The Importance of “Leave It!”

Jamie Bozzi, CBCC-KA And Lori Carman

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The LEAVE IT cue teaches the dog self-control and impulse control.

The world is full of unsafe items and situations. How do we teach our four-legged kids to avoid potentially dangerous things out in the environment? Simple: make it a game! To make a behavior highly rewarding, play with your dog. Dogs just wanna have fun!

If you make it fun, they will participate and you will reach your training goals.

In the real world, dogs often stumble upon articles before we even see them, so, the LEAVE IT cue can be not only practical but life-saving.

The LEAVE IT cue is extremely useful— from the ant-covered hot dog on the sidewalk (although “gross” won’t harm your dog) to the more serious dangerous critter that your dog may be fascinated by or chase after.

Getting Started

Begin with a simple barter game. Trade your dog. Teach your dog the concept that you always have something fabulous. Know what your dog absolutely loves—either toys and/ or food—and have those “high-value” items on hand. A high-value item is something that your dog is just crazyabout!

Next, place a low-value (or neutral) item on the ground. Say LEAVE IT and reward your dog for not moving toward the item. You may need to cover the item at first, so make sure that you are close enough to the item. Remember, we want to set up both the dog and you for success. Make it easy for the dog to do the right thing.

After several repetitions, you may notice your dog look at you when you say the LEAVE IT cue. That’s great! Reward your dog for choosing you instead of choosing what is in the environment.

The LEAVE IT cue teaches the dog to defer to the handler. It also teaches self-control and impulse control. Your dog should not just lunge after things in the environment. He should defer to you and ask permission first. Your dog is learning how to make a good choices and to choose you!

Watch for Rattlesnakes!

Spring is here and, with the change of the season, our snake population becomes more active. Here are some quick tips:

■ Spring is the breeding season for rattlesnakes. It is also their time of greatest activity. Their drive to reproduce and feed can cause aggressive behavior. Rattlesnake bites occur frequently during this time of year and well into the summer. In the warmer parts of California, bites can occur year round.

■ A dead rattlesnake can still inject venom for an hour or more by reflex action.

■ Rattlesnake bite wounds vary from dry (no venom injected) to full envenomation. The venom contains proteins that disrupt the pet’s blood clotting abilities and damages blood vessels.

■ Immediate veterinary attention is required with all bites, no matter how negligible they seem. The sooner treatment is started, the more effective it will be.

■ Treatment for rattlesnake bites consists of intravenous fluids to prevent circulatory collapse, antibiotics, pain medication and antivenin. (Check with your veterinarian to see if they carry antivenin.) So, what can you do to protect your pet? The best way to do this is to avoid encounters between the pet and the snake. Safe practices include:

■ Stick to cleared areas or open paths when hiking.

■ Keep your dog on a leash at all times.

■ Don’t let your dog explore holes, logs, or dig under rocks.

■ Hike during the day instead of early morning or evening.

■ Cats are just better left indoors at all times. If you let your cat outside, only do so during the day.

■ You may want to consider the rattlesnake vaccine. This vaccine is for dogs only and is made specifically for the venom of the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, though it reportedly cross-protects against multiple species of other rattlesnakes.

Lori Wainio-Carman, VSPDT, professional dog trainer and owner of Dream Dogs, has been successfully training for over 20 years. 760-899-7272, www.dreamdogs.com, www.Positively.com

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