Ask the Trainer: Teaching Your Dog to Take Treats Gently


“Is there a way to train my dog not to snap at your fingers when you give a treat?  I basically have to throw treats at his mouth and pull my hand back as quickly as I can to avoid getting bitten.”

This is something I see a lot with puppies and young-adult dogs who get very excited for treats.  This article is not about aggressive dogs, these suggestions are only for dogs who take treats in a rough manner (with no aggression present).  Being able to easily deliver your dog a treat is essential to properly teaching obedience commands and simply making life easier for you.

It all starts with how to properly hold a dog treat.  A lot of people make the mistake of holding the treat between their fingertips.  This leads to the dog biting their fingers.  Instead, with an open palm, you want to pinch the treat between the crease of your thumb and the base of your index finger (watch the below video for further demonstration).  Being able to do this will enable you to lure your dog into virtually any position, which allows you to teach them the 5 Obedience Commands to Make Your Life Easier.

From there, you need to ensure your dog only receives the treat when they are calm.  Most people release the treat when their dog is pushy and overexcited.  This teaches your dog that being pushy and high energy gets them what they want.  This sets the wrong precedent that will transcend into other areas of your daily routine – becoming overexcited and jumping when getting leashed to go for a walk, over-exuberant when waiting for their meal, jumping on people they meet, etc.

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An essential life skill is for dogs to learn that calmness and being relaxed will get them what they want.  The pushy and overexcited behavior gets ignored or discouraged.  So make sure to only release the treat when your dog is calm and patiently waiting for the treat.  If you do this, they will learn that the new currency of being calm and relaxed is the only thing that gets them what they want.  You can take this beyond just delivering treats. You can teach your dog to be calm before entering/exiting thresholds, waiting to eat, structured crate protocol, and calmly waiting to be leashed for walks.

While we are discussing dog treats in training, make sure to select the perfect treat for training your dog…

I hope you find this helpful in teaching your dog to take treats gently and how to be calm in everyday life activities.

Steven Reid is a dog trainer and owner of S.R. Dog Training.  Learn more about S.R. Dog Training at: Also “Like” Steve on Facebook at:

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