Leave It and Tolerating Frustration
‘Leave it’ is a very commonly used request, and some puppies even think it is their second name!
For this exercise, we are not going to use a clicker as you are going to need two hands as the exercise progresses. Instead you can use a verbal ‘click’ such as the word ‘good.’
Firstly, you are going to hold your treat in a closed hand and present it to the dog. The dog will attempt to get the treat out of your hand.
The second that they quit, move away or back up, you are going to mark this with a verbal ‘good’ and open your hand and reward with the treat
After several repetitions, you will see that as your present the closed food hand towards the dog, it will immediately move or back away. At this point, you know that they knows the rules of the game and you can start to introduce your cue ‘leave / leave it/ leave that’. As you present your hand towards the dog give the ‘leave’ cue only once and then as they back off, mark and reward with a treat.
This is a very simple and easy way to start the exercise; however as soon as this understanding has taken place it is important that we move the exercise on so we can apply it to the real world.
In 99% of real life situations when you ask your dog to leave something, you are not then going to let them have it. So they need to learn that there are some things in life that you just can’t have. This can be very frustrating and dogs need to learn what we call frustration tolerance.
Imagine if you are walking down the street and you come across a half-eaten kebab on the pavement or passing geese by the lake, you are not going to ask your dog to leave it and then let it have it because it left it. We are going to teach them that if you leave one thing, you can have something else instead.
This time, you are going to hold out your closed hand with the treat in and ask the dog to leave it. As they back away, you are going to mark with a verbal ‘good’ and this time, you are going to reward them with a different treat from your pocket with the other hand.
After a few repetitions, they should start to lose interest in the treat in the closed hand and start to position itself nearer the hand that is delivering the alternative treat. This is what you are aiming to achieve. The dog has now decided that it is not interested any more in what you have asked it to leave but is instead more interested in what you have to offer.
This is frustration tolerance. The dog that remains at the closed hand is one that has poor frustration tolerance because it has not quit or forgotten about what it cannot have. On the other hand, the dog that leaves and moves to the side where you are rewarding has good frustration tolerance. This exercise will help you to understand your dog better. Accepting that there are things that you cannot have when you really want them can be tough.
The next stage would be to see if you can gradually start to move the treat in the closed hand closer to the floor whilst you are rewarding the dog with treats from your pocket for leaving it. You need to do this in small increments, e.g. move your hand down one inch, mark and reward, another inch, mark and reward, and so on.
Once you can eventually get the treat in your hand on to the floor, you can progress to having the treat on the floor with your hand over it and then start to see if you can move your hand away.
If the puppy moves to try and steal the treat, it is important that you are quicker than they are and that you put your hand back over the treat before the dog can get it.
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Copyright © 2019 Jane Ardern BSc (Hons)