This is the most important command you'll ever teach your dog, says dog trainer

Playful Aussie Shepard puppy tugs on rope with it's master
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're anything like us, you may well have been thinking that 'sit' was the most important command you needed to teach your dog. And while it's certainly near the top of the list when it comes to instructions your pup needs to be able to follow, it turns out there's another command that's equally key when it comes to your canine companion's health and wellbeing.

In a video posted to Instagram, which you can view below, Adam Spivey (opens in new tab), founder of Southend Dog Training (opens in new tab), reveals the two words he wants your dog to understand. "Leave it is one of the most important commands that you will ever teach your dog," he explains. "If your dog can't do that, you need to practice more."

So, why is the 'leave it' command such a crucial one for your pup to master? Well, according to Spivey it all comes down to safety. "Imagine if your dog picks up something that's harmful to them and you can't get them to drop it, that could go wrong very, very quickly," he says.

One of the best ways to teach the 'leave it' command is through play. "What we want from the dog is to teach them through play that when I want him to stop, I become very boring," Spivey explains, highlighting this in the video by stopping his part in the tug-of-war game he's playing with his dog.

However, what Spivey doesn't want us to do as pet parents is to use the 'leave it' command as a way of signalling the end of a game. Doing so can end up being a form of negative reinforcement where a dog learns that being asked to leave something means that playtime is over.

Instead, Spivey advises practising the command during a game like tug-of-war where you issue the 'leave it' command, wait until your dog follows the instruction and then allow the fun to resume. 

Training your pup in any new command takes time, patience and consistency. If you feel after a few weeks that your dog isn't showing signs of mastering a new instruction, we recommend reaching out to a dog trainer who will be able to provide you with some 1:1 support.

Kathryn Rosenberg

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past two years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with one very mischievous Cocker Spaniel, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and attempting to set numerous world records for the longest ever FaceTime calls with her family back home in NZ.