Heel, sit, stay, roll over, play dead. These are perhaps the most common behaviors that we all might teach a dog when we’re training them. But there’s one command that every dog should know, understand completely and be able to accomplish with simple instruction.
That number one command is “leave it” – or leave it alone. Similar to “drop,” which is often used during a hearty round of fetch, but when it comes to this simple task, it could be literally a lifesaver for your pet. Instead of asking them to drop an object they already have in their mouth, you’re asking them to “leave” something alone, don’t touch it, sniff it, chase it or even pay attention to the object in question.
Cat Scratch Fever
Most dogs are inherently curious or have a natural instinct to chase a cat, which could lead them into trouble quickly. Some cats can carry a powerful punch with their sharp claws and can cause not only injury but illnesses as well. There is an illness called Bartonellosis, which some have given the nickname cat scratch fever for this disease which can be dangerous or even deadly in some rare cases.
Dead Animals and Garbage
For whatever reason, dogs seem to be attracted to the scent of death and rotting garbage, and both carry significant risk. Simply smelling garbage or coming into contact with a dead animal can cause serious health problems. If you see your pet approaching something they shouldn’t be near and they need to know to “leave it” alone, this is another reason it’s so important to teach them this crucial behavior.
Other Animal Hazards
Cats and dogs alike are also drawn to chasing or killing mice and rats which carry a number of dangerous diseases like rabies. Keeping them out of our homes is challenging, but it’s important to teach our animals that these rodents should be left alone, not bothered, chased or especially not confronted or consumed.
How To Teach Them
After your dog has mastered other good behaviors on a leash, it’s time to introduce them to this important concept. When they begin to show an interest in an unacceptable item (like trash or another animal’s feces), say the command sharply and lead them away from the object. Once they’ve lost interest and begin to turn away, reward them with praise and perhaps a small treat.
Don’t give up, it may take a while before they stop approaching the offending object on their own.
For more tips and tricks on effectively using these types of techniques, please see “30 Positive Reinforcement Training Tips For Your Pet.”
Infographic: Amber Kingsley at PetWave.com