You are enjoying a relaxing walk in the park with your four-legged friend when you suddenly let out a primal scream: “Eeew! That’s disgusting! Leave it!”
What happened? Your dog suddenly stuck his nose in the air, then to the ground and, before long, he had something unspeakable in his mouth. He looks delighted with his find and beams at you with his mouth full. You on the other hand, are not quite so overjoyed. Does it sound familiar to you? Then read on… I would like to show you how you can get your dog to leave food lying on the ground.
The individual exercises have been broken down into very small steps, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to spend forever and a day training – it’s quite the opposite. All it does is give you the most detailed plan possible to guide you through your training. If you and your dog find a stage of training particularly easy, you can confidently practice it for just a short while and then move on to the next step. However, you should not leave out any training steps, so that you can keep track of your progress and create a healthy basis to which you can return if you are struggling. If you and/ or your dog are having difficulties with a step, you can go back a step or two in your plan, practice this step more intensively until you have consolidated your training at this level, and then try the tricky step again.
It is very important for everyday life that your dog learns to let go immediately of anything that he has in his mouth on the command “leave”. So that your hairy vacuum cleaner does not feel that he is losing something, which can lead to the undesirable behavior described above, “leave” is first and foremost an exchange deal for your dog.
Warning! If your dog is aggressive around food, please contact a trainer or get professional help, and don’t take any risks.
In preparation, find something that your dog likes, but that he does not like so much that he wants to swallow and defend it immediately. Choose something that he will readily swap for something better. It should also not crumble, but be hard and easy to grasp. Rawhide chews are ideal.
You will also need something much better in favor of which your dog will happily leave the rawhide chew, such as some meatloaf, cheese or little pieces of sausage. Put the treats in a bowl where your dog cannot reach them, but where you can grab them quickly and easily.
The exchange deal works like this:
Offer your dog the chew stick, but keep hold of it so that he can’t just disappear as he is perhaps used to doing. Wait until your dog is happily chewing. Give him the command “leave”. Say it in a very pleasant tone. You are training, you are quit and relaxed and you have no reason to threaten your dog with a hard, harsh voice. If you keep things pleasant, your dog will stay in training mode and will better work with you.
If you have so far not specifically practiced “leave” and you use a friendly tone, it is very likely that your dog keep chewing. That doesn’t matter. He is still learning and doesn’t (yet) know what is expected of him.
After you have said “leave”, get one of the delicious treats and hold it right in front of your dog’s nose. If the treat is good, he will readily let go off the chew stick. That is the moment when you really need to praise your dog! Then, use the treat to lure your dog’s head a few centimeters away from the chew stick and give him the tasty reward. Once he has eaten the treat, he can go back to the chew stick.
Your dog should learn to let go of the chew stick and voluntarily turn his head away when you say “leave”. It is not a command for “I’m going to pull the chew stick right out of your mouth”.
Take a fresh, untouched rawhide chew. Hold it in front of your dog’s nose, don’t let it go and wait until your dog starts to chew on it. Then pleasantly say “leave” again, but don’t immediately reach for the treat you have ready. Instead, wait until your dog has voluntarily let go of the chew. Then praise him lavishly, reward him and give him back the chew.
Your dog now has learned something very important. He let you have something without really knowing whether he was going to get it back and whether he would really get a reward for letting it go.
Important: don’t remove the chew stick but wait until your dog has turned his head away from it. This way, he will actively let go of the chew stick without having to wrestle it from him. If he doesn’t let go, repeat the enticement exercise a few times and then try again.
Keep building up the training, leave the chew stick and use better objects to exchange, such as a toy, for example. Practice until your dog will even drop a piece of sausage in response to a friendly “leave”. It is all matter of routine.