For good self control in dogs, there are few exercises that beat a rock-solid "Leave It." Here's how we do it.
To prepare, have two treats ready. One that your dog really loves, and one that maybe your dog receives every day, like their kibble. That's all we need for this one.
Step One: Hold the high value (smelly, stinky, and yummy) treat in your left hand. Hold the lower value treat (kibble) in your right. Hold both hands behind your back. Offer your right hand (the hand with the lower value treat) to your dog, keeping the kibble inside your fist so that the dog cannot get it. The moment your dog moves her head away from the treat, say "Leave It!" and bring your left hand from behind your back (this is the smelly, stinky, yummy one) and open your palm. Let your dog have this treat while saying, "Take it".
Step Two: Repeat step one until your dog readily moves her head back from your right hand (the hand with the kibble) and waits to engage with you until the left hand (the hand with the stinky, smelly treat) appears. To help proof the work into a solid "leave it", switch which hand holds which treat and repeat the steps above.
Step Three: Put the higher value treat in your treat pouch or pocket and hold the kibble in one or the other of your hands. Do steps one and two as outlined above, but bring the valuable treat out of your pocket. What this does is create a distraction for your dog, ensuring that they can recognize and perform the cue even in the presence of something very reinforcing (valuable).
Practice this exercise a few times each day and you will have a great start to the "Leave it" command with your furry friend.
Camille Salter is the founder of All Dogs Toronto and a certified, knowledge-assessed dog trainer (CPDT-KA). She is the author of two books on dog behavior: Pandemic Puppy, and Decoding the Dog Park.