Responding to temptation – teaching your dog to leave something alone
How do you teach your dog not to pick up everything? That’s the challenge I’m faced with at the moment. It sometimes feels as though every time I set eyes on Quin he is eating something. I’ve just been reading about 6 month-old puppies who have trashed their houses and gardens. That’s a bit of a shame and not very good for the dog.
Dogs need boundaries
There is nothing wrong with teaching a dog (or a child) that they cannot do exactly as they please. Not everything in the world is good, or safe, or for them. ‘No’ should be in your dog’s vocabulary, even if they (hopefully) don’t hear it very often.
Yes we should be training with positivity and rewards, but we still need to teach them ‘stop’, ‘wait’ and ‘no’, or ‘leave it!’ Imagine you are taking your medication and you drop a tablet on the floor. You don’t want your dog eating it do you?
Common foods toxic to dogs
You can see from this list that there are some really common foods that are really poisonous for dogs. Grapes and raisins are seriously dangerous and require a vet visit. But I’m sure you, like me eat raisins regularly. Of course other foods are less of a problem – who eats chocolate after all :p.
How to teach ‘leave it’ to your dog
It’s not hard. Just say ‘leave it!’ like you mean it. Quite loudly, quite sharply. Your dog should pause and look at you in surprise. You then need to quickly call them away, or grab them, or grab whatever it is your dog shouldn’t have.
As with every other bit of training your dog, you will have much more success if you reward your dog! If you make it a really fantastic thing to leave the tasty treat on the floor and come back to you, they are definitely more likely to remember the lesson and the associated command.
You can also try a ‘temptation alley’ exercise. This is also great for focusing your recall! These are sometimes set up at fun dog shows, for you to test out your dog. It’s hilarious to see some dogs thinking ‘Bonanza!’ and gobbling everything in sight on their way to you. NB: if you have a Labrador, they will always eat all the treats before getting to you.
This exercise is also used at puppy training classes, to test recall and help you be more exciting. It’s part of the KC Good Citizen Award. For example, at the silver level:
The object of this exercise is for the dog to have good manners when aware of food. Food should be handled or consumed while the dog, on a loose lead, is taken in close proximity to it. The dog should not unduly respond to this temptation, i.e. not to beg for food or steal.
Teaching your dog not to do something is much harder than teaching them to do something. Don’t despair! You can do this. Your dog will thank you (and so will your vet).
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NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.