The goal of this game is to teach your dog that it always pays off hugely to leave what they have and come with you. It is a game with the foundation of teaching impulse control and a high drive to choose you over something your dog could have. The reason why we start this game involving a container, is that the container allows us to control the setup of the game to achieve a solid history of success with the correct behaviour. Only once your dog has a clear understanding of the expectation of the game do you move from the container to the ground and proof the behaviour so it morphs into the real world and everyday life.
Step 1: Fill a container with treats - Fill a Tupperware container with treats as your dog watches and have treats also on you. When first establishing this game put low value treats in the container and reward your dog with high value treats. As your dog gets better at this game slowly increase the value of the treats in the container that your dog will have to voluntarily leave and then slowly decrease the value of the treats your dog will be rewarded with. This will not always be the case when you are at this level but you want to do it adhoc so your dog is resilient in the real world. E.g. there is a hamburger on the ground and you only have dried liver treats to reward them with.
Step 2: Let your dog sniff - Once the treats are in the container let your dog see and smell the treats but not get to them to eat. After they have a big whiff put the lid on and place the container on the ground.
Step 3: Encourage your dog to move away - Your dog is probably going to try and sniff, paw or tip over the container. This is okay, just ignore the behaviour. Instead you are going to encourage your dog to move away from the container and follow you. To do this take a step away from your dog next to the container whilst tapping you leg excitedly and enthusiastically. If this doesn't work, your dog may need a little extra convincing at first by luring them with a treat that you have on your away from the container. Avoid verbally saying anything at the stage.
Step 4: Walk 3-5 steps - Bridge your dog the moment they move away from the container but aim to get 3-5 steps away from the container before you reward your dog with the treat for the bridge. After the first reward continue to walk away from the container giving another 3 treats to your dog as you move. You could aim to give 1 x treat per step or every second step further away. You want to give your dog lots of treats for coming with you.
Step 5: Quicker and better - Through repetition your dog should get quicker and better at coming with you. Repeat until you don’t have to call your dog at all but they automatically leave the container to follow you.
Step 6: Leave it command - Now introduce and pair the command “Leave it” to the action, the moment your dog leaves the container. Bridge and continue to reward as stated in the above steps.
Step 7: Opening the lid - Increase criteria by slowly opening the container lid. For this step if you are doing it by yourself, it is a good idea to put your dog on a long lead to allow movement but to prevent snatching the treats out of the container if you move too far away, too quickly or open the lid too much, too quickly. If you have a helper, their job would be to silently cover the container with their hands if your dog tries to get a treat. If your dog goes for the treats at all, it means that you have advanced your dog too quickly and you just need to go back a step and add more positive history behind it before you try this level again. You can also increase criteria by the distance in which you ask your dog to follow you away from the container.
Step 8: Play around with food values - Once your dog solely understands the expected behaviour increase criteria by adding high value food into the container - things like wet meat, bones, bully sticks, fish tails, etc. To start with reward with the same value but as your dog gets better decrease the value in the reward in your hand. If you are up to decreasing hand food value, it is important that you don't decrease the value in the food from you to lower than what is in the container all of the time. Think of 80/20 rule - 80% easy and 20% hard all of the time. The reason for this is dogs are opportunists and if they think that the potential is gone then they will take what they can get.
Step 9: Advance to the ground - When your dog is really good at leaving the food and automatically following you away you can now move the food out of the container and onto the ground. Remember every time you increase criteria decrease other criteria. E.g. if your dog can move away from a fish tail in a container, don't start with that food value on the ground, instead go back to putting kibble on the ground and rewarding with the fish tail from you.
Step 10: Proof Leave Container via 4 D's - Now that your dog really understands that it is worth it for them to leave something that they currently have and move away with you, you want to proof this behaviour so it is resistant to motivation competitors in real life. Think duration, distance, distraction and difficulty issued by anyone, anywhere, anyway. Always set your dog up to succeed and have realistic expectations.