two commands every dog should know – part 1

Posted by Nicole Larocco-Skeehan, CPDT-KA on Oct 12 2013

You know that teaching your dog manners is important, but did you know that proper training can potentially save his or her life?

Keeping our pets happy and healthy goes beyond just fancy foods and regular vet visits; obedience training is an important part of a dog’s development. In this blog, I am going to teach you two commands every dog should know – signals that can save your dog’s life.

Leave It

The Leave It command tells your dog to either ignore something arousing his interest, or to spit out something he has picked up. Using this command can protect your pet from a variety of hazardous situations. Think about it: if you just ate some wings and your dog spots the chicken bones on the table, you can command, “leave it!” and he will walk right by them. Or if your dog picks up a piece of trash (or something even more unsavory) during your evening walk, you can say, “leave it!” and he will drop it on command – no need to wrestle it out of his mouth!

To teach ‘Leave-it’, start by showing your dog a treat in your hand, then closing your palm over the treat and putting your palm by your dog’s nose. Command, “leave it!” (only give commands once), and wait for your dog to stop trying to grab the treat. Even if your dog is licking your hand incessantly or whines in frustration, don’t give up and don’t say the command again. . . just wait (this is the hard part!). When your dog gives up, open your palm and reward him with the treat.

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Once your dog is consistently and quickly leaving a treat in your hand, you can start placing the treat on the floor. Repeat this exercise, again with your hand over the treat, until the treat is uncovered and your dog is leaving it. Now that’s willpower!

Challenge your dog by asking him to “leave it!” and come to you without picking up the treat, using something of higher value (hello, pizza crust!), or trading a treat that your dog already has in his mouth for something of higher value.

A reliable “leave it!” can save your dog from ingesting poisons, or eating things that can cause gastrointestinal upset – or worse – stomach or bowel perforation. It can also keep him out of trouble if he comes nose to nose with a raccoon or other wildlife, keep him away from indoor hazards like lit candles and save him from lapping up spilled liquids that can make him sick.

Tomorrow we will tackle another lifesaving command: “come.”

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