Leave well alone and live

“Leave" Well Alone – and Live.

      Our local park is sectioned into distinct zones. Each zone has its users. Users zealously enforce their rights. Interlopers defiantly ignore the social constructs. Ours is an off-lead park with a central oval, a surrounding bike path, a children's playground and a BBQ area with picnic tables and benches. Dogs are not welcome on the oval, the bike path, in the playground, or around the BBQ areas – my dogs and I can comply with those restrictions readily enough.


       In our local park these are cherished “zones “ - each populated by devotees and detractors – and I am both – depending on the part of the park I am visiting. In reality if dogs venture onto the oval during a “match/game” a $?-00 fine may be exacted from the owner – I just can't afford such delinquent expenses. Bikes and dogs don't mix so it makes sense to keep my fore-footed family away from the cyclists. I have no qualms with the playground equipment being a dedicated kid zone – where dogs keep out. Dogs are denied closer access than 30 metres to the eating areas. My chief agony is caused by the users of the BBQ parts of the park.

       To ignore the aroma of cooking flesh is a big ask of a dog – but I do ask it – in fact expect – and demand – and train for it. In this part of the park I sometimes employ those two magic words “come” and “heel”. You may have become familiar with the use of these words in previous obedience articles. When you are walking the dog you may even automatically carry pockets of the ready rewards our dogs love to work for – knowing we will generously dispense doggy delights in response to their spontaneous obedience. Maybe you just automatically do this already - maybe you are still to develop this habit – but hopefully you will learn to do so - as a learning incentive – for the love of your dog.

      In the BBQ area of our park “heel” and “come” commands do not suffice – because they aren't enough to keep the dogs out of trouble. Regrettably the dog's arsenal of words is incomplete for dealing with the behaviour of some of the picnickers in the BBQ part of the park. The picnicking people I like least are those who exhibit disregard for me and my dogs. They mean well and persist in wanting “to feed the doggie” - enticing any dog with offerings of food – often with the most undesirable titbits – cooked chop bones or roasted chicken on the bone, bread, cakes, or even sweets. I cannot dispel that sort of aberrant behaviour – I can only train my dog to withstand such well-meaning, ignorant generosity. The magic word is “leave”. In the BBQ areas of our local park my dogs learn to “leave” food which I don't want them to have. They, also learn to “leave” off behaving in a manner I deem to not be in their best interests – accepting food from strangers.

      Try starting to train your dog to “leave” at the dog's meal time. When serving your dog's dinner – “sit” your dog – “stay” your dog for a short period – telling your dog to “leave” the meal (only for a moment or two at first) – physically and verbally reassure your dog – and give praise to your dog for doing what you ask – ultimately reward your dog by giving permission to your dog to eat. By working at this over time – (and it takes time) – and by gradually extending the “leave” time you are ensuring a safer life style for your dog in relationship to her/his environment and averting the stranger danger which exists for dogs.

      In one of the obedience rings “food refusal” is an optional activity. It is a very formally constructed trial of literally putting temptation under the dog's nose. The dog is tempted to accept food while in “stay” positions of “sit”, “stand” and “drop”. These, often, enticing offerings of food must be resisted by the dog – in order to repeatedly gain passable marks for this exercise towards a Utility Dog title. It is not an activity which my “No Nickers Nellie”  and I elected to do in our training and trailing towards a U.D. - but it is a skill and a legitimate dimension in a dog sport. It's a long hard haul for a dog to master the exactitude demanded for that skill – and hats off to the persistent handlers and insightful trainers who succeed in persuading their dogs to perform with the precision required to “leave” at U.D. level.

     While managing to achieve a U.D. suffixed to your dog's name is a prestigious plus I believe there are more crucial motives for teaching your dog to “leave”. To “leave” chocolate or any of the others dietary no-nos for doggies is an investment in your dog's gastronomic best interests. If your dog will “leave” an object which may endanger your pet pal – like litter around public rubbish receptacles (with lingering food fragrances), a “salmonellared” sausage, another dog's meal or treat, or the ultimate threat – a bait – that is a huge bonus in learned behaviour. There are animals, too, which provide real reasons for your dog to master the “leave” habit . It may only be that pesky pup in the group line-up that you'd prefer left to itself. It could be a clawing cat but it may, in reality, be a creature with actual life-threatening capacity – that heavy-weight aggro animal which descends from any number of the bigger canine breeds – or more sinister still a snake or a spider. “Leave” becomes your insurance policy against other people feeding your dog without your permission – an essential rule of thumb for dog owners who must monitor the eating habits of a pet smitten with allergies or suffering from pancreatitis. Do you love your dog sufficiently to take the time to work with your canine companion to give ample opportunity for your furred friend to learn to “leave” well alone – and live its doggie life to the fullest? If you can manage to teach your dog to “leave” you are increasing its safety and ultimate well-being. If your dog learns to respond to your command/request/suggestion to “leave” - that leaving may one day save your dog's life.

'll take my leave of you now. 

Irene Bilney


(originally written  for the newsletterof the Lowchen Club of NSW).

Contact Details

Irene Bilney
Richmond 3121, VIC, Australia
Phone : 03 94281201
Email : [email protected]