Teaching Your Puppy to Take Treats Gently
Recently a friend of mine adopted a six-month-old puppy from a shelter. The Shepard mix was a quick student and was eager to please, however when they would attempt to reinforce commands with a tasty treat, she would overzealously grab at their fingers. I know many owners find themselves in the same position so here’s a simple method that will have your pup taking treats politely in no time.
- Make sure you don’t reward your dog for the grabby/nippy behavior. If she is going for the treat in a rude way and still receiving it, that’ll only reinforce the behavior. Instead, make the process of training her to take treats gently a separate command that you work on isolated from others.
- Take a treat in your hand and close your fingers around it. Offer it to your puppy. If she is very aggressive with nipping, you may want to consider wearing gloves.
- Keep your hand closed until the moment your dog stops biting and starts licking gently or moves away from your closed hand. The moment she does, open your hand and allow her to take the treat while saying your command of choice (“easy” or “gentle”).
- Try and practice this command two to three times a day in sessions of 5-10 minutes each.
- Don’t try and enforce this while you’re working on other commands at the same time. 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. A dab of peanut butter on a spatula also works well for this purpose.
- Remember that playtime with a favorite toys can be a good substitute for food rewards while your pup is learning to take treats politely!