Take it or Leave it – everywhere and anything

If your puppy has understood the “Take it or Leave it” concept it is time to generalise the behaviour to other items and new location. To move to this step, you must be confident that your puppy will leave the food if you are in standing position and not guarding the food, or you are positioned away from the food but in your puppy’s peripheral vision.

In the video I am swapping the food for toys with Manouk. Toys are highly rewarding for Manouk. It requires a lot of self-control for him to leave a toy (just like me with chocolate). Once I have swapped from food to toys, I am taking the behaviour out and about in a walk.

There is a huge learning curve from playing the game in a room to taking it outside on a walk, so build the progression in little steps.

Start to engage in the game with something your puppy loves, such as a toy, a sock, a leaf, you choose. Also vary your environment; play the game in a different room or the garden.

“Leave it” is particularly useful to avoid having your puppy take food unsolicited.  Options to help train this can be to start to introduce the “Leave it” with food placed on a low table or a chair and on kitchen surfaces. Practicing this game regularly will teach your puppy not to take food off any surface in the house.

You will have a challenge on week 8 so keep practicing!

Take it or Leave it

The “Take it or Leave it” game introduces the concept of not touching food or objects. This can be food that has been left on a low table, food on the floor or even a leaf or a stick when out on a walk.

You will start by doing a “food prison” with your hand by putting some very tasty food in your hand but keeping your hand closed. Your puppy will want a taste of this food, so let your puppy investigate your hand. Be very patient, it can take some time to show an interest.

As soon as your puppy gives up investigating a little bit or stops sniffing just for even half a second or tries to make eye contact with you click and reward from the other hand.  Never reward using the treat that you are trying to make your puppy leave.

When your puppy starts to leave the food in your closed hand consistently, you can move to the next stage.

Start to open your hand a little bit and if your puppy leaves the food, click and reward from the other hand. You can use a secondary word such as “Take it” when you give the reward treat so your puppy does not have to guess when / which food to take or leave.

If your puppy tries to have a taste of the food in the open hand, close your hand on the food whilst saying “Leave it”. Try to say the world in a calm manner, like a non-event really. Do not put any pressure or emphasis on the word.

If your puppy is not trying to get a taste of the food in the hand, then click and give it a reward, coming from the other hand whilst saying “Take it”.

Do not try to test your puppy’s patience at that stage, we are just at the beginning of the learning curve. Reward your puppy quickly enough for choosing to leave the food, if the reward is too slowly given there’s a chance it will attempt to go for the food that we want it to leave.

I like balancing the “Leave it” with the “Take it” as I do not think it is fair for the puppy to have to guess when to take the food and when to leave it.

Do not give any of the food you asked the puppy to leave. The reward treat needs to come from somewhere else to avoid any type of anticipation at this stage.