My dogs have what you might call “quirks.”

Once when I was walking Daisy, she decided to roll in a dead squirrel. Another time on a hike, she decided to bring the bone of a dead animal home with her. Rosie, on the other hand, is a thief. She likes to steal toys from other dogs and if you’re not paying attention, she just may lift some food off your plate.

But I’ve found a way to cope with these devious (and sometimes disgusting) behaviors with two words: leave it. Leave it is a way of telling your dog, “this is not for you – carry on.” And the great thing? You can teach the command in some simple steps. Here’s my method.

Teach Your Dog to Leave It

Step 1: Pick out their favorite treat.

Step 2: Put the treat on the floor. The treat should be far enough away from your dog that if they start to come for it, you can cover it with your hand.

Step 3: Say “leave it” and cover the treat up if your dog attempts to steal it.

Step 4: Keep trying. Eventually your dog will see that they need your permission to have the treat. Once they ignore the treat and look at you for direction instead, give them another identical treat and say “good leave it!”

Step 5: Continue to work on this until they have mastered the activity. This may take several sessions – don’t rush it!

Step 6: Once they have mastered this, try the activity again, but place the treat a little bit closer to your pup. Slowly, you should be able to eventually place the treat very close to your dog – maybe even on top of their paw. Remember to always praise, and cover that treat up with your hand if your dog tries to cheat!

Take Leave It to the Next Level

Daisy is a fetch dog. And when I say Daisy is a fetch dog, I mean that she lives and breathes “ball.” She will do anything for ball. So, I decided to start working on Daisy’s impulse control by throwing her ball and asking her to leave it.

Because Daisy is so in love with her ball, asking her to “leave it” is an amazing way for us to work on her self control. But she does it.

Before you attempt an activity like this, it is necessary to have a solid leave it command. Try setting the ball or toy on the ground and ask your dog to leave it. When they listen to you, praise and reward them by throwing the ball or toy.

When your dog becomes a pro at this, start throwing the ball or toy short distances and asking them to leave it. Again, praise profusely and reward them when they get it right. Eventually, you will be able to throw the ball or toy a long distance with your dog successfully able to leave it. When they do, never forget to eventually release them, allowing them to get that dang ball!