Teaching your pit bull to leave something alone has so many uses! Maybe they are sticking their nose in your dinner; maybe you dropped some pills on the floor; maybe you are walking past road kill; or maybe they are paying too much attention to a squirrel. In all of these situations, a pit bull who knows how to leave something alone and turn back to you can come in handy!
First, you need to teach your pit bull that leaving something alone results in good things:
- Hold a treat in your closed fist and put it in front of your dog. Let him sniff it, lick it, etc. *As soon as* your dog takes his nose off your fist, *even for a split second*, mark and give him the treat.
- Your dog will start to catch on to the game, and will spend less time sniffing before backing away. If at any point you present your fist and the dog hesitates, mark and reward! That’s what you want!
- Once you are able to get 10+ repetitions where you put your fist out and the dog doesn’t sniff it, wait to mark and reward until she takes her eyes off the hand. Ideally we would like her to look at you, but to start out you can just reward her for looking away if necessary.
- When your dog has successfully left the treat alone and looked at you 10+ times, start saying “leave it” and then presenting your hand. Repeat another 10+ times so they associate the words with the behavior.
- Say “leave it” and present the treat in an open hand. If he goes for the treat, simply close your hand and wait for him to leave it. If he leaves it and looks at you, HOORAY!
- At this point, start rewarding with a 2nd treat, and pick up the “leave it” treat. Continue by presenting the treat closer and closer to your dog, by putting it on the floor a few feet away, and by walking your dog past treats. You can progress to putting the treat between your dog’s feet, and to dropping the treat from higher and higher up (to simulate dropping something while you’re cooking or eating). If at any point the dog makes a mistake and grabs the treat, *don’t panic!* Just back up a step and keep practicing.
- For leaving something in motion – cat, squirrel – practice dropping and tossing the treat, and also practice with toys.
After you’ve practiced all the steps, start setting up real-life scenarios, like a snack on the end table, or dinner on the counter. Look for “decision points” where your dog could have gone for something, but looks at you instead. Remember to always reward your dog for making the right decision!
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