Teach your dog Leave It and Take It – Safe and soft mouth

Teach your dog Leave It and Take It – Safe and soft mouth

November 30, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


Today we’re looking at the two things you need to keep your dog safe and keep all your fingers: leave it and take it coming up. Ian here with Simpawtico Dog Training and today we’re going to be talking about developing your dog’s confidence and control with their mouth. But before we do that please make sure you subscribe so you never miss any of our videos. Also, like our page on Facebook so we can get better acquainted. You can find that at facebook.com/simpatico.training and don’t forget to check that YouTube description for notes, links, and resources about the stuff we talked about. Now let’s go over these concepts so you have an idea of how we’re working here. Take it teaches your dog to take things gently from your hands. For puppies this is the cornerstone of developing a soft mouth and learning bite inhibition. For older dogs we can’t teach bite inhibition anymore, but we can still teach them to take things more gently and to wait for us to approve and release things that go into their mouths. Leave it is a potentially life-saving thing for dogs to learn. The goal is for your dog to learn that things they want are not guaranteed. If you drop food on the floor for example most dogs will torpedo after it. As the saying goes the five-second rule is no good if you have a two-second dog. Not only is it rude and annoying it’s potentially dangerous. What if you dropped harmful things like a grape or a piece of chocolate? Or if you’re in the bathroom and you drop a pill…your dog is going to dive for all of that stuff so we’ve got to start teaching them that things that hit the floor are not theirs. More than that dogs also need to learn that anything they want in the world isn’t necessarily theirs to stick their nose into like McDonald’s wrappers or roadkill or squirrels and chipmunks or even other dogs. Teaching your puppy leave it and take it together will help prevent her from guarding food and toys. Now for the purpose of this video we’re going to be using mainly food for the focus. Towards the end of the video I’ll give you some tips for helping expand this concept to toys games and even tasks like fetching and retrieving. There are a lot of moving parts to getting really good at what I call the Holy Trinity of mouth control: take it, leave it, and drop it. I don’t want this to turn into a half hour long, ultra-technical videos so for right now I’m going to blaze through just leave it and take it, and give you some practical exercises you can start with today. Let’s get started! Phase one: take it. First we start teaching the dog to take things gently from us. We cannot have them snapping for things like a crocodile so we’re going to measure out some food during mealtime and hand-feed them. Yup. You heard me right. Take a piece of kibble, say “Take it” and give it to them. After several repetitions, hearing the verbal phrase “Take it” becomes a reliable predictor of receiving something from your hand. However the caveat is that it’s got to be done politely, so if they become over-exuberant in taking the food we give them feedback and take the food away. Use your wrist like a pivot and just flick it away. One thing I see people doing a lot is giving an instructive reprimand like “Gentle” or “Easy.” This isn’t necessarily wrong but if you use it too much, which is what a lot of people do…. Ok, gentle… gentle… GENTLE! Then you’re implying that they only have to take it gently or easily when you say that. The expectation needs to be universal: every time, everywhere. A more productive kind of feedback is just a simple “Nope.” This signals that they need to keep trying. Of course effective feedback includes both sides of the coin so make sure to praise them when they do take it gently. The food itself is a reinforcement but we need that voice to be a big part of it too because once we get into leave it they may not get the food, so praise for a job well done lays the foundation for good behavior down the road. Also watch the head angle. If they’re looking up at it there’s a greater tendency to jump and snap. Lower the food so it’s coming straight in or even a little below. Also use your palm for a dog with a big mouth, otherwise your fingers will disappear inside those jowls. This phase goes really quickly. For puppies I always teach my students to hand-feed for the first few weeks and this is such a powerful and easy thing to do. Even for older dogs though, a day or so of this should drastically change the way they take food from you. Phase two: leave it and take it. We start this process pretty simply. You don’t necessarily even need to wait to start this. Present food in your hand to your dog and say one time “Leave it.” They’re going to go for it and when they do close your hand and say “Nope” and then wait. You don’t need to repeat yourself and don’t move your hand, no matter how much they fuss at it or how long it takes. Wait it out! The instant that your dog gives up—and they will—immediately say “Good! Take it!” and hand them the treat. Timing is critical here; don’t pussyfoot around. Praise and reward immediately. As you practice, your dog will start responding faster and faster. You’ll also see them starting to get comfortable while they wait. These bargain-basement stays are exactly what we’re waiting for so reinforce the heck out of these. Then start hanging out with it. Get three seconds before you let them have it then five and ultimately 10 before you let them take it. Count these out as you wait. Remember the feedback is part of learning. You’re marking the behavior and letting them know that’s what you want. This is important. As soon as you