We all love an enthusiastic dog, it’s certainly great for dog training but sometimes a bit painful. We’re talking about dogs who accidentally bite your fingers off when taking a treat.
Believe us when we say it can get ugly if a person or a child without experience tries to give a treat to a dog who doesn’t know the concept of taking treats gently. Most dogs with this behaviour is generally the result of people giving the treats the wrong way from the beginning and you want to relieve much of the conflict-induced frustration that occurs when you want to reinforce your dog’s good behavior but also want your fingers to remain intact and connected to your body.
So what we want to do is get the dog in the habit of being gentle when it comes to treats and food, teaching them that lunging and grabbing won’t get them far. There are several ways to teach your dog how to be more gentle and PetSpots methods can be applied to all of them.
Many people instinctively pull their hand away when they notice a dog is really going for the treat, this makes them want to follow the hand and will snap at it. What they basically do is get the dog more excited and that makes it a game for the dog.
Positioning of the treat
First step is to position the treat in the hand in a way that it makes it harder for the dog to bite your fingers, don’t make the mistake of holding the treat between the tip of your thumb, index and middle finger. Another reason not to do that is that you’re showing your dog the treat. Next time you ask your dog to do something and there’s no treat visible , there will be a risk your dog won’t listen to you. Instead try putting the treat in your palm holding it with the base of your thumb. This way you are still able to do all the hand signals and the treat is hidden from the dog. It also makes it harder for your dog to bite a finger when your palm is open flat.
Low value treats
If your dog is already at a point where it hurts when you give a treat, start the training using low value treats. Treats that aren’t as interesting as that piece of sausage or biscuit that your dog loves is going to lower the excitement and it gives you the chance to start working on changing and moulding their behavior into one that will suit you.
Before it gets too bad
One of the techniques you can use for your next step is to aim the treat forward in front of the mouth so that when you present the treat your dog naturally has to move their head backwards to focus on the treat. This simple trick will condition the dog into automatically doing the opposite of lunging forward to get the treat.
Close your hand with the treat inside, your dog will smell it and will try to go for it. When you notice they come on too strong you quickly remove the hand and correct them using our corrective word. Try again and again until your hand (palm up) with the treat is so close to your dog that they can take it but they don’t, that’s when you give the treat and reward the behaviour you asked them to do. It takes patience from you and it’s important not to get frustrated with your dog.
Marker training is a great method and can be used in these cases as well. Hold a treat in your hand, close your fist around it and offer it to your dog. If your dog bites at your hand, keep it closed; this means either toughing it out or wearing gloves, depending on your dog’s behavior and your tolerance. When they stop biting and just look at your hand give them a treat from your other hand. The mark happens when your dog stops biting and nibbling. Keep doing this until your hand is open completely. You can then slowly move your hand lower to the floor and eventually put the treats on the floor and cover with your hand until the treats can be on the floor totally free to be eaten but your dog just looks at them. This last technique is mostly used for teaching dogs not to eat anything unless given permission to do so, but is equally helpful when teaching them to take treats nicely.