My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Ouch! Teaching Your Puppy to Take Treats Gently


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.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.