April 7, 2016 by The Dog Rules
Does your pooch tend to be a bit of a garbage grabber? You could teach him to give you his prize by offering a “trade” of a favored toy or treat and saying Give. Practice the Give at home using some of his toys. Get him playing with a toy and once he has it in his mouth, either put your open hand under his mouth or gently hold the other end of the toy (watch your fingers) and ask him to Give it to you. When he does say “Good Dog” and then return the toy to him after a few moments. (If you are taking hold of the other end of the toy do not let this turn into a game of tug.) The return could be a toss so that it all becomes a fun game. The point is that you should be able to safely take an object away from your dog. His life may someday depend on it.
What if your garbage grabber snatches something really disgusting that you don’t want to have to handle? Maybe he doesn’t pick up trash; but, barks madly at things like buses or squirrels? Is he a thief who merrily runs off with your glove or sock? Does he have a tendency to fixate on another dog whilst on a walk as the precursor to dog reactive behavior?
This is where the all encompassing command Leave it! comes in to play. It must be delivered with appropriate tone. The intention is to arrest the canine brain process enough to redirect his attention back to you. Of course you must be paying attention to your dog to be able to issue the Leave It before he is too far into the undesired behavior. Once you have his attention you can redirect him to more appropriate behavior. If you are walking a dog that reacts to other dogs with barks or growls you can combine the Leave it with a quick change of direction (away from the other dog) and a cheerful “Let’s go”.
With patience and practice your pooch will learn to Leave It even if you drop something on the floor while cooking. Today I have two kitchen “helpers” who are practicing their self control. My only concern is that I might trip over one of them.