A Cure for Many Doggy Evils

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A Cure for Many Doggy Evils

by Hope Saidel

Wouldn?t you like a single command that can tell your dog to:

stop vacuuming up everything on the floor

stop sniffing your guests

stop growling at other dogs

stop whatever she?s doing that you don?t like and pay attention to you?

It?s not magic, it?s ?leave it!?

We take for granted when we teach ?leave it? that you are the most important and interesting thing in your dog?s universe. If you?re not ? you?re not spending enough time with her. It only takes a few minutes a couple of times a day to build a bond. And the rewards both of you get from that bond are priceless.

As a first step to teaching ?leave it,? sit down in a chair with your dog, wearing his collar and leash, with you. You should have a handful of treats for the dog ? something he really, really likes and sees only during training sessions. Give your dog one treat at a time, saying ?take it? every time he gets a cookie.

After a few treats are down the hatch, conceal a cookie in the same hand (make a fist around it), so the dog cannot get it, and say ?leave it.? Your dog will stare at your hand longingly, perhaps even try to lick or nibble at it. Sit patiently. When the dog looks away from your hand ? when he looks anywhere but at your hand ? say ?Good Leave It? and reward him. Don?t use the concealed treat ? give a treat from your reserve pile. Eventually you may want the dog to look up at you, but the point of this exercise is to get the dog to ignore the treat in your closed fist.

After a few short sessions with this exercise, your dog should look away from the treat hand as soon as you say ?Leave it.? When you?ve gotten this far, you can start showing the dog the treat and saying ?Leave it.? She should know by this time what it expected and look away from the treat. Again, reward as soon as she looks away and repeat ?Good Leave It!?

The first time an instructor taught us this exercise in class, our graduation ceremony included each of the dog-and-owner teams walking through a minefield of dog treats. Every single one of the dogs ignored all the goodies on the ground and paid attention to his/her owner throughout. At the start of class none of us believed it possible ? but all of us did it!

?Leave it? is, in essence, getting your dog?s attention refocused onto you and onto more positive behavior. Dog owners often expect their dogs to stop doing something by saying ?no,? but don?t tell their dogs what to do instead! Replace a behavior you don?t want with one you do. Dogs like rules and routine. They like knowing what?s expected of them. Tell them!

Hope Saidel is the co-owner of http://www.GollyGear.com, a bricks-and-mortar and online small dog shop featuring fun, affordable and practical products for small dogs. She has trained and competed in Obedience with small dogs for over a decade and is Registrar of the North Shore Dog Training Club.

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