You have a splitting headache. As you open the bottle of Tylenol, it drops on the floor and 100 Tylenol scatter everywhere. Your dog eagerly leaps forward to help clean them up.
What do you do?
You ask your dog “leave it,” to which he responds by wagging his tail and looking at you.
Crisis averted and huge veterinary expenses avoided.
Here are some other ways “leave it” can be useful.
- leaving the cat alone instead of chasing it
- leaving the jogger as he passes by instead of barking at it
- leaving your hamburger on the table alone instead of gulping it
What would you ask your dog to leave, if you knew he could do it? Please leave a comment!
I have been working hard with clicker and positive reinforcers (over many dogs, now) but I am stumped with getting “leave it” to work with my 16 month old pit bull in regards to the cats. She is REALLY good with “leave it” with food, favorite toys, virtually everything except the cats. Suggestions? The method we used to teach her is virtually identical to what you show above.
Laurie Luck says
Cats, for your dog, is the pinnacle of distractions. For this, you’ll need to increase the distance from the cat(s) dramatically, until your dog is able to do the behavior as you’d like. As your dog gets better at it, you can then systematically decrease the distance.
Thank you! Right now we have a special cat room, blocked off to the dogs. I have an idea, but I don’t know if it will work, maybe you as an expert will have input? I was thinking if I take the cat carrier (which smells like cat, I’m sure), and use that as a “leave it” object, it would help? I’m not sure the cat would like being IN it for this, even at later stages, but the carrier itself? Maybe?
Laurie Luck says
Yes, great place to start! You could also have the dog on a leash at the other end of the hallway (or as far away from the cat room, but still in sight) and work from there so the dog can see or hear the cats, but can’t get anywhere near them (and hopefully putting enough distance between dog and kitties that you can get some clickable moments).
Jaymie Derden says
OK… so here is one of the most frustrating issues with our 16 month old labradoodle. He knows “leave it.” He will leave his dinner, leave treats sitting on his nose or paw, leave food on the floor when told.
But he grabs things (especially pillows — pillows are his FAVORITE), but also sometimes shoes, socks, dirty clothes and most recently a throw rug and even his mat. He used to play the “Look at me, look what I’ve got, come chase me!” game. He does better now — he doesn’t usually run and will “leave it” when asked and often will sit or down and drop the item. BUT… he still goes after the items. We have put away all our pillows (except for our bed pillows which he routinely tries to grab if he’s every untethered in the bedroom/bathroom. This week I got a new cotton washable throw rug for the front door. Yesterday I bet he grabbed that rug at least 20 times.
So… how do I teach that “leave it” means DO NOT TOUCH IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Very open for suggestions here. We’ve had him for nearly a year now (he was re-homed at six months) and this has been an ongoing challenge. MANY of his out of control behaviors have vastly improved, but his pillow fetish remains!
I love your videos and have found them helpful for lots of situations, and hope you can offer some advice for this! Thanks!
Laurie Luck says
Hi Jaymie, this is an excellent question. If you look at what’s going on through the lens of the laws of behavior, you’ll get a better idea of what’s really going on. I’m writing a series called Dog Training 101 that just covered this very thing.
Here’s the first law of behavior: Behavior that is reinforced will continue.
So…your dog *continues* to steal things. Why? Because it’s reinforcing! He gets attention!
I absolutely LOVE that you’ve put the pillows away. That’s the first step — good for you!
Leave it will only work if you’re there to tell him to look away from the object and look at you instead. Drop it is what you’ll need once he already has an object.
So, right off the bat, those are two very different behaviors.
For the drop it, I’d start it over from scratch using his own toys and things he’s *allowed* to have. This does two things: (1) gives you lots of things to practice on without any pressure — if he doesn’t drop them, no problem, he’s allowed to have them anyway and (2) he’ll be reinforced *heavily* for playing with the things you WANT him to play with!
Then, when he’s REALLY good at that, take things up a notch. Create a hierarchy of things that he loves to put in his mouth. Start at the bottom (the easiest) and work your way to the top, moving up the ladder ONLY when he’s mastered the current level.
What I want you to do is ask him to take something he’s not normally allowed to have, like a pillow. (Have him on leash so he can’t run off with it). Ask for Drop it, then click and treat! This helps him learn that Drop it applies to anything and everything you ask him to drop.
In the meantime, I want you practicing Drop it 10 times a day when your dog has something he SHOULD have. I want the practice to happen significantly more often than the “rescues.”
Let me know what you think!