Train Your Dog to Take Treats Gently

By Marion C'Neil CPDT-KA, CTDI

Dogs who are highly treat-motivated can be very difficult to reward without losing a finger. Large dogs and puppies often don’t know their own strength. That’s why it’s critical that the very first thing any dog learns is how to take a treat gently. I tell my clients that treat delivery is important. If you bend your knees, then quickly pop the treat to the lips it will keep your dog from jumping to meet your hand. Teaching “be nice” is a very important command in training. Some people also say “easy”, “gentle” or “calm”.

A hungry dog rarely has the patience for learning (just like kids) if his stomach is grumbling. So feed your dog and then wait 30 minutes before trying to work with him. Hold a treat in the palm of your hand much like you would give a treat to a horse. The goal is to be able to cut off access to the treat quickly if he tries to snap it. Close your fist around the treat and let him sniff. The goal is to let him know you have a treat without officially offering it. Say “be nice” as you do so.

If your dog is highly food-motivated, he might lick or even “mouth” your hand - if he attempts to bite or snap at you, see below. This is a no-no. Simply remove your hand until he calms down. Once he has accepted that you won’t be offering the treat, you can show it to him again.

For Highly Treat-Motivated Dogs

Occasionally, you will find that your dog does not respond to the treat in hand trick or he might be more reactive than most dogs. If this is the case, you’ll want to take a different approach.

1. Put a bit of peanut butter on a big metal spoon, and then place the treat in the peanut butter.

2. Offer the treat to your dog and say “be nice.”

3. As soon as you see your dog becoming too aggressive in taking the treat, pull the spoon away. The peanut butter acts as a stabilizer so the treat doesn’t fall off when you offer it to him.

4. Repeat this activity using the “be nice” command until he has calmed enough to take it gently.

Training a dog to take a treat gently takes practice. The goal is for your dog to realize that he will not receive a treat unless he takes it gently.


New Classes Starting:

Focus with Distractions    12/18 Mon. 7:00 p.m.

Puppy I Manners                 12/16 Sat. 12:30 p.m.

Teenrover/Adult-Manners   12/18 Mon. 6:00 p.m.

Novice Trick Dog (NTD)             1/13 Sat. 10:00 a.m  

AKC Canine Good Citizen   1/14 Sun. 1:00 p.m.       


Check the calendar for more scheduled classes!