How to Teach Your Dog to Take Treats Nicely

5 ways to make treating your pup a treat for both of you

Most people enjoy giving their dogs food rewards, but it can become unpleasant if the dog snatches the treats from their hands. From feeding medications hidden inside of treats, to rewarding correct behavior during training, getting a dog to take treats nicely is a necessity. Here are five methods to explore what works for you and your dog.

  1. Deliver the treat to your dog’s mouth by lowering it a few inches away from your dog and then moving your hand directly to their mouth. This corrects feeding from above your dog’s head, which can increase the chances of them grabbing or even jumping up to meet your hand.
  2. Place a treat in your hand and close your fist around it. Offer your closed fist to your dog, directly at his mouth. If your dog noses, licks, or ignores your fist, mark it (by saying “good” or “yes” or another positive word you may use in training) then open your fist and feed from a flat palm. If your dog bites, paws, or gets too excited, pull your hand away and start again. Soon, your dog should learn that being gentle opens your hand and being rough makes your hand--and the treat--go away. Once your dog is successful, begin to offer treats in an open hand. If your dog begins to get too rough, close your hand, but do not pull it away.
  3. Place a treat in your hand and make a loose fist around it, but place your thumb and index finger together to create an “O”. Offer the “O” side of your fist to your dog. Your dog will have to lick through the “O” to pull the treat out. For the first repetitions, make sure the treats are easy to remove so your dog can quickly lick the treat out of your fist.
  4. Place a treat in your closed fist. Lower your fist to ground level and immediately release the treat on the floor for your dog to take. This method may be helpful for those dogs who jump at treats or are extremely grabby.
  5. Begin with treats in your treat pouch or pocket and your hands at your side. Slowly move your hand toward your pouch. If your dog gets too excited, jumps for your hand, etc., place your hand back at your side. Keep repeating until you can get a treat out of the bag without your dog getting overly-excited or rude. At that point, mark with a word of praise and reward.

Training tips

  • Before training, engage your dog in a low-key mental stimulation game, such as a short walk or hiding a treat in a puzzle feeder for your dog to find. Try to avoid physical activity; it can amp your dog up and be counterintuitive to taking treats gently.
  • In the beginning, work in a calm environment and with low-value food rewards. If you offer their favorite treats, dogs will be more excitable.
  • Once your dog is successful, begin to increase the value of the food reward and be sure to practice in a variety of environments. Once your dog is consistently taking treats nicely, you can begin to add a verbal cue such as “gentle”.

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