safe from potentially harmful or inedible objects. 

A lot of owners know the struggle of handling a dog that just wants to lunge at, eat or sniff anything in sight. Perhaps you’ve tried keeping them distracted for long periods of time using one of the longest lasting dog chews from the pet store. But, if you’re looking for a longer-lasting solution you’ll want to find out what advice, certified behaviorist and head dog trainer at Complete Canine Training, Lorna Joyce, has to offer.

Accredited by the RSPCA, she possesses a wealth of knowledge and skills in canine behavior modification. In a recent TikTok video, Joyce showcases her step-by-step approach to teaching the 'leave it' command to a dog.

The 'leave it' command plays a crucial role in improving a dog's behavior by teaching them self-control and promoting obedience. By understanding the command, dogs learn to resist the temptation of engaging with potentially harmful objects or substances, ensuring their safety.

You can watch Joyce’s video below where she shows you how to teach the command or you can continue reading to find out more.


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In the video, Joyce starts by demonstrating the initial phase of training. She advises dog owners to take a handful of some of their dog's dry food, or if your dog eats wet food then some of the best dog treats may be easier to handle, as you will need to close it tightly in a fist. 

Next, she says to present the closed fist to the dog, patiently waiting for them to move away from it. Once the dog successfully moves away, Lorna rewards them with a treat from her opposite hand.

As the dog becomes consistent in staying away from the closed fist, Lorna suggests introducing a cue phrase such as 'leave it' followed by 'yes' or 'good boy/girl'. This cue helps the dog associate the command with the desired behavior. Gradually, you should be able to progress by opening the hand while using the cue phrase 'leave it' again.

In cases where the dog tries to grab the food, Joyce advises simply closing the fist, indicating that they should not take it. She emphasizes the importance of maintaining a slow and steady pace throughout the training process. Once the dog has mastered the previous steps, Joyce encourages dog owners to drop food on the ground, ensuring they are ready to retrieve it if the dog attempts to grab it.

If the training is going well, you should aim to increase the difficulty level by dropping food from higher distances. This progressive approach helps dogs develop their self-control and reinforces the 'leave it' command in different scenarios. If your dog starts to lunge up at this point of the training then make sure you know how to stop a dog from jumping up

Joyce's step-by-step approach to teaching the 'leave' cue ensures that dogs learn to resist temptations and make safer choices. Through patient guidance and positive reinforcement, the training solution equips dog owners with the tools to improve their pet's behavior and foster a harmonious relationship.

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

With over a year of writing for PetsRadar, Jessica is a seasoned pet writer. She joined the team after writing for the sister site, Fit&Well for a year. Growing up with a lively rescue lurcher kindled her love for animal behavior and care. Jessica holds a journalism degree from Cardiff University and has authored articles for renowned publications, including LiveScience, Runner's World, The Evening Express, and Tom's Guide. Throughout her career in journalism she has forged connections with experts in the field, like behaviorists, trainers, and vets. Through her writing, Jessica aims to empower pet owners with accurate information to enhance their furry companions' lives.