How to Teach the “Leave It” Command

Sit is the most basic of commands.  It is also the easiest to learn for a dog, as it is one of their natural positions.  To teach sit, you must have a high-value treat in your hand (hot dog, liver, chicken, bacon, etc).  First, put your hand two inches from your dogs nose.  Then, raise your hand on a 45 degree angle above the dogs head, causing his head to lift upwards to follow the treat.  As your dog moves his head toward the treat, move your hand (with the treat) straight back until your dog sits in order to reach the treat.  AS SOON AS THEIR BUTT HITS THE GROUND, SAY “YES!”, Then, reward.


The “Yes!” is very important – actually, equally as important as the treat.  The “Yes!” let’s the dog know he did something good and a reward is on the way.


After doing the above a dozen times, take a break for a while, say 10 minutes. Then proceed with the sit command, except this time you will take the treat out of the hand that lure’s him back into a sit position. Once your dog sits, say “Yes!” and reward him from the other hand.

Note:  never push your dog’s hind end down physically. It’s intimidating and also can lead to confusion as to what you want him to do.  I mentioned that Yes! should come as soon as your dog’s butt hits the floor.  You also want to treat your pup before he attempts to stand or you will have to go through the motions all over.


Capturing a sit:  Whenever your pup sits matter of factly, capture the good behavior with a “Yes!” and treat.  In general, capturing a good behavior without asking for it is very powerful in the learning process.  Be ready with those treats!


Finally, we want your pup to remain in the sit position until freed.  This will take time.  At first, you will reward whenever a sit occurs.  After time, you will reward on the sit, but also after an extended period of time remaining in the sit position.  The process (with leash attached):


  1. You say “sit”
  2. Dog sits
  3. You say “Yes!”
  4. You give dog a treat (note the timing of the “Yes!” is more important than the timing of the treat)
  5. Wait 1 second and if your dog is still sitting, say “Yes!” and treat, then free your dog (say “OK!”)
  6. Wait 2 seconds and if your dog remains in a sit you say “Yes!” and treat, then free your dog
  7. Wait longer and longer and then move further and further away
  8. If your pup gets up, say No! and bring him back to the spot of the sit with your leash and say sit
  9. Do not reward after returning your pup to the sit location, only reward on the extended amount of time he stays seated.
  10. If your dog stands again, go back to waiting just 1 second before rewarding and build up time and distance again. Eventually he will understand that sit means sit until freed.
  11. Don’t forget to free your dog after he has sat for whatever length of time you are looking for (“OK!”).
  12. Practice the sit with implied stay 10 minutes a day for at least 6 months. Don’t worry, your dog will like the game as long as there are treats.
  13. After 6 months, you can replace the treats with praise, but also filter in some treats from time to time, kind of like a slot machine that sometimes pays out.

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