Clicker Training the OFF Command
by Chris Samuelian-Babiarz
Training "OFF" is the most impressive and easy command I've taught, and people are always amazed by it. Also, I've not introduced myself so will do that also. My name is Chris Babiarz and I live in Colorado. I'm a clicker trainer for several years, and share my life and home with 17 animals: dogs, cats, birds, goats and a chinchilla. Every last one of those animals is clicker trained with the exception of 3 of the dogs. They're deaf and so are flashlight trained instead! by Chris Samuelian-Babiarz at babiarc@HESKA.com ( from the SportingBreed@onelist.com).
To teach the 'leave it' (I call it 'off'), begin with a treat in your hand and offer it to the dog, while saying 'take it'. Do this a few times then change the rules slightly. Show the dog your hand with treat in it, but this time your fist is closed around it. Say nothing. The dog will paw, nudge, etc. At some point, (usually takes 45 sec. to a minute the first time) the dog will pull back in frustration and look at you. If you use a clicker, click at that instant or say good dog, then deliver the treat to the dog. Then do that all again.
After about the 7th rep. the dog will probably see your closed fist as a signal not to lunge for the treat. Begin to say 'off' or 'leave it' immediately before you present the closed fist to the dog. Upon successful completion a few times, begin to say 'off' but alter how you show the dog your hand - it doesn't have to be a fist anymore. End the lesson. This usually takes 3-5 minutes total. Next time you begin the session, the dog will probably goof once then nail it perfectly. They have now begun to grasp the concept of 'doggie zen' - if they want something, they have to solicit permission from you to get it.
Begin to try the same exercise with other coveted things like tennis balls, bumpers, etc. Once they become fluent in pulling back and away from something in your hand on the cue 'off' you are ready to move the object to the ground. Slowly move whatever it is toward the ground while practicing. When it finally is on the ground, keep one finger on it for a while, then be prepared to put a foot on it if the dog should lunge. Practice walk and run by's while cueing off when your dog observes the coveted object. Practice 'off' on the dinner bowl, with the jackpot being to get to eat dinner. Dogs seem to love learning this, and very quickly it becomes a positively trained fluency. The above sequence will probably take less than a week. Good luck!