Join Date: May 2011
Location: Ontario, Canada
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Bailey is 6 months now, and still loves to get every blowing leaf that goes by (gee, can't wait for fall!). When she is swimming, she goes after anything that floats, and eats moss etc along the water's edge. "Leave it" has worked well....She sometimes still goes after it, but she know now that she has to "give" if she gets it in her mouth. She hasn't had any vomiting or the runs with the additional "roughage", except when she did it at the ocean, and got some gulps of salt water in her mouth when she was catching things floating in the water(now that was gross afterwards).
Teaching "give"....Whenever she had something in her mouth already that she wasn't supposed to, I would tell her to "give" and put my hand just below her mouth, and I would be holding a toy or treat to trade for the item. As she was releasing the item into my hand or onto the floor, I would repeat "give" so she would associate the command and the action together. Lots of praise in addition to the toy or treat as a reward. She is always a "good girl" when she gives me what's in her mouth, as in that moment she is responding to the give command (even though I might not be happy about what she has in there). I have been working on "mine", to help her understand that certain items are not for her to have at all.
Teaching "leave it" is sometimes a work in progress, depending on how tempting the item is (leaves seem to be fascinating for her). Early on, I would tell Bailey to "leave it" as she is trying to get an item...catching her early in the motion was more effective, and watching body language helped to gauge the lunge or grab before it happened. I like to use sound as it works with Bailey(a "ch" sound, like the Cesar Millan approach), so when I see the beginning of an unacceptable behaviour too, I will "ch", see if she avoids temptation, say "leave it", and if need be, re-direct or put myself in between her and the item, or keep her on the leash so that I controlled how much access she would have to an item as she was learning the command. I use "leave it" for anything I don't want her to have to go towards, so she learned that this command means that she can't have or go to 'that', whatever 'that' is. Another way was to walk her past the tempting thing on a leash and as she went for the item, tell her to "leave it" and re-direct her attention to toy or food.
When Bailey was as young as your pup, she went out on a leash so I could control how much she could explore. We ended up setting up a temporary dog run using snow fence as she loved to rip through the flower beds and try to eat mulch when I first started letting her out off leash. The area was chosen so that it doesn't have any of the temptations I wanted her to leave alone. I know some people have used chicken wire or something to cover the temptation ...maybe for now as he gets older and you work on training (or he gets past this phase)?
There are many more experienced people on the forum who can give you some training tips, and probably more effective ideas than mine. My goldens all had different personalities and responded in different ways to training, and these ideas are what has worked with Bailey. It can be frustrating sometimes to get them to learn to leave things in the early days, and it helps to remember that using their mouth to learn and explore (um, eat) everything at this stage. Sorry for the long ramble!