"Leave It" On Floor (Companion Article to Video)

If you watched my video titled ‘ “Leave It” On Floor ‘ you saw me demonstrate three steps of positive reinforcement only training in the first section and then 1 step combining corrections and +R training in the second section. This demonstration was fluid and contained few errors from the dog. I’m going to expand on each section and every step for you below describing some scenarios you may encounter as you work with your own dog. This text is meant to relieve your frustrations  as well as offer some insight into what you saw in the video. 


In the first step within the first section I demonstrate your first task in teaching the dog a “new” trick. While the “leave it” command should not be new to your dog if you are attempting “treat-on-floor”, the specificity of the exercise contains a new element. Up until this point you’ve not presented the treat outside of your possession if you’ve followed my procedure of first teaching the command with a closed hand and later an open hand. Most dogs will not perform as well as Mickey performed in the exercise on the first attempt. Most dogs will be rendered deaf by the sight of a treat out of your possession and within their reach. Keep your hand close by. Simply cover the treat when they move toward it. Remove your hand exposing the treat when they retreat. Repeat. For dogs that cannot contain themselves you may ask them to sit/stay or down/stay prior to commanding them to leave it to help your efforts. You may additionally or alternatively use a leash to help restrain them. After a little effort on your part they will begin to recognize the command and will make attempts to win the game. Once they are calm and focused you may proceed in the manner demonstrated in the video. 


There are two aspects to the first section. In the first step we are merely trying to reinforce the dog’s correct choice in leaving the treat alone by offering them a tangible reward. In the second step we affirm their correct choice verbally only and then we release the treat to them with the release word “okay”. To assure them they are allowed to have the treat we want to move it toward them when saying “okay”. In the third step they demonstrate their assuredness by moving toward the treat to take it when given the release word “okay”.  It is quite common for a dog to not show this assuredness on its first try. That’s quite alright. You can continue to move the treat toward them. You can test their confidence in the release word by moving the treat only a short distance from its original spot toward them until you don’t have to move it at all. 


The second section needs the most explanation and the greatest presentation for troubleshooting. If you’re using a correction collar (choke chain) or prong collar, little explanation is needed. You only want to snap the leash as firmly as necessary to bring about a change in the dog’s direction and hopefully affect his next decision to your liking. It’s always better to start softer and work up to stronger.However, if you find you overdid it with a correction rendering your dog overly cautious, there are a couple things you can do to get them back in the game. One of those things is to change locations. Sometimes a simple change of venue allows the dog to relax and focus. You only need to move to another corner of the room. Another approach is to lean heavy on the adulation. You may also remove the correction or prong collar if you like but I would advise you leave the leash attached to the dog’s everyday collar. You don’t want to draw to large of a distinction. 


If you’re using a remote training collar for the second section all of these tips still apply except one. Do not remove the remote training collar. However, this should not be the first time you use a remote training collar on your dog. My first “leave it” lesson is where you should be applying the use of the remote training collar for the first time but not until the exercise has been performed correctly by the dog through the use of +R training. When choosing your level of correction for the treat-on-floor exercise you should have already discovered your dog’s range through earlier exercises. Start with the lower part of the range and work your way up. I began with 20% of my Dogtra IQ Mini Plus’ power. In the scenario filmed I did not need to increase it. However, it would not be unusual at all for you to need to raise your intensity during this exercise. Here is the rule I follow before increasing the intensity for a particular exercise. I will correct the dog once for three separate attempts at the same level of intensity. If the dog did not change his behavior I will increase the intensity by 10% before attempting a forth time. As a side note, I’m only working with the nick function using my chosen brand and model in this video. I never need the continuous function for this particular exercise. 


Now here’s the most important part. If the dog never fails, you’re only training to 50%. We need the dog to fail so that a correction can be administered allowing the dog to learn not to choose failure. Let me be very clear. This is not about a lack of understanding of the exercise on the dog’s part. This is about controlling impulsivity, keeping ears open and making appropriate decisions. In order to get your dog to fail you have to manipulate the scenario to increase impulsivity without your dog realizing you’ve done so. Look carefully at my last step in the video. I set Mickey up to allow for failure by allowing him to change his position and placing the treat in a more neutral position between the two of us thereby increasing the temptation. Your manipulation must not be so drastic that the dog doesn’t have a chance at succeeding. You’re only trying to increase the likelihood of him giving in to his impulsivity, not make success an impossibility. Always err in the dog’s favor when using corrections for the first time during a particular exercise. You have all the time in the world to move the needle in the direction you’re trying to make it go. End on a win. Make a mental note of how you might make an adjustment for your next session and keep striving for as close to perfection as earthly possible.