Trainer reveals the one command every dog owner needs to improve behavior - it's simpler than you think

Person points finger at dog during training
(Image credit: Getty)

Every dog needs to know when it’s okay to take something and when they need to leave it alone – whether that’s treats or your brand-new shoes.

There are different ways to stop your pooch pinching things you don’t want him to, including distracting him with the best puppy toys or treats. Actively teaching him to ‘leave’ things, though, will make everyone’s life easier, as this trainer explains.

According to Canine and Feline Behaviour Association (CFBA) certified trainer Damian Riley, the ‘leave it’ command can be equally used to stop your dog stealing food, jumping up at people or running toward other dogs. In an Instagram video shared on the First Choice Nutrition profile, he demonstrates the importance of combining physical gestures with a voice command to teach your pup what’s required.

With Labrador Trent as a willing pupil, Riley explains how to introduce the ‘leave’ command using language most dogs understand – food! 

“With the dog in the ‘sit’ position, I’ll have a bit of food and just open and close my hand initially,” he says. “After a moment I’ll open my hand and add in the voice command ‘leave’.” 

Trent moves towards the tempting treat before he’s been told to, so Riley closes his hand to remove it from view. Once the diligent pup is sitting quietly again, he’s allowed to take the treat on the voice command ‘okay’. 

I want him to understand when he can have it, and that’s when I say ‘okay’, says Riley. “So if I’ve not said ‘okay’, it’s not okay." Riley points out that the exercise teaches your dog several things at once, including self-control and patience.

According to the American Kennel Club, teaching the ‘leave’ command is not only advisable but essential. If you’ve accidentally dropped something harmful such as human medication, chocolate or cooked chicken bones, you need to be sure you can stop your pooch from darting in and hoovering it up. A firm ‘leave it’ command means you can control what your dog eats, and can expand the meaning of the cue to include anything in the environment.  

Before trying the 'leave' exercise, why not read our guide on how to get your puppy to sit as a great intro to the basics?

Sara Walker

Sara is a freelance journalist and copywriter of many years’ experience with a lifelong love of animals. She’s written for a range of magazines and websites on subjects varying from pet care to travel. A horse rider since the age of five, she’s currently a full time pet slave to horse Blue and gorgeous, goofy English Springer Spaniel Olly. Adorable Olly has a huge sense of adventure and no sense of direction, keeping Sara on her toes.