The easiest way to keep your dog safe from things they shouldn’t have is simple… you want to keep it away from them. Chocolate, onions, and garlic can poison your dog if they consume the wrong amount. The same is true for caffeinated products and chewing gum. If you want to keep your dog safe, you will need to keep them from getting into things and consuming something that can harm them.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Dogs are sneaky and known for getting into all sorts of things. As dog owners, we all make mistakes and leave something out we shouldn’t. For this reason, I encourage you to teach your dog a simple command to stop them from putting something in their mouth that should not be there.
“Leave It” is a command that takes a little patience at first, but once your dog has it down you will be glad you took the time to teach it. This is a command you will use if you drop some medication on the floor or accidentally leave a bulb of garlic within grabbing distance and you want to stop your dog before they can get it in their mouth.
An easy way to start teaching any command is with a tasty treat in your hand. Present a closed fist to your dog (with an enticing treat inside) and let them try whatever they want to your hand in order to get it. Dogs will nibble, lick, paw and even bark at your hand. Your job? Wait them out! Eventually your dog will get bored and look away. Some dogs will take a lot longer than others, but no worries. The second your dog looks away, tell them good and give them a treat from your other hand. Continue this until your dog catches on and starts looking away almost immediately. Now you can add the command: “Leave It.” Present your closed fist to your dog and say “Leave It”. Your dog will back away and get the treat from your other hand.
From this point you will work up to food in an open hand and eventually food on the floor using the same strategy. The most important thing to remember with this command is to never allow your dog to have the food you are telling them to leave. Always give them something else, just as good, from your other hand. If you see your dog going after something they should not have, you should be able to say “Leave It” and most of the time they will. Teaching the “Leave It” command involves consistency on your part and practice for your dog.
As your dog gets better at mastering the “Leave It” command, be sure to have tasty treats hanging around as a reward. Positive reinforcement is the way you can be certain that your dog will succeed every time!
About the Author: Jessica Vezina is a certified dog trainer, working with animals full-time at Manypaws Pet Villa in Westport, MA. When she is not at work, Jessica does occasional volunteer work, and enjoys spending time with her three cats, and rescue dog named Stella. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or 508-642-4863.