Teaching Take It, Leave It & Drop It

7 02 2009

open-palm-treatTAKE IT:

This is probably the easiest command to teach a dog, and it is certainly the easiest of these three commands.  On a very basic level, whatever you have to give him is given to him with the words “TAKE IT.”  Pretty easy, huh?

  1. Take your dog’s favorite treat and close your hand around it.
  2. Let the dog smell the treat as he or she sniffs around your hand for a few seconds.
  3. Open your hand and before he or she gobbles that treat down, give the command “TAKE IT.”

Something important to note here is that you should allow your dog to TAKE IT off the center of your flat palm.  If you try to give it to him or her among your fingers, you will more than likely have a run in with some teeth.  Only allow him to TAKE IT off of your palm.  Wash, rinse, repeat, just like the doggie shampoo.


Mom says that “LEAVE IT” means “do not look at it, do not smell it, do not touch it and you had better not even think about TAKING IT.  It is not your treat, toy, etc. until I tell you it is yours!”  This is probably one the hardest command for dogs to learn.  We do not understand why we cannot just take something, but rules are rules, and humans love to have rules about stuff.

  1. Take a treat (probably not his or her favorite this time), and put it in your hand.
  2. When your dog comes over to smell your hand, tell him “LEAVE IT.”  The first few times you do this, you dog will give you the most confused look, because a dog does not immediately understand LEAVE IT, and he may begin to paw at your hand or nudge it with his nose.
  3. Simply pull your hand back away from the dog and say: LEAVE IT.
  4. Once it appears that your dog has almost lost interest in the treat, open your hand and command “TAKE IT,” off of your flat palm.

As with all training exercises, this needs to be repeated for your dog to fully grasp what you desire him or her to do.  That means you need to practice, practice, practice.

While you are digesting all of these steps, this is a good time to talk about some facts about training your dog.  When you give a command like, SIT, how many times should you say the command?  JUST ONCE!  Most people believe that if they say “SIT, SIT, SIT, SIT,” getting louder and louder and more frustrated because their dog looks at them like they just grew a third leg in the middle of their head, rather than SIT.  This simply does not work, because the dog truly does not understand what is expected of him.  In this case, Mom or Dad must go back and re-teach him the SIT command.  It is also possible that your dog has observed to learn how many times you will say SIT or yell SIT until you are too fed up to continue.  They can tell this by the tone in your voice, how your breathing gets heavier, and how your heart beats faster.  This all occurs as you get more and more frustrated.  Right before you give up, your dog SITS.  You are amazed, and you shower him or her with treats and attention.  Why do you do that?  It further reinforces that type of behavior, and you dog still does not SIT on command.  You end up with the racing heartbeat, heavy breathing, and stressed vocal cords, because your dog did not SIT the first time you said it.  You should be amazed (and shower him or her with even more treats and attention) when he does SIT the first time you say it.  Once you are sure that your dog knows what action is required of him when he hears the word SIT, it should only be commanded one time.

When Mom says SIT to me, my butt hits the floor REALLY FAST.  If did not, she would use the treat and lure me back into the SIT position.  Here comes the rough part, because I did the work eventually, but she keeps the treat.  Yes, I do look at her like she forgot something, but I learned that if I want that treat, my butt better hit the ground anytime the word SIT is directed at me.  Eventually, dogs learn to just SIT in front of a human without being prompted, and good things will happen.  There might not be a treat every time, but it is worth the minimal effort of SITTING for the chance.  In addition to treats, I work for hugs and the proud voice Mom uses when I do good stuff.


DROP IT means whatever is in your mouth better come out now, mister!  When a human says DROP IT, they really want you get whatever you have out of your mouth.  When a dog is learning to DROP IT, he is not just going to spit it out when a human says those words.  If the human grabs whatever is in the mouth and starts pulling, well, now we think that DROP IT means LET’S PLAY TUG OF WAR!  Mom taught me to DROP IT with a rope toy that had been soaked in chicken bouillon broth…  Very tasty toy.  Mom would give me part of it by saying TAKE IT and I would put it in my mouth.  She never took her hand off of the toy either, because if she let go I would probably run away with it.  Once I got the toy in my mouth good, Mom would say DROP IT while giving the toy a little tug.  While she was saying DROP IT and giving that little tug, she would show me what she was prepared to trade me for the toy, and it was always something real good.  At first, we traded toys for treats,  and as I got older, we traded toys for other toys.  Now I know that DROP IT means “whatever is in your mouth better come out NOW, mister!”

Sometimes it is rough being a grown up!



4 responses

8 02 2009
Karina A.

Spike, this is great advice. Would you recommend touching the back when you say “Sit”? I’ve had a lot of suggestions from pet parents that this always works but in my years of experience dealing with behavior I’ve found that physical touch is a no-no (especially for a simple instruction like sit). What do you think? By the way, excellent steps for Taking It!

13 02 2009


That is a great suggestion, and it can work. The reward of the treat manipulates the sitting behavior without having a physical touch, making it easier to have your dog sit without associating the touch (& attention) with the act of sitting. I purposely leave it out of any teaching of the SIT command for that purpose.

Thanks for the addition to the conversation,

22 02 2009
Trying To Find The Inner Alpha « Ask Spike Online

[…] your dog has a leash on, you can step on the leash at the first sign of aggression and tell her to LEAVE IT.  This also gives the cat a chance to run away or pop the dog in the head with a claw should they […]

21 03 2009
Teaching (Go To Your) “PLACE” And “PARK IT” Command « Ask Spike Online

[…] 03 2009 So far, we have discussed many different basic training commands, SIT, COME when called, TAKE IT, LEAVE IT, DROP IT, Potty Training, HEEL, and STAY and WAIT.  This would be the final command necessary to complete a […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: