Treats can be as irresistible to your pooch as they are to your child, and unfortunately, some dogs have the anti- social habit of snatching food. This summer, ice cream cones could be the tasty target. Teaching your dog the "leave-it" command can help train him not to take food items from a young child.

To teach the leave-it command, start with two treats, one for each hand. Hold both hands out toward your dog. Open one hand, exposing the treat. When the dog starts toward the treat, say "leave it" and quickly close the hand. Give the dog a moment to look at you.

When the dog looks your way, say "good" and award the treat from the other hand. Be sure not to offer the treat from the hand you just told the dog to "leave it." Get another treat and repeat the training, switching off the "leave-it" hand. Be sure to always praise and reward the dog for following the command.

Once you have the dog reliably turning away from the treat in your "leave-it" hand, practice with an ice cream cone. Hold out the cone and tell your dog to "leave it" the moment the dog looks at the cone. When the dog turns away from the treat to look at you, reward with a very special treat as well as praise. Once the dog gets the idea that the cone in your hand is off-limits, practice with the child.

Be aware that if the dog has a habit of getting that cone, the child may need some help. Attach a leash to stop the dog in case you need to intervene. If the dog is having a hard time leaving the child alone, don't hesitate to do some extra practices with you holding the ice cream cone before again trying with your child.

Getting total reform from a dog who has tasted the sweet reward of swiping a child's cone will take monitoring of the child and dog for some time, in addition to practices. However, dogs can learn with persistence and the right training.


Peggy Swager is a behaviorist and dog trainer. More information about dog training can be found at