My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Ouch! Teaching Your Puppy to Take Treats Gently

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The young puppy lunged toward the treat. His human pulled her hand away quickly. She looked at me. “He takes them so hard. It hurts! How can I get him to be more gentle?” This is a common question: How to train your dog to take treats and leave your hand in one piece.

There are many methods and tips. Here are my favorites:

  • Do not pull your hand away. I know, those puppy teeth hurt but pulling the treat away tends to make them bite harder and faster next time. Wish it did work; it would be an easy fix. (If you are concerned about your safety or your dog breaks your skin, please stop all treat work and get immediate help from a qualified dog pro.)
  • Use less exciting treats. For real food hounds, use pieces of their kibble.
  • Training after meals can make things a bit easier.
  • Hold treat in your fist then present that to your dog. Gentle licking or patience = hand opens, treat is given. Any teeth on any flesh = hand stays closed and presses forward (read next tip).
  • Press your hand forward slowly if you feel teeth on my hand. Doing this causes your dog to move back a bit (either to step back and move their head back). This is a smooth, steady move not a rapid or harsh shove. When the dog moves back a bit, try again. Causing the dog to give ground, even a few inches, is the single most effective thing I have found for this issue.
  • Until your dog is reliably gentle, don’t have children give treats by hand. Even if done from a flat hand a child can be understandably frightened and that’s a bad dynamic. If you want your child to do some training with treats, tether the dog to something sturdy by a flat, buckle collar. That way the child can lob a treat to your dog for a job well done without worrying about getting hurt.

Be consistent and persistent about it and most dogs will quickly get the point.

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