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Training "Leave It"

Q: I have a rescue Border collie/lab mix. He is about 5 months old, and an absolute delight. He picks up things very easily and constantly needs a job. We have been working on clicker training and we both really like it, but I have a couple of "positive training" questions.

First. How do I train "leave it?" He does it when he doesn't really want the object—but I can't get him to ignore things that he really, really wants when he knows that all I have is kibble, treats, and cheese. I have been working him on leash, having a pile of treats and telling him to leave it and then clicking when he looks away and treating, but he doesn't do it if he is off leash.

Second. How do I train him not to chew the house up? He just seems to get in these moods where nothing is going to stop him. He is well exercised (running 3 miles a day), but he still will insist on chewing the couch, the power cords, and carpets at night if I do not pay 100% attention. I have tried telling him to "leave it" and he does for five minutes then he is back at it. This basically makes the "leave it" command my most uttered phrase. I have also tried substituting one of his toys and trying to play with him, but I can't always be there, and he always goes back to it.

Border Collie looking up

Third. I have been working with my dog a lot, but not exclusively. However, he only seems to listen to me, which is great until I need to leave the room or have someone watch him for a little while and then he becomes a terror. How do I maintain the bond that I have developed, but have him listen to other people?

A: What method are you using to teach your dog to "leave it?" Peggy Tillman, in her book Clicking with Your Dog, has a very nice series on teaching this cue. Remember, you do have to use higher reinforcement than the object or item that you are taking away. For example, if you click and offer a piece of cheese while the dog has a piece of steak, that reinforcement is simply not high enough. You might have to offer liver or some other delicious alternative.

He might not be performing this behavior off leash simply because he is getting reinforced for ignoring your cue. For example, if he is running off leash at the park and he grabs a piece of food that someone may have dropped, you can certainly tell him to "leave it" from a distance, but by the time you walk over to him, he would have already eaten the forbidden treat. He reinforced himself! I would suggest managing him well so that he does not have the opportunity to practice the inappropriate behavior.

When working your "leave it" cue, be sure to start off with items that he doesn't really care about and slowly increase the reinforcement value of that item.

Your dog is still a puppy. Chewing things is a normal part of canine behavior, especially when dogs are young. Manage your dog by not allowing him to roam the house when he is not being supervised. He is too young to assume all of this freedom. Establish a safe space for him: a crate, X-pen, or baby-gated room will do fine. Keep him in there when you cannot watch him. The other option is to put him on a leash and tether him to your side.

Teach him to be responsive to other people by having them clicker train him.

Emma Parsons
KPCT Training Director
Author of Click to Calm

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My two huskys never stop playing with each other.

We rescued two Siberian huskys. They are 11 month old brothers. We've had them since they were 4 months old. We love that they play together and run around the back yard chasing each other. The problem is indoors. Their play is noisy. My one boy Gino constantly growls when he plays making the play untolerable.  My other boy, Syd, just goes along with it and wrestles, and runs around. The growling is not aggressive at the beginning, but the longer the wrestling goes the more ellivated the excitement becomes leading my wife or myself to getup and breakup the "play fight". This happens close to a dozen times per night. 


They get regular excersize at the dog park nearby and on walks...but it's never enough with two huskies. We have taken them to a 6 week obedience class (clicker method). That was about 5 months ago. Since then clicker training has been set aside mainly because we discovered both boys had a food allergy. It has taken us till now to identify that they ae allergic to wheat and possibly beef. So now that we can give them appropriate treats we would like advise on how to control the play.


We would like Gino to be able to lay down with a toy and chew/ play. His brother Syd will lay down with a toy and be perfectly fine. 


Please help

Thank you


My dog won't leave anything alone!!!

I have a little 9 mo. old Papi-Poo named Bowzer and he wont leave anything alone, how do I teach leave it while using a clicker!!!

Laurie Luck's picture

My dog won't leave anything alone!!!

To teach leave it, you'll need a clicker, some delicious pea-sized treats (think: cooked chicken, steak, salmon, bits of string cheese, hot dog, etc.) and a so-so treat (dog biscuit). Hold the dog biscuit in your fist and put it directly in front of your dog's nose. Keep the hand still and wait for the dog to stop digging, mouthing, nibbling, licking. The instant he stops investigating the hand, click and give him one of the very tasty treats. (I generally have a small bowl of the tasty treats on the counter next to me so they're easily accessible to me, but not to the dog!) Repeat offering the closed hand (with the biscuit) and clicking the instant the dog leaves the hand alone. The dog doesn't have to leave the hand alone for a long time - in the beginning, you're going to click if the dog's nose leaves your hand even for a second and for whatever reason. 

Soon enough your dog will realize that leaving the hand alone leads to getting something better and will probably not even go toward your hand when you put it out. The very first time your dog hesitates when you put your hand out, click and treat! This is exactly the behavior you're trying to get!

Once your dog is reliably leaving the hand alone (meaning he doesn't approach the closed hand when you present it), you can start raising the criteria a little bit. Now, instead of simply leaving the hand alone, you will wait for the dog to also look at you. So leaving the hand alone and looking at you is what earns the click. In short order, with your well-timed clicks, your dog will be leaving the hand alone AND looking at you!

Now that your dog is reliably leaving the hand alone and looking at you, you can begin to say "leave it," or whatever word you choose before you present your hand. It looks like this: "Leave it." Present the closed hand. Click and treat if the dog hesitates and looks at you.

Don't forget to work with things other than food, too. Your dog can learn to leave toys, other dogs, things on the sidewalk -- just about anything! Remember that the thing the dog is getting should be of higher value than the thing he's leaving alone. For instance, if I ask my dog to leave the steak that I've dropped on the floor, I'll need to find a really high value reinforcer - something a little better than that steak! :)

Happy training - this is a relatively easy task and one that's fun to teach!

Laurie Luck
For Clickertraining.com
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
See my profile and contact information at


We have a 4 month old

We have a 4 month old cocka-poo that loves to bite...She will bite our pant leg when we walk by her, our hands when we pet her and even face when she is in our lap.   We say "NO BITE" and she will run and bark at us but will not stop.  

She also gets very excited and loves when people come over and will not leave them alone...Jumps on them...... wants to sit next to them or on them licking and biting.   


My Bull Mastiff does not respond to sound

I am having problems with my 2 months old bull mastiff,it does not seem to respond to sound especially when it is asleep or not watching you.It only listens,when it looks in your direction and sees what you are trying to do.
Hope my dog is not deaf,Please what can i do.

Bill Stavers's picture

deafness in dogs

this link will give you an over view of the problem:

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