Basic obedience shows your dog how to be a polite and well-behaved member of the family.
But when you teach a Dachshund to “leave it”, you’re also taking an important step towards keeping your dog safe.
I’m not a dog trainer but I do wish to have a well-behaved Dachshund so I’m learning.
For a long time, like a lot of other Dachshund owners, I thought they didn’t need to or couldn’t be trained because of their stubborn nature.
I also thought I had to execute the command perfectly for it to be effective.
I put a lot of pressure on myself and I lacked the confidence that I could clearly communicate to my dog what I wanted her to do.
It turns out Dachshunds are super smart (probably too smart, which is what makes them more challenging to train).
Even with my less-than-stellar dog training skills, my Dachshund Summit started to understand the “leave it” command in just a few days.
I’m happy to share some beginner training tips in case you want to teach your own Dachshund the “leave it” command.
Why Teach Your Dog to Leave It?
Before I get into how to teach your dog to leave it, let’s take a moment to look at why this command is important.
From avoiding a potential dog fight to preventing your dog from eating something poisonous, this simple command could save your dog’s life.
Keep your dog safe at home
Many items around the house could prove dangerous to your dog.
That’s why we keep puppies safely contained in a crate or puppy-proof space until we can teach them not to put everything in their mouths.
When the time comes to allow your dog to move freely in your home, they may occasionally come across something they find tempting.
Be aware of hazards in the home such as anti-freeze, chocolate, and plastic wrap.
Hazards in our homes include toxic foods like chocolate, choking hazards like plastic wrap, and household chemicals like antifreeze.
Each of these items can create a life-threatening situation if ingested.
If you see your dog heading for something dangerous like any of these items, you can tell your dog to “leave it” to help prevent an emergency before it happens.
Prevent emergencies while outdoors
Imagine you are out on a walk, or hiking your local trail, when suddenly you turn a corner and come across garbage that has been tossed aside.
Your Dachshund heads towards the danger goodies on the ground and looks like they are going to try and eat it.
What do you do? What if the garbage is toxic or harmful?
If your dog knows the “leave it” command, you can say this so your dog stops trying to eat whatever it is.
This can prevent the ingestion of harmful substances or at least buy you a few seconds to pull your dog away from whatever it is.
But the leave it command isn’t just for garbage!
Other uses for the leave it command are:
- To help prevent your dog from eating poisonous plants or mushrooms.
- If your dog encounters another dog while on your walk and you don’t want your dog to approach them.
- If your dog wants to chase a squirrel or wildlife that could be a threat to your dog.
The leave it command could prevent a dangerous situation for you and your dog.
It can help prevent your dog from pursuing critters and putting themselves in a dangerous situation (like running into the road).
It also allows you to disengage your dog and remove them safely from the situation before it has a chance to escalate to a dog fight or animal attack.
Teach Impulse Control
A dog that learns proper impulse control is going to behave much calmer in a home setting.
They aren’t as needy, constantly demanding everything they want at the moment, or as likely to run out the door.
Teaching the leave it command is also good for your dog’s mental health.
If your dog doesn’t get what they’re asking for immediately, they won’t experience the same level of frustration when you use the command because they have been taught to wait.
Impulse control is essential for your dog at home and in social settings.
Learning impulse control is also important in social settings both with people and other dogs.
If you bring a dog to the dog park (find out if you should take your dog to the dog park here), they need to show some level of self-control to avoid aggravating the other dogs and causing a fight.
The leave it command is also a useful tool to help to teach your dog to control unwanted behaviors like leash pulling, barking, growling, and lunging.
The Leave It Vs. Drop It Command
The “leave it” and “drop it” commands are often used interchangeably, but it’s important to understand when to use each one.
They are similar, but not quite the same.
“Leave it” is used to prevent a situation from happening. It asks your dog to turn their attention away from something and back to you.
For example, if your dog is walking toward the coffee table to steal food off your plate, you can give the “leave it” command to ask them to turn away from the plate and avoid the problem entirely.
“Drop it” is used when your dog has already picked something up and you would like them to take it out of their mouth.
For example, if you are on a walk with your dog and they pick up a piece of garbage. By telling them to “drop it”, you ask them to release the garbage and leave it behind.
I haven’t successfully trained my Dachshund to drop it yet (although I have had limited success with “give” to get her to let go of something) so I won’t address it in this article.
How to Teach a Dachshund to Leave It
Whether you are planning on bringing a new dog into your home or considering training your current dog new things, I have good news. Your dog can learn to leave it at any age!
Yes, you can teach ‘old dogs new tricks’, contrary to popular belief…
The one difference between teaching a young puppy and an older dog is that it may take a little longer for an older dog to pick up on the training.
It’s no different than education for children versus adults.
Regardless of your dog’s age, you can do this!
To help you get started, here is a breakdown of how to teach a dog to leave it, step-by-step.
Step One: Create a Foundation for the Command
To begin, you will need a high-value training treat that has an enticing scent or a piece of dog-friendly food like chicken.
- Take a treat in each hand.
- Hold one behind your back and hold the other in your closed fist in front of you.
- Allow your dog to sniff your hand and discover the treat and sniff or dig at your hand (but don’t give them the treat)
- Whenever your dog turns away from your hand, even if they just look at you for a second, praise them with a “Yes!” and give the treat from behind your back.
Be sure to only give the treat from behind your back as giving the treat you want your dog to leave can send a mixed message.
Continue to do this, reinforcing the behavior with praise and a reward.
Step Two: Introduce the “Leave It” Command
Once your dog has started to figure out that they only get rewarded when they take their attention off of something, the next step is to introduce the command itself.
