She understands leave it… to an extent. She'll stop chasing the cat if I call out "Leave it" and she'll sit down and wait for me to say something else. She'll even ignore a barking dog when we're on a walk if I call leave it... but if there's something on the ground that she's interested in she won't stop at anything till it is sufficiently smelled and chewed.
Likewise, if I'm practicing leave it with her with treats (placing one, having her leave it, then giving her a bigger treat for compliance) she'll only do it once or twice max. Then she gets up and walks away to look for crumbs that were dropped by the table or to retrieve a treat she had hid somewhere in the house previously (she'll refuse to come at this time as well). Almost as if she remembered there were easier ways to get treats then practicing such an awful thing as restraint.
Here are some tips I wrote for another forum, I'll quote and then help fine tune for you, below, I'm highlighting some important part for training "Leave It", if you train that way, please ignore it (but it can help others)
#2 LEAVE IT - you're taking Fido for a walk and finds a tasty dead animal and reaches for it. With a solid "leave it" command Fido, even though tempted should ignore the deceased critter. How do you teach it, simple: Take two DIFFERENT treats and but one in each hand and cup them (to avoid stealing) and hold them out in front of you. What ever hand she goes to (lets say left) first tell her "leave it" if she goes back to the same hand say it again. When she moves to the right hand immediately say "take it" at the same time giving up the treat. Repeat several times using the left hand as the "leave it" and the right as the "take it" then break for a bit and switch hands. Its a great mental simulation for the dogs and can be done anywhere and time, and its best to do in 5-10 minute intervals. The reason for two different treats is so they don't smell the same and confuse the dog. Also the command of "leave it" means the dog CANNOT have what you tell them to "leave", under no circumstances should they take what you tell them to leave. Of course in the beginning they will, but it's one of the most important commands to teach your pet because you never know what they will want to put in their mouth.
First going on with the leave it, from your description it sounds like she has the general idea of it down; you two just need to fine tune it. Anne sounds like she has the idea of "what is in it for me? Nothing good, then why play?" With that make it more fun and more interesting. Quickest way is make the treats for "leave it" training better; you don't have to use dog specific treats, use anything cheese, cooked chicken or beef anything that Anne would find SUPER tasty and go bonkers for that is a soft easy to chew treat and then have a average soft tasty treat
Practice the leave it takes it's make sure she's got that good, always treating with the "take it" . Once you are comfortable with that, take those average treats, or even a small dish of food - one leashed Basenji, and those extra tasty treats in treat pouch or pocket (LOL) and in your yard practice walking by that dish, walk calmly and pretend that you don't notice then if she goes towards it tell her in a firm voice "Leave it" and slight leash check watch her for the slightest reaction to look towards you then treat and tell her "take it" and give her the correct treat.
If she still goes for the "bait" tell her "AT AT" slight leash correction "Leave it" again and then continue on without a second treat. Some basenjis take a little longer to get it because they are just more stubborn and want it their way or the highway, but she sounds smart and like you said gets bored easy. So keep it fun. You can even set up different little "bait stations" through out your yard. If you don't have a yard to walk her in then do it around your home still on the leash; it's something different and will challenge her brain.
On a similar note, if I am training Anne to stay she'll lose interest the moment I take a step backwards then she will turn around and go do something else. It seems as though she gets bored and loses interest with anything that isn't constant commands and rewards or praise.
Does anyone have any suggestions on how to get Anne to practice some restraint despite her short attention span. I really need her to learn stay or leave it so I can keep her from bothering other people or following anything that moves, hahah.
First, I dito what Benkura said about just holding the sit for a set period of time, that is the basic foundation of the stay and waits. To me these are two completely different commands, and from my same post I talked from a training tip, quoting again
#4 WAIT - Now we get into where one might confuse their dog and themselves. There is a big difference between wait and stay (IMO) and both are great commands to teach. Both are taught exactly the same but how they end is COMPLETELY different. With the "wait" command the dog is able to be released from it's position (sitting/standing/laying should be taught with all three positions) without you being by its side. Meaning you tell your dog wait and then walk away and then release your dog. Example, you have your dog wait at the front gate while you walk to the house and go in the door and then call your dog.
#5 STAY again similar to the "wait" command, biggest difference is your dog is not to move until you return to standing next to it. The wait command a dog can move no matter where you are, with "stay" the dog must remain where it is until you return to it's side and then give it the release word.
Alright remember that extra super yummy tasty treat you found for the leave it/take it? Pull it out again here, I found my basenji will walk on water for me for beef (I think literally LOL). Just work with holding the sit by her side for a count to 5, then work to 10. Then move to standing directly in front of her.
A great command to keep her still is the "watch me" command hold her "special" treat at the corner of your eye and say her name and watch me that way you keep her attention and then treat. Working with this command and the stay or wait command helps build up her basic manners and patients and holding still.
She'll pick it up quick