How to Teach a Dog to Leave It - Training any Breed or Age to Leave it…

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dog sitting in front of her human with dog treats beside her

dog sitting in front of her human with dog treats beside her

Guide on how to teach a dog to leave it

One of the most valuable commands to teach a dog is 'leave it', which can help prevent them from ingesting harmful objects. Ideally, every dog should learn this life-saving cue from puppyhood. The 'leave it' command is simple yet powerful, and can be taught to dogs of all ages and breeds. By mastering this command, your dog will learn to ignore items they should not have in their mouths, and will be less likely to engage in destructive or potentially dangerous behavior in the long run. With this article, we will walk you through the steps of training your puppy this potentially life-saving command.

How to prepare a dog to learn the 'leave it' command

To start teaching a dog the 'leave it' command, you will need a regular treat and a high-value treat that your dog loves, such as a small piece of chicken or cheese. The next step in teaching a dog this essential command is finding a quiet and distraction-free area for training. It is also recommended to ensure your dog is on a leash and collar for the duration of their training for their safety. It is not required, but having your dog on a leash allows you to control their movements and helps prevent them from getting distracted or running away during training. Along with a few minutes set aside for each session, you are ready to teach your dog a valuable command that can save many headaches for both you and your fluffy companion. We recommend spending no longer than 5 minutes for each session, as long sessions can frustrate your dog and may even undermine the progress made.

How to begin the basics to 'leave it' exercises

The basics of the 'leave it' command training is a straightforward process. Start by holding a treat in one hand and showing it to your dog. As your dog shows interest in the treat, firmly say "Leave it." Your dog will typically resort to sticking their nose in your hand, nibbling on your fist, or pawing at your closed fist in an attempt to get the treat out of your hand. The moment your dog looks away from the treat, immediately reward them with praise and then offer them the high-value treat from your other hand. You want to offer a different treat than the one you told your dog to ignore. Repeat this exercise until your dog consistently looks away from the treat when you say, "Leave it." Consistency is key, and it may take some dogs longer to learn this behavior than others. Keep practicing until your dog understands the basics of this command in short sessions across a period of a few weeks.

It is important that you do a good job of covering the treat you are training your dog to 'leave' in these beginning exercises. If your dog is able to get to the treat while ignoring the purpose of your training, this can teach your dog to try even harder to get its way during the next session. Once or twice may not be a problem but the more mistakes made in these early stages will make the rest of his or her training more difficult. If your dog keeps getting to the treat in your hand before you give them the praise and high-value treat, this will make the time it takes to teach the 'leave it' command much longer.

Increase difficulty and distance in training

puppy laying on small rug with blue hourglass in front of her

Test their patience

Once your dog has mastered the basic 'leave it' exercise, you can try the same exercise with a lower-value treat now. Gradually increase the difficulty of the exercise by hiding the higher-value treat in your hand or introducing distractions, such as toys or other dogs. You can also increase the time between them consistently backing away from your hand and when you praise them and reward them for their behavior. Starting from a few seconds to a minute or two of waiting patiently for the treat.

Using distance to increase the difficulty

If you feel confident during these stages of training, you can then begin using distance to further train this behavior. Place the treat on the floor next to you but a foot or two away from your dog. You will apply the same principle and cover it if your dog tries to go for it even after you've told him or her to 'leave it.' If your dog is able to consistently ignore the treat and look away, you can increase the difficulty by moving the treat closer and closer to them each session.

Last step in teaching a dog to leave it

puppy outside sitting patiently with parent holding dog treat in front of her

The last few steps you can take to ensure your dog has learned this new command is by stepping away from the treat. A good way to start is dropping a treat on the floor while standing and giving the 'leave it' command. Be prepared to cover the treat with your foot in case your dog attempts to grab it. Continue this until you can tell your dog to leave it from halfway across the room. Once your dog can pay attention and listen to your command on the dime. You can begin reinforcing the 'leave it' command in different environments and situations, such as when out on walks or in the backyard. Ultimately, your goal is to get your dog to listen to the command in all situations and with all distractions. As the case may not be ideal when you need to use this command to save your dog from ingesting something potentially harmful to them.

Common mistakes to avoid when training a dog the leave it command

There are a few common mistakes to avoid when teaching the 'leave it' command. Firstly, avoid using physical punishment or excessive force when training your dog. This can cause fear or anxiety, which can negatively impact your dog's ability to learn. Secondly, do not allow your dog to get the original item after commanding them to 'leave it.' This sends a mixed message to your dog and can confuse them. Finally, do not reward your dog with the original item after commanding 'leave it' either. This undermines the training process and can make it more difficult for your dog to learn the command effectively in the future.

How long does it take to teach the 'leave it' command?

The amount of time it takes to teach your dog the 'leave it' command varies depending on the dog's age, breed, and temperament. However, with regular training and patience, most dogs can learn the command within a few weeks. Consistency is key!


Congratulations on teaching your dog the 'leave it' command! Teaching your dog the 'leave it' command is a vital behavior that can prevent them from eating something harmful or engaging in destructive behavior. By training your furry friend to ignore items they shouldn't have, you will help keep them safe and healthier longer. Remember to reinforce the command regularly and practice in different environments and situations, so your dog can continue to follow the command no matter what case arises. A well-trained dog is a happy dog, and with the 'leave it' command in their repertoire, you can rest easy knowing your furry friend is protected from harm.

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