We all know that dog that just about takes our fingers off every time we offer her a treat. We can feel those sharp teeth and we can see the barely contained excitement at the prospect of something yummy. Instead of enduring this time after time, you can teach your dog to accept treats from you in a calm, controlled, polite manner.
Start with a pouch full of stinky, yummy treats, and a hungry dog.
Step One: Put your dog in a 'sit'. Position your hand above her head with a treat between your fingers or in your palm. Be careful not to drop it! Slowly drop it down close to your dog's mouth. If your dog attempts to reach, jump, snap, or move in any way to grab the food out of your hand, immediately remove your hand up and over the dog's head.
The idea here is to wait until your dog's mouth is closed and her body position is relaxed and not in motion (up or forward) before delivering the treat.
As you repeat Step One above, the rapid movement of your hand will instruct your dog that the only way to get the treat is through calm patience. As your dog becomes proficient with this, you can thing bring your hand to your dog's mouth from different positions and on different angles. If you find your dog is just too aroused to do Step One well, use lower-value treats, along the lines of her every day kibble, for example.
Step Two: Add the training of a soft mouth to this exercise. Place the treat in your closed hand and offer it to your dog, letting her sniff, smell, and nose at it. When the dog begins to mouth, nudge, and push at your hand, say "OW!" and freeze your hand in position with the treat still held inside your closed fist. When your dog moves back from your hand or licks it gently, say "Good. Take it." and open your hand, palm facing up.
Repeat the above until your dog stops mouthing, biting, and pushing at your hand. Repeat every day over 14 days to practice and proof. This exercise is wonderful for training your dog to have polite manners when food is around and potentially accessible. Consistency is key here: do not allow your dog to have treat unless they are taken politely and with control. This will ensure good behavior around children, adults, the elderly, and anyone who just might be around with some food in hand.
Camille Salter is the founder of All Dogs Toronto and a certified, knowledge-assessed dog trainer (CPDT-KA). She is the author of two books on dog behavior: Pandemic Puppy, Decoding the Dog Park, and the Big Book of Dog Training.