Does your dog almost bite your finger off whenever you try and give him a treat?
We like our fingers, and we don’t want them bitten or covered in slobber, so how can we train our dog to take treats nicely? From us and our mother-in-law?
Most dog owners have been through this, especially with puppies with their over-enthusiasm. Thankfully with the below quick tips you’ll get your dog politely accepting treats in no time, so let’s get started!
Important note on treats: When training our puppies we can give them treats in excess. Keep in mind most treats you can buy in the supermarkets aren’t very healthy (there are little regulations with dog treats). Boiled and diced chicken works just as well for training, and much healthier for your pup.
1. Never reward your dog for grabby or nippy behaviour.
If your dog is going for the treat in a rude way and still receiving it, this will only reinforce the behaviour. You’re telling them the nippy bitey behaviour is acceptable, and more than that you’re giving them a reward for it!
Instead, make the process of training her to take treats gently a separate command that you work on isolated from others.
2. How you should give your dog a treat – technique!
I’m sure you’ll be successful when you get in the habit of treating your dog in this manner, but with a strong bitey dog you may want to wear gloves.
Simply take a treat in your hand and close your fingers around it. Offer your hand to your puppy. At first expect her to bite or grab with frustration as she tries to get the treat from your grasp, so ignore her while she does this.
Once she stops biting, release the treat and reward her. Reinforce this with a command such as “easy” or “gentle” to help her associate the behaviour with the treat.
It’s okay to reward her as soon as she stops the biting, even if this changes to a gentle licking or moves away from your closed hand. Consider this acceptable, and your main aim here is to stop the biting.
3. Repeat! Repeat! Repeat!
Training your dog to take treats nicely is something you need to persist at. I recommend two to three times a day in sessions of 5-10 minutes each.
Once the behaviour has subsided it’s still worth repeating on occasion, but by then you’ll feel confident to move on to other training – such as getting your puppy to do backflips.
4. Not working? Make sure you focus on one command at a time.
Don’t try and enforce this while you’re working on other commands at the same time. You’ll find with most behavioural training it’s best to focus on one command at a time. Otherwise you’ll confuse your dog, and probably get a little frustrated yourself.
To avoid rewarding your puppy’s grabby behavior while she’s still learning to be gentle, you can stuff a Kong with peanut butter or squeeze cheese and allow your dog a few licks of it to reward her during training.
If you don’t have a Kong, a dab of peanut butter on a spatula also works well for this purpose. But you have a Kong, right?
5. Avoid too many treats
If you feel your dog isn’t learning how to take treats politely, and you’re going through way too many treats, then consider other forms of rewards.
Keep in mind playtime with a favourite toy can be a great substitute for food rewards, or give them lots of praise and cuddles when they do the right thing. Our dogs love our attention, and it’s good to mix and vary rewards with most behavioural training.
Let me know how you get on. Which of the above tips to train a dog to take a treat nicely work best for you?
Related: Training a Dog: Obedience 101
Gina & Maisy