Teaching Leave It Verbal Cue 

Age appropriate:You can start introducing this verbal cue at any time. This cue is low on the priority list so don’t feel pressure to teach it quickly!  

Purpose: Guide dogs aren’t perfect nor are they robots. They have active, intrigued minds and need to be aware of their environment. Occasionally, they will become distracted by something in their environment. If you aren’t prepared to practice self-control-you forgot your treat pouch, you’re running late, etc. you can use “leave it” to tell the dog to ignore the distraction and just keep walking past it.  

Objective: Your puppy should redirect their attention toward you and ignore the distraction upon hearing the verbal cue. 



  • Leave it should be a conditioned response. Meaning, the response you desire is established by training in a normal environment with no extra stimulus. Then, when you are using the verbal cue the response will be the same as taught without any stimulus. 
  • Start with your puppy on leash and with the leash in your hand. You will need kibble for reward as well.
  • Allow the pup to lose interest in you and then say their name and the verbal cue Leave it.
  • When the puppy turns to look at you reward them by giving them a piece of kibble.
  • Continue allowing your pup to explore the environment and then reengaging them by saying their name and rewarding the eye contact. Remember to only say the verbal cue once and give it with a tone of voice that is happy and catches your pup’s interest.
  • Once the puppy understands that Leave it means to make eye contact stop saying their name before giving the verbal cue. Continue reinforcing with reward every time you verbally praise them.
  • Start requiring longer periods of eye contact (more than 3 seconds) before giving the food reward. Vary the time between 3 and 15 seconds so your puppy fully understands that full focus and eye contact is required when you use this verbal cue. 
  • After the pup understands Leave it in a familiar environment with no distractions start placing low distractions such as a toy or several kibbles 4 to 5 feet away. Start walking by the distractions in a calm manner leaving about 4 to 5 feet of space between the pup and the distractions.
  • If they make an attempt to move toward the object, give the verbal cue Leave it and verbally praise and food reward their eye contact.
  • If your puppy did not respond to the verbal cue they do not fully understand leave it yet. You need to continue without distractions. 
  • Random reinforcement should start occurring once your puppy can leave a variety of low distractions. You will stop giving food reward each time your puppy makes eye contact. Continue giving verbal praise and pets, but only give food reward every couple of times during a training session. 
  • Continue increasing the distraction. Remember that the more distracting the situation or exposure, the more reward the pup should get. You can do interactive play for several minutes, give them a long pet, or praise them verbally and with kibble. 

Leave it can be used when your puppy becomes distracted by something in their environment and you need to have them refocus on you and you do not have time to practice self-control or you need a quick way to redirect the pup’s attention. Remember to only give a verbal cue that you can enforce. If you have any questions or issues, please contact your advisor or area coordinator.