How To Teach a 'Leave' Cue

A solid ‘leave’ command is an essential element of basic training - and important if you play tug or fetch with your dog. 

The trouble is, after a super fun, interactive game of tug or fetch, persuading your dog to ‘leave it’ isn’t easy. 

That’s because they are in a state of high arousal and ‘leaving’ their favourite Tug-E-Nuff toy or ball is the last thing they want to do. 

So how do you teach a ‘leave’ command? We asked our play expert Chelsea to share her steps for success…

Step 1. Start when your dog is calm

In a heightened state of arousal, your dog will struggle with the idea of letting their prized toy go. Chelsea recommends starting to teach this when your dog is calm. 

Chelsea says: ‘Offer the toy to your dog and once they have hold of it, calmly ask for a 'leave' or 'drop'. I like to place one hand on the toy (be sure not to be pulling it away from them or they will think you are continuing the game) and the other gently on their collar.’

Step 2. Wait and reward

Your dog needs to drop the toy of their own accord - so wait for them to do this rather than taking it from them. When they do release the toy, reward them immediately. 

Chelsea says: ‘I like to mix it up with treats and play so they can't always predict the reward. With the treat I like to toss it for them to catch as it makes the reward more exciting.

Or, if using play, I make sure I re-engage in the game of tug instantly. This is helpful because it teaches that ‘leave’ doesn’t always mean the game is over, but can be part of the fun. 

‘Super snappy quick rewards are important so your dog isn’t left waiting or getting frustrated.’

Step 3. Using treats.

When you do need to end the game, if you find your dog gets frustrated and keeps grabbing for their Tug-E-Nuff toy, try scattering a few treats on the floor just before you pop the toy away.

Chelsea says: ‘This way they can focus on something else straight away. Plus, sniffing is a calming activity so sniffing to find the treats on the floor is a great way to calm things down after a high arousal game of tug.’

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