Giving a treat is one of the best ways to reward your dog for a job well done, especially when learning a new command. But the last thing you want to do is get nipped while giving him the treat, or to teach him that it’s okay to be grabby. Teaching your pup to take treats gently is just like teaching them any other command. It’s relatively easy to do, but it takes some time and repetitive training.
While training your dog not to snatch and bite at treats, there are a few of things that are important to remember. For one, your fingers are at risk early on, so you might want to consider wearing a glove. Second, treats are not the only way to reward him. A few minutes of play time with his favorite toy, or a lick of peanut butter off the back of a spoon are good, nip-free ways to reward him while teaching him commands other than being gentle. Lastly, you don’t want to try to train him to be gentle while teaching him other commands. Learning to take treats gently, should be done separately from other training a couple times a day for a few minutes at a time. Otherwise, you are likely to confuse the pup or to reward him for nipping or neglect to reward him for doing the other command correctly. One thing at a time.
The steps are pretty simple:
Step 1: Choose the command word or phrase that you would like to use. Good examples include “easy”, “gentle” or “nicely”.
Step 2: Place a treat in the palm of your hand, close your fingers around it, and offer it to the pup. This is where the glove really comes in handy.
Step 3: Keep your hand closed until he calms down and stops biting. Once he does, immediately open your hand, and offer him the treat while saying the command word.
After practicing a few times a day, your dog will learn to wait patiently for his reward and to take it without nipping at your fingers. Being excited about something tasty is completely natural for dogs, but if you are persistent, they can learn quickly that if they are calm they’ll get their treat a lot more easily than if they are not.