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  • Place a treat in your fist. Let the dog lick, snuffle, poke, nudge, nibble and try to get that treat out of your hand. Eventually the dog will give up and as he backs away or turn his head away – at that very moment, give a reward from your other hand. If your dog bites on your closed fist too hard, let out a yelp and pull your fist out of reach for 30 seconds. Try again.

    Hold out fist – dog backs off – treat from opposite hand.

    It may take awhile for your dog to give up. Be patient, smile and say NOTHING. The dog will eventually give up. Practice this exercise several times a day and in as many different places (at home, in the yard, at the park, in other people’s houses, etc) as you can find. Soon your dog will start to back away when he sees you hold out your closed hand. When he is predictably backing up when you present your fist, you can now reward him from the fist instead of the other hand.

    Hold out fist – dog backs off – open fist and let him eat the treat.

    Now add the verbal command: “Leave it” – hold out fist – dog backs off – open fist and let him eat the treat.

    Repeat this in various locations until dog becomes reliably consistent.

    Taking it on the road  Now place a treat under your foot (best to have a sturdy shoe on!). Do not assume that the dog knows what “Leave it!” means in this new situation. Allow the dog to dig and try to get at the treat. When the dog gives up and backs away: hand him a treat.

    Food under foot – dog backs off – give a treat.

    When your dog reliably backs away when it sees the treat under your foot you may add the “Leave it” cue:

    “Leave it” – food under foot – dog backs off – give a treat.

    Repeat this many times in many different places. When your dog reliably backs up when you say “Leave it!” then you can start leaving the treat BESIDE your foot. If the dog moves toward the treat place your foot over the treat. When the dog gives up and backs away, give a treat from your hand. After many successful repetitions of this you may add the “Leave it” cue. Simultaneously place food near foot and say “Leave it” – dog backs off – give a treat from your hand. When your dog is repeating this successfully and reliably you may start inching the food farther from your foot but still be ready to protect the food from the dog. Never let your dog eat the treat from the ground. Give a separate treat from your hand. Repeat this in many different places so your dog learns to generalize the cue and the behavior. Start asking your dog to “Leave it” when he investigates other items that you wish for him not to touch. Be sure to praise and reward!

    Janine Allen

    Rescue Me Dog Trainer

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