Barns are fascinating and enriching places for dogs, full of many scents, sounds, movements, and things to put in the mouth. But for your barn dog--and the other animals-- to be safe, he needs to learn a critically essential command: 'leave it'.
At the barn, your dog may place his nose where it doesn’t belong, chase after small or large animals, or even try to eat various items such as equipment, livestock medications, or even horse manure! The 'leave it' command is a life-saving instruction and one your barn dog needs to learn to stay safe and sound.
The 'leave it' command is one of the most valuable skills your dog can learn. It not only teaches a dog not to put the disgusting cow manure in his mouth but it also prevents dogs from chasing other animals. This skill is especially helpful for dogs with a high prey drive who enjoy chasing chickens or mice, or more dangerously, goats, cows, or horses.
This command diverts your dog’s attention away from chasing or eating something, and that’s not only foundational, but it can potentially save your dog’s life if he puts himself in harm’s way while in the barn environment. With some practice, patience, and repetition, you can teach your barn dog to 'leave it,' and everyone will be safer for it.
Begin the process of training the 'leave it' command in a quiet, enclosed area, preferably in your home. You want your dog to confidently respond to the command before you relocate your training to the barn itself. This environment will allow your dog to focus on you instead of being overwhelmed and distracted by the sounds and sights of the barn.
For the three training exercises below, you’ll want to have two kinds of treats, low value and high value (your dog’s absolute favorites), a leash, a favorite toy, and some sturdy footwear, especially for work inside the barn. The 'leave it' command means overriding some of your dog’s natural instincts, so it may take some time for your dog to master this command. Be patient, consistent, and confident in every step of the process, and your dog will learn to leave items and animals in the barn alone.