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Two of the Three Life Saving Cues, That Every Dog Should Know


Two Life Saving Basic Commands That Every Dog or Puppy Should Know

Even if you never train your dog to do anything except poop in the back yard, here are two things that rank right up in the top ten, in terms importance. They could literally save your dog’s life.  And the best part is they really do not take a lot of your time. So don’t use that old, “I just don’t have the time” as an excuse. We are potentially talking life and death here. Find the time. It should only take a little break in your day to train this behavior.

Teaching these commands can keep you puppy or adult dog from doing something  which could cause irreparable harm, i.e. doggie is in the yard and ready eat the contents of the trash can that tumbled over, or on a walk he picked up some germy, disgusting thing that should have been left alone.

The “Leave It” Command

Let’s set Fluffy up for a lesson. Beforehand, place something on the floor that you know Fluffy would find tempting.  Now, with Fluffy on his leash, walk by your little trap. You need quick reflexes for this. When Fluffy goes to pick up the item, a short, quick command “leave it” should break his attention and look at you long enough for you to instantly click and treat and praise. Use a very high valued treat, something that is way better than what you denied him of having.

(If you have no idea what click and treat is about, see my article on “Operant Conditioning a/k/a Clicker Training” on the web site, Home Page .)

Now, I understand everyone does not possess the reflexes and timing to pull this off. If you are one of those, (no biggie, everyone can’t do everything) when you see him reach for the tempting thing on the floor, a little tug of the lead should help convince him to look your way. You still need some timing to click the moment he looks away from the bait.  Remember a LITTLE TUG.

Set him up as often as you can to practice this little exercise, until you feel like you lost a fish.


Here is another blockbuster to help this command along. It also works well for dogs who “mug” your hand knowing a treat is forthcoming.

Hold a yummy treat in your closed hand. When he tries to get through your closed fingers, don’t let him have it, but once again command “leave it.” When he stops mugging your hand, if only for a moment, click, treat and praise. Practice this until he will make no effort to get the treat until released with the click.

The “Drop It” Command

Again this is another set up. Put a non-food item on the floor (obviously, not anything dangerous or something that is his) that is tempting enough to get attention. Then let Fluffy pick it up. As soon as he does, say, “drop it” and offer him an irresistible treat. Fluffy should think of it as sort of a swap. I say drop it and when you “drop it” then you get this great, yummy treat. And as a bonus, besides the yummy treat, you get this other toy thing as a substitute, which is way neater than what you had.

If Fluffy isn’t buying the whole swap for treat barter ploy, the treat was not good enough for to him to warrant the trade. Next time you should raise the bar on your side of the treat deal.

If he takes off, claiming possession of the item, don’t go running after him. That will definitely put him in play mode and since you are not in the mood for play mode right now, you walk away and get something that is way over the top in terms of a great tasting goodie. Just sit down and start to eat it (pretend to eat it, if it’s a dog treat, unless you enjoy eating dog treats, then bon appetite) talk up the treat in your best “this is great food” voice, all the while calling Fluffy over. When he buys into the ruse and comes over, then give the “drop it” command again. Since he can’t hold on to the forbidden thing and eat, he will drop it. At that second, click, treat, and praise, once he has downed the treat, hand him a play toy or chewy.

Actually, there is one other have to have behavior, in terms of importance: the recall, or “come” command. There is a detailed explanation of this training elsewhere on this site .

Have fun with this.


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