Dogs quickly learn that some of the best treats come from the human table, even if you never offer your pet table scraps. Some dogs can be quite aggressive when they see the opportunity to grab your food, but many are a little more laid back, content to sniff, and, if unattended, grab a bite or wait for something to fall to the floor. You don't want to guard your food constantly, and you don't want your dog's nose stuck in your plate, even if he refrains from eating anything. Teach your dog the "leave it" command, so he learns to keep his nose to himself.
Tip #1 - Hold a treat in each hand. Extend the treat in your LEFT hand. When your dog reaches for it, say "leave it" and close your hand. Wait for your dog to stop trying to get to the treat and look at you. When he does this, praise him and offer the treat in your RIGHT hand. Repeat the process until he automatically looks at you when you say “leave it.”
Tip #2 - Train "leave it" while standing. This is a little trickier, but it more closely resembles a real-world scenario. Drop a treat on the floor, close to your foot. When he comes over to investigate, step on the treat and tell him to leave it. When he backs off and looks at you, reward him with a treat from your hand. As he gets more trustworthy, vary the scenario, dropping the treat behind you or to the side but close enough that you can block his access if necessary.
Tip #3 - Leave food out to challenge him. Now is the time to put your dog to the test. Set a sandwich, cookie or other human treat that would typically interest him on a coffee table or other low spot where it is sure to catch his attention. Walk your dog through the room on a loose leash. When your dog makes a move toward the food, give him the “leave it” command. If he backs off and looks at you, give him a treat. If he is more interested in the snack, give his leash a firm tug and walk away. By repeating this scenario over several days, with different foods and in different rooms, your dog will understand that he is to leave all food alone, unless it is offered to him from your hand or in his food dish.
Tip: Never give your dog the treat you have told him to leave. Have another treat available. If you are caught unaware during the training process and don't have anything else to offer him, simply praise him and give him a pat.
By Stephanie Dube Dwilson
About the Author
With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.