One of my biggest issues with Lucas is that even though he knows how to leave a treat that’s in my hand alone after I say leave it, he rarely to never listens to the leave it command when he has one of my possessions or even something from the garbage in his mouth. The leave it command is so important and it can save your dog’s life. How to teach the leave it command is pretty simple and can stop your dog from eating a pill you may have dropped on the floor, a poisonous plant or a food such as chocolate, or grabbing something expensive and destroying it.
To start, sit in front of your dog with a treat and let him see it, smell it, and lick it. Then pull your hand away and say “leave it”. If your dog goes after it, redirect him and pull away the treat again until he can successfully wait a few seconds while leaving the treat alone, then give it to him. The way to teach your dog to leave all items with just a command rather than a treat or a toy is to practice teaching them with something that they love. For most dogs this is a treat, for others it’s a toy or a bone that they desperately want.
Once your dog can successfully leave the treat in your hand alone several times, you can add distance to the leave it, put the treat down right in front of him, or even on his paw as he lays down. These all require much more discipline and will bring you one step closer to being able to command your dog to “leave it” without having to reward him with anything other than praise. The way to stop your dog from grabbing something dropped is to add his leash into the equation. Leash your dog and then drop something in front of him. By pulling back on the leash when he lunges for the item and commanding him to “leave it”, he will know that he has to leave the item in the same way that he left the treat in your hand the first time.
This command takes time and patience, and if your dog is very excitable it will take even longer. Keep bringing the leash back into it so that you can control his movement towards an object, especially those which are strictly off limits like the aforementioned medication or plant. Practice, practice, practice.