What If You Don't Say "Leave-it"?

Last week's training tip explained why teaching "Leave-it" is a really bad idea.  Here's a review of the 3 reasons not to teach it:

  1. It is contrary to a dog's instinctive awareness of his environment.
  2. It crushes a dog's self-confidence and creates anxiety.
  3. It undermines trust in your relationship because it may not be clear to the dog why you are punishing him.

Can I assume that you don't want to crush your dog's confidence, make him anxious, or undermine trust?

On the other hand, I know you do want to keep your dog safe from things that are dangerous or unpleasant.  Our beloved dogs are curious scavengers and predators by nature.  What is disgusting to us is often a delicacy to them! That might be why saying leave-it has become so common!

So if it's a bad idea to say "Leave-it" and yank on the leash, what should you do instead?

Fortunately, the answer is not a simple, quick fix.  That's right, I said fortunately.  The habit of defaulting to "leave-it-plus-yank" is really the tip of the iceberg. So replacing that habit with a different one involves making a mindset shift in your underlying beliefs.  Changing your mind about one habit can cause you to re-think other ways that you may be unnecessarily applying force with your dog. That's why it's fortunate -  making one small change for the better can lead to more changes and more solutions.

When you dive down and examine the hidden parts of the iceberg, what do you find?  Will you discover a belief that allowing your dog to change his mind about what he wants to do is just too permissive? It can be scary to change!

Teaching your dog how to make transitions between activities, to change his mind willingly and switch from one activity to the next when you ask, makes "leave-it" unnecessary and irrelevant.

Here are a few examples of transitions between activities that you can ask your dog to make.

  1. Play a game of tug. Ask your dog to lie down for 5 seconds. Resume the Game.
  2. Call your dog to you.  Take your dog to a hidden reward.  Call your dog to return to you.
  3. Play fetch.  Ask your dog to go to his "place".  Send your dog to fetch.

 The transitions in these 3 examples demonstrate that the dog is being asked to shift from arousal to calm cooperation.  But all the activities are positively reinforced.  Arousal is more fun for the dog, so it's important to make the cooperation just as rewarding.  

Teaching your dog to transition to cooperation when you ask, is how you replace the aversive "leave-it" punishment.  

It takes a mindset shift for you and also for your dog who might have learned to expect punishment for some choices. The changes are not accomplished in a day, so if you choose to take on the task, you have to believe that it's worth the effort!  

Here are some of the "what-if's":

  • Deciding that you will ask your dog instead of commanding him, might make you feel that you are giving up control. 
  • What if you ask your dog and he ignores you?
  • Don't you have to punish the dog so he knows what's wrong and will stop doing it?

 All legit questions.  I get it! You need clarification! 

How exactly can you teach a transition without using force, or doing the opposite and using a bribe?

I can help you with that!  When you're on my email list you not only receive these weekly training tips, but you also have the ability to hit reply and ask me a question or react to the information.  

In my last 2 emails to the people on my list, I've offered a limited number of free one-on-one clarification calls to the first people to ask for one.

Teaching transitions is a huge topic, but we can zero in on something specific (your choice) so that you will come away with clarity about one thing you can do right away to get a concrete result that works for you.

The call is completely free - no strings. 

When you sign up for emails, you'll also receive another freebie - an eBook about teaching manners and having fun!

Get your free eBook plus the chance for a free one-on-one phone call to find out what you can do to get solutions to the doggie questions on your mind today!

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