Teaching Your Dog Impulse Control: Mastering the “Leave It” Command

Impulse control is crucial for a well-behaved dog. It ensures your furry friend can resist temptations, making daily life safer and more enjoyable. One essential command to achieve this is “Leave It.” Here’s a comprehensive guide to teaching your dog this important skill.

Impulse Control in Dogs

Understanding Impulse Control in Dogs

Impulse control is the ability to resist immediate urges and wait for a more appropriate response. For dogs, this could mean ignoring a dropped piece of food, resisting the urge to chase a squirrel, or waiting patiently for their meal. Mastering impulse control helps prevent accidents and enhances your dog’s overall behavior.

Why “Leave It” is Important

The “Leave It” command teaches your dog to ignore distractions and focus on you. This command is vital for safety, preventing your dog from eating harmful substances or engaging in dangerous behaviors. It’s also a cornerstone of good manners, helping your dog behave appropriately in various situations.

Getting Started with “Leave It”

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

You’ll need the following:

  • High-value treats
  • A clicker (optional, but helpful)
  • A quiet training environment

Step 2: Introduce the Command

  1. Show the Treat: Hold a treat in your closed fist.
  2. Give the Command: Say “Leave It” in a clear, firm voice.
  3. Wait for the Response: Your dog will likely sniff, lick, or paw at your hand. Be patient.
  4. Reward the Behavior: The moment your dog stops trying to get the treat and looks away or backs off, reward them with a different treat from your other hand and use a clicker if you’re using one.

Step 3: Practice Makes Perfect

Repeat this process several times. Consistency is key. Gradually increase the duration your dog must ignore the treat before receiving the reward. This reinforces their understanding of the command.

Advancing the Training

Step 4: Open Hand Practice

Once your dog constantly leaves the treat in your closed fist, progress to an open hand.

  1. Hold the Treat Open: Place the treat in your open palm.
  2. Repeat the Command: Say “Leave It.”
  3. Reward for Ignoring: If your dog tries to take it, close your hand. When they back off, reward them with a different treat.

Step 5: Placing the Treat on the Floor

  1. Place the Treat: Put a treat on the floor and cover it with your hand.
  2. Give the Command: Say “Leave It.”
  3. Reveal and Reward: If your dog tries to get the treat, cover it again. When they ignore it, reward them with a different treat.

Adding Distractions

Step 6: Increase the Challenge

Start introducing more distractions. Use different treats, toys, or objects your dog finds interesting. Practice in various environments to generalize the behavior.

Step 7: Real-World Applications

Use the “Leave It” command during walks, at the park, or when visitors come over. Reinforce the behavior in real-life situations to ensure your dog responds reliably.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Issue 1: Dog Ignores the Command

If your dog ignores the command, go back a step. Ensure they’re fully understanding the basics before advancing.

Issue 2: Dog Gets Frustrated

Keep training sessions short and positive. If your dog gets frustrated, take a break and try again later.

Consistency is Key

Consistent practice is essential for mastering impulse control. Regular training sessions, positive reinforcement, and patience will yield the best results.


Teaching your dog the “Leave It” command is a valuable investment in their training. It enhances their impulse control, ensuring they stay safe and well-behaved in various situations. With patience and practice, you’ll have a dog that listens and respects boundaries, making life together more enjoyable.

For more tips and professional dog training services, visit us at Pawz For Health Dog Training in in Silver Spring, MD. We’re here to help you and your furry friend achieve success!

Posted in: Blog, Dog Impulse Control

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