How to Train Your Dog to Not Eat Off the Ground

Medium
1-3 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

How much trouble can your dog get himself into?

Quite a lot, as it happens. When your hungry hound chows down on garbage in the park, then 'garbage gut' is often the unpleasant consequence. And that's the good scenario! All sorts of dangers await the unwary, from rat poison to cocoa mulch, from daffodil bulbs to stones, a pet parent must protect their dog from himself.

The answer to this problem is training, but you need to be realistic about how long this takes. If your dog is a danger to himself while he's learning, then consider using a muzzle while out on walks so that he's physically unable to eat things he shouldn't. Then once your commands are rock solid, ditch the muzzle.

Defining Tasks

Training the dog to not eat off the ground involves a command that immediately focuses his attention away from the object. This could be 'Leave it', where he physically leaves the object, 'Drop it', which goes a step further and has the dog drop something out of his mouth, or a strong recall which has him move away from the danger.

Success depends on regular training so that the dog doesn't hesitate to obey, even when faced with the tastiest of finds on the ground. Dogs that aren't food-obsessed tend to learn this lesson more quickly than those with a bottomless pit for a stomach...but stick with it, you will get there in the end and it could save your dog's life.

Getting Started

Whichever method you decide to teach (Why not learn all three?) you'll need:

  • Ultra-tasty, high-value treats
  • Less tasty, low-value treats
  • Two identical toys or balls¬†¬†
  • A long line or leash
  • Start your training in a quiet room without distractions. Aim for two or three, five to ten-minute session each day. As the dog gets the hang of things, vary the location and then ultimately go outdoors.

As with so many commands, the dog learns fastest when he is a puppy. However, dogs of all ages will and do learn, so it's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.

The "Leave It" Method

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"Leave It" method for Not Eat Off the Ground
Step
1
Introduce a treat
Hold a low value treat in a loosely clenched fist. Offer the fist for the dog to sniff.
Step
2
Observe and reward
Watch him closely. He will nose at your fingers to try and get at the treat. Eventually, he will glance away to see if it fell on the floor. The instant he looks away from your fist, say "Leave It", and immediately reward him with the ultra-tasty treat you have concealed behind your back.
Step
3
Repeat
Repeat, until he learns to look away when you say "Leave it"
Step
4
Open your hand
Now make things more difficult. Have the low value treat on your open palm. If the dog snatches at it, close your hand into a fist and say "No".
Step
5
Reward for leaving it
If the dog merely looks at it, or sniffs then looks at the floor, say "Leave It", give him a huge fuss and a tasty treat. Repeat.
Step
6
Move to the floor
Ultimately, place the low value treat on the floor. If necessary anchor it with a strategically placed fingertip. Use your "Leave it" command and reward his cleverness.
Step
7
Practice
If the dog snatches the treat, go back to the step he can successfully complete and work more on this
Recommend training method?

The "Drop It" Method

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"Drop It" method for Not Eat Off the Ground
Step
1
Prepare toys
Have two identical toys or balls that the dog loves to play with.
Step
2
Gain interest
Play with the toy so the dog grabs hold of it.
Step
3
Switch toys
Start playing with the second toy as if it's the most interesting thing you've ever seen
Step
4
Introduce command
The dog will soon shift his attention from the toy in his mouth to the one in your hand, and drop the former. As soon as his jaws slacken, say "Drop It", and make the second toy more interesting.
Step
5
Reward!
As he drops the first toy, praise him, and reward him with the second. This toy exchange teaches him that releasing an object results in even more fun.
Step
6
Try treats
Alternatively, exchange the toy for a tasty treat, using "Drop It" as he releases the toy to eat the treat.
Recommend training method?

The Strong Recall Method

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Strong Recall method for Not Eat Off the Ground
Step
1
Teach "come"
With the dog on a leash, let him sniff and wander. When he turns towards you, slap your thigh to get his attention. If he steps toward you say "Come" in an excited voice to encourage him closer.
Step
2
Encourage
As he steps towards you, try taking a step or two away from him, which should encourage him to close the distance. Repeat "Come" and make excited noises.
Step
3
Reward!
When he's within touching distance, offer an ultra-tasty treat
Step
4
Repeat
The dog starts to anticipate that "Come" means a reward and will approach more readily.
Step
5
Dial back the treats
Once he is reliably coming for the high value treat, switch to a lesser treat
Step
6
Go off-leash
When he is doing this reliably, try him off leash - if necessary, reverting to the high value treat to emphasize he's making a good decision to return to your side.
Step
7
Practice
Now repeat in a variety of settings so that he instantly obeys no matter where you are.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

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