Leave It-Mine Until told Otherwise

"Don't put food on the coffee table," "you can't put food on the table," "it has to be out of reach."  These are a few statements that I've heard over the years and there have been many, many more with regards to dogs stealing food.  Do you wish you could sit on the floor and eat a sandwich?  Wouldn't it be great to have a picnic on a blanket without having to tie your dog to a tree?  Eating dinner on the coffee table while watching a great movie may be just a fleeting "that would be nice" idea for you.  

So how do you get to a place where you are not longer trying to keep your dog from stealing any available food?  

Simple, the leave it exercise is how you accomplish this.  It doesn't matter what word you use for this exercise; “don’t touch, off, mine, not yours,” etc. etc.  My word it “leave it” for the leave it exercise and I have been teaching it for many years. 

But the leave it exercise is really just the beginning of “what’s mine is mine until told otherwise.”  Teaching and instilling the idea that you own the food is a good idea when living with dogs. 

When you teach and work on “leave it” as a way of life, not just an obedience exercise; there are wonderful fallout behaviors that occur.  See the above photo of Elsa?  I didn’t say anything to her about the food that was placed right beside her.  She knows not to touch it because it is mine; it is as simple as that.  Is she fearful or cowering because I own and dispense the food?  Nope, she just waits until I (the boss) tells her that she can have some. 

Creating boundaries with dogs is a good thing.  Dogs are opportunists; give them an inch...well you know.  Manners are extremely important; both for us and our dogs.  I do not like chaos; the type of free for all type behavior in dogs or in humans for that matter.  I am not a control freak, I just do not like when things get out of control.  

So when I sit on the floor with a snack, I do not want to be fighting to keep my food away from my dog.  It is simple to instill rules; you just have to want to and then implement.  Of course it must be consistent; wavering or allowing behaviors will weaken the rules.  (This can happen when someone in the family lowers the bar as far as enforcing rules and allowing inappropriate behaviors.  Not mentioning any names.)

"Leave it" is an important rule of life.  It starts with just the item that you are saying should be left and grows into much more.  From the beginning of learning the "leave it" to making it a way of life; it is one of the most important things that you can teach a dog.  I for one love the fallout behaviors that come with a very solid "leave it."