There are a few different options to give the “leave it” cue for dogs and deciding which is best is a matter of personal preference.
You can teach the “leave it” command by saying it verbally or doing a hand signal.
Many dog owners prefer to use verbal commands in training. This would mean simply saying “Leave It”.
Others choose to use a hand signal or combine a hand signal with a verbal command.
This allows you to give the command at a distance without shouting and to train dogs that may have hearing difficulties.
The most common “leave it” hand signal for dogs is to hold your hand flat and sideways making a karate chop type motion up and down.
Start by making this motion between your dog and the treat like a clear barrier to help him understand the connection.
You won’t be able to hold a second treat behind your back if you do this though so tuck the treat into a pocket or treat pouch so it can easily be accessed when the reward should be given (the timing of the marker word is more important than how fast you give the treat reward here).
Whichever command you choose, they are introduced in the same way.
- Hold your closed hand out with the treat inside
- Allow your dog to sniff your hand and discover the treat and sniff or dig at your hand (but don’t give them the treat)
- Whenever your dog turns away from the treat hand, even if they just look at you for a second, speak and/or sign the “leave it” command, then immediately give praise and a reward.
Repeat this until your dog can make a clear connection between the command and the behavior that you are trying to teach.
You can then try giving the command and rewarding your dog when they respond by turning away.
Step Three: Reveal the Temptation
When your dog reliably responds to the “leave it” command with your closed hand, it’s time to make the training a little more challenging.
You can do this by opening your hand to show the treat.
Your dog is going to be tempted to take the treat, so be prepared to close your hand if needed.
Open your hand revealing the treat and give the command.
As soon as you see your dog turn away from it, praise and reward them.
Step Four: Begin to Add Distance and Movement
Up to this point, you have been teaching your dog to leave an item in your hand alone.
But the reality is the items that you want your dog to avoid will often be laying on the ground.
There are two different scenarios you will want to recreate in your training
- Telling your dog to leave it when walking or hiking on-leash.
- Telling your dog to leave it when they are outdoors with you but not necessarily right by your side.
Instead of holding the treat in your hand, place it on the ground.
Be prepared to put your hand or foot over it to stop your dog from getting to it in the beginning.
You’ll slowly put space between your dog and the treat as they learn the “leave it” command.
As your training continues, slowly start putting distance between you and the treat, giving the “leave it” command.
Always have a second treat ready for the reward when your dog listens.
You don’t want to teach them that they only have to leave it until praised and then they can take whatever is on the ground (this is why you give a different reward than what you asked them to leave).
For on-leash training, place the treat on the ground and walk your dog past on leash giving the command.
Don’t slow down or stop next to the treat, keep moving past rewarding your dog when you are past the treat without touching it.
Step Five: Practice with Other Objects
Of course, food isn’t the only thing that you may want to tell your dog to leave alone.
To reinforce this idea, it’s time to start training your dog with other objects. This could include toys, garbage, or even other animals.
Start training with less tempting items and work your way up to the items that your dog will be drawn to most. This will differ from dog to dog.
Remember to praise your dog with something different than the item they were told to leave.
If you are training with a toy, praise your dog with a treat or another toy. This will help to make your expectations clear.
Step Six: Take Your Dog’s Training to New Locations
Learning a command at home is one thing, but you want your dog to listen to the command when you’re out in the real world.
The only way to teach this is to take your training sessions to new locations.
Try training your dog in your yard, at your local park, or at your favorite dog-friendly café.
Each of these locations will introduce new distractions so be patient as your dog learns to ignore them and respond properly to their new training.
It might feel like starting from square one again until your dog learns to apply the command learned at home in this new context.
Step Seven: Phase Out the Treat
Finally, it’s time to phase the treat out of your training.
Up to this point, the treat was your dog’s main motivation to listen but you want them to listen even if you don’t have a treat close at hand.
Start by only giving a treat every other time you do the command.
Make sure you give your dog plenty of verbal praise and attention.
When you aren’t giving a treat, give your dog plenty of praise both verbally and with your attention.
If your dog is highly play-driven, you can also reward them with a mini play session.
Teaching Leave It with Clicker Training
When deciding how to teach a Dachshund to leave it, you may also want to incorporate clicker training.
Clicker training refers to the use of a clicking sound or “mark” to identify a wanted behavior instead of a verbal marker word such as “yes!”
The click is created using a small handheld device like the Starmark Pro-Training Clicker for Dogs.
Teaching “leave it” with a clicker is almost the same as the process I shared above.
The big difference is that the clicker helps to communicate exactly what you want from your dog in a way that is more distinct and precise than your voice.
Before learning how to teach “leave it” with the clicker, you must teach your dog what the clicker means.
This is often referred to as “loading the clicker”.
To do this, click and then immediately give your dog a treat. Repeat this approximately 10 to 20 times.
Your Dachshund will start to associate the click sound with rewards and anticipate that a click means a treat is coming.
Returning to the instructions above, when your dog turns away from the treat in your hand you would click the moment that they turn away.
This makes it clear exactly which behavior you are rewarding and can help to speed up the training process.
Note: juggling a great in one hand, a treat behind the back, and keeping a clicker accessible enough to click at the exact moment your dog looks away takes some skill. You may need to practice with the clicker a few times first.
Final Thoughts on Teaching Your Dachshund the Leave It Command
Creating a well-trained Dachshund is possible.
Most Dachshunds are smart enough that they can pick up new commands in a few 5 minute training sessions (you should always keep them short).
The leave it command is one of the most important commands you can teach your dog.
Saying the command can help keep your dog safe from eating harmful substances or objects, negative interactions with other dogs, confronting dangerous wildlife, and acting on impulse and putting themselves in dangerous situations like running into the street.