How To Train A Dog To Leave It

The leave it command is helpful when you want your dog to disengage with an object, a person or another dog.  This training is a basic command and is a good starting point for other more advanced training commands for dogs.  “Leave it” is a staple in your training arsenal and can be used as a way to communicate rapidly and effectively with your dog.  Below you will find guidelines for three different training exercises that are all based on the same command/reward principle.

How to Train a Dog to Leave it: Steps to Take

Here are the steps for Exercise 1

1)    Hold a treat in your right hand up to the dog’s mouth but do not let the dog eat the treat

2)    Allow the dog to identify and engage with the treat, i.e. sniffing, licking, etc. but again do not allow the dog to eat the treat.

3)    Say leave it

4)    Leave your hand stationary while giving the command, do not move your hand…moving your hand will only entice your dog to follow your hand and the treat

5)    Speak in a mild but firm tone and keep your pitch low and calm

6)    As soon as your dog disengages with the treat, i.e. takes its mouth away or looks away, reward the behavior by letting them eat the treat

7)    As you give your dog the treat, praise him with positive words in a more excited tone

8)    Repeat this process several times approximately 10 – 12 times or until the dog grasps the understanding of the command

You can repeat the steps quickly, but keep in mind to only reward your dog when he exhibits the correct behavior.  Be careful not to give the treat too slowly or prematurely. It is paramount for your dog to understand that the treat, and verbal praise, come as a direct result of his specific behavior to disengage with the treat.

Exercise no. 2

After your dog can successfully “leave it” with the treat that is in your hand, then you can begin a secondary exercise wherein you show the dog the treat in your right hand and then tell them to leave it. Once your dog disengages with the treat in your right hand, give your dog a different treat in your left hand.  This will teach your dog that they don’t always get to reengage with the object you told them to “leave.” Repeat this same exercise of engaging and disengaging with your right hand and rewarding with the treat in your left hand another 10-12 times.

Exercise no. 3

In a final exercise, set the treat on the ground.  You should be kneeling down and ready to cover the treat with your hand.  Use the same two-handed technique where you cover and uncover the treat with your right hand and then offer the reward treat with your left hand.  In this exercise, the reward comes just after the dog either backs away from the treat or turns their head to you. Do not let your dog push through your hand to get the treat. As you uncover the treat, the dog will begin to engage.  Give the command “leave it” and if the dog still goes for the treat then cover it with your hand wait for the dog to disengage and try again.

If the dog disengages after you uncover the treat and give the command, then immediately reward the behavior.  Remember you are looking for a physical signal that your dog disengaged like a head turn, eye contact with you, or backing away from the treat. Never give the dog the treat that was placed on the ground.  It is crucial that you reward your dog with a separate treat to reinforce that what you are telling the dog to leave alone has to be left alone.

Before you move on from each exercise, make sure your dog has mastered the easier steps first.  Just like learning any new skill, it is important to have the basics down first before introducing something more complicated or advanced.

Training does not happen over one session or in a short period of time.  Remember that training is a process, and frequent practice sessions are the best thing to keep your dog on track and moving in the right direction.

Want to teach your dog how to sit or how to play fetch? Check out our collection of training articles on Canna-pet today.


Sources, Dog Training by. “How to Train a Dog to ‘Leave It’ (K9-1.Com).” YouTube, 23 Dec. 2013,

Parks, Shoshi. “8 Steps to Teaching Your Dog a Super-Strength ‘Leave It’ Command.” Rover, 29 May 2018,

“How to Train Your Dog to Leave It.” Dummies,

“Quiz: How Well Trained Is Your Dog? | Canna-Pet®.” Canna-Pet, 14 July 2017,


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