“Leave it” is the most important command to teach your dog, followed closely by “come.” The reason that “leave it” is so important is because it keeps your dog from eating dangerous foreign objects on the sidewalk or at the dog park. It can keep you and your dog out of trouble in many potentially dangerous situations. Dogs and humans share many diseases, including leptospirosis, a very unpleasant disease caused by parasites that humans can catch from dogs. Dogs contract this disease from feces and dirty water. While most dogs don’t eat poop, they may eat something that has come in contact with infected feces and pass it on to you. Dogs can also contract lepto from drinking contaminated water. The best way to avoid these infections is to tell your dog to “leave it” when you see your dog sniffing at something unclean.
“Leave it” can also prevent dangerous confrontations between your dog and other animals. Dogs are often interested in wild city animals such as raccoons and squirrels. Most dogs will chase house cats they see as well. The “leave it” command can get your dog away from potentially dangerous meetings between your dog and a raccoon or house cat.
Betty S. Egger spent twenty years teaching dogs and dog owners the power of “leave it” from her business on Mercer Island, Washington. She says that “leave it” was the first command she taught clients how to use on their dogs when they came to her for dog training. She continues to be involved in the dog-lover community, volunteering for various no-kill shelters in the greater Seattle area.