feel comfortable, start diversify the types of things that you practice leave it with. Using some of your dog’s favorite interactive toys is a really good way to do this and it’s a fantastic gateway to not only proofing this behavior but also teaching drop it. Tug is a great teaching game for these along with fetch & retrieves. Check out my video on the four types of toys for more info. Practice also with paper products. Dogs tend to find tissue paper, toilet paper, toilet paper rolls, and crumpled up paper absolutely fascinating. Make sure they understand that the rules apply to everything in the universe. The only difference here is that you’ll be rewarding them with food or a toy instead of the paper product. Phase three: supercharge leave it and take it! Now you’re ready to raise the criteria, which is how we get better. The previous steps are pretty standard obedience class fare but we aren’t going to stop there; we’re gonna go to the extreme! So now we repeat the leave it and take it exercise by placing the item on the ground. Use your hand to cover it if necessary. I don’t recommend letting the dog slurp food off the ground though. I don’t want them getting used to doing that so when you use food as a lure pick it up or have a second one in your hand ready to give them. Don’t forget to use “Take it.” Then get to where you’re standing up and covering it with your foot or blocking it with your body if necessary. As before we want bargain-basement stays without having to cover the item. Give good feedback for eye contact, give good feedback for showing self-restraint. Then we’re going to drop it from a few inches off the ground. Then we’re going to drop it from waist height. Then we’re going to toss it short distances. Boy this is usually where they crack! Keep at it. Give feedback for good performance and feedback for poor performance, and challenge yourselves. Finally get to where you can actually toss the item in their direction without them taking it. Phase 4: take it outside. When leave it and take it are well understood you should have things pretty well on voice control, meaning that if you say “Leave it” your dog will stop moving towards something and wait for your next direction. Now it’s time to raise the criteria and challenge ourselves again. First off we need to do the exercise in as many places as possible. As I’ve mentioned before dogs don’t generalize very well; if you train your dog in the kitchen you have a great kitchen dog, so we always practice things in as many places as we can so they learn it means the same thing everywhere. On a walk we want them to leave things alone when we tell them to. The best way to practice is to do a setup. Have something setup that the dog wants like a bowl of food or a pile of treats or their favorite ball. Then do some flybys. Walk by and pay attention to the signals you feel in the leash. Point at the item and say, “Leave it.” See what happens. If your dog keeps trucking and pays attention to you, great! Praise and reward them with a treat from your pocket. If they strain to get the item we go back to exactly how we practiced in the beginning: wait it out. When they give up, praise and reward just like before. Then fly by again. Every re-exposure makes it easier for them to listen because the item is less exciting each time. That means more opportunity for you to reinforce what you want. Here’s a pro tip: always face the direction you want to go. Turning around validates the item they want. Facing away keeps your energy moving in that direction. When it’s clear that your dog is listening, you’re ready to hit the gas and reward them in motion while you’re walking away. Couple this with all of your other walking tools like getting and keeping their attention, good voice control, off-leash following, and solid heeling when necessary, and you’ve got a Swiss Army knive’s worth of tools in your back pocket. So there are as I said a lot of moving parts to this whole thing. Here’s a list of some more pro tips to help you excel. Try your best to not let there be mistakes. If your dog gets the food or toy from you that’s self-reinforcing and will encourage them to keep trying because sometimes it works. You must do your best to make it as error free as possible. If you’re working with your new puppy, help them develop a strong chew toy habit. If your puppy always wants to play with chew toys she won’t seek out inappropriate objects that need to be taken away. Additionally teach your pup to voluntarily give up her to toys when you ask. For older dogs don’t let them scavenge around. Dogs are opportunistic scavengers and if snooping around yields rewards it’s self-reinforcing and they’ll keep doing it, so keep them focused on you and reward them lavishly when they do as you ask. Right away start using toys and games as part of your take it and leave it training. Tug for example is an awesomely productive game for teaching manners and restraint. In this vein you should start incorporating drop it into your repertoire too. Leave it is for things your dog wants, drop it is for something they already have, so make sure that’s part of your practice too. We’ll take a bigger look at drop it in another video. All right guys: WOW! This was a dense video. Good luck with leave it and take it. Don’t let yourself get too discouraged. Take your time with it and re-watch this video if necessary. Stick with it and you’ll be creating some really good habits which, as they say, are as hard to break as bad habits. So here’s my question for you: what are some other things you’d like to see videos about? What are you struggling with? What makes your blood boil? Let’s connect in those comments. Don’t forget to thumbs up this video and as always: keep learning, keep practicing, and I’ll see you next time. Thanks for watching.