We dogs are gifted with an extremely strong sense of smell, a love for exploring by putting anything interesting into our mouths, and a keen sense of curiosity. A very practical and possibly life saving lesson for us to learn is “Leave It”. See the tutorial on the Kids 4 Critters website, https://www.kids4crittersnc.com/lesson-overviews to see how to train your dog to obey this lesson. It is the 7th Essential Skill to having well mannered dogs provided in that tutorial.
The “why” of teaching this lesson is a little more complicated. The word “NO” is a word most of us dogs hear from the time our hearing develops because we are told “NO” to chewing on a shoe that smells so good, “NO” to grabbing a piece of food that falls on the floor, “NO” to going potty in the house…you understand, “NO” is a very over used word used in a variety of situations and we can learn to ignore it. “Leave it” is taught in specific steps using a high value reward. Eventually, the behavior of patiently waiting (pictured below) is carried over through training to different locations and situations. We learn that “Leave It” leads to good things!
This becomes important as we travel through the community with our owners or in our own yards/homes. We dogs find some pretty interesting (to us) items when we go to parks and community events. A dog who is reliable obeying “Leave it” will avoid diving into fast food wrappers, garbage which missed the trash can, goose droppings, or unfriendly reptiles such as snakes or snapping turtles. There have also been occurrences recently when dogs out for a nice day at the park have picked up dog toys containing poisons. Never allow your pet to pick up a toy that is not its’ own. Using “Leave it” means your dog will also avoid grabbing for things at home that you may accidentally drop such as medications, forbidden foods, or dangerous items.
So, as you get into the swing of exercising outdoors this Spring and Summer and attending picnics, festivals, and other outdoor events, keep your dog safe by teaching “Leave it”. I want to remind all humans, “Have fun but be vigilant and watch to see that we dogs avoid things that can be harmful to us!”