A Trick for (giving) Treats

When training a dog, I find that giving SMALL treats as a reward for proper responses speeds the learning process and makes the session far more enjoyable for the dog and for myself.  But what do you do when you have a dog that is so eager to get that treat that she’ll take your thumb and finger with the treat if you hold it between them?  Here’s my Trick for Treats:

When a dog is gentle about taking treats, this is not an issue — like Ugg:

When giving larger treats (not training treats) presenting them sideways to the dog helps prevent the dog from taking your hand along with the treat:

When NOT to use treats in training

When I first start training a dog that has been living on the streets for a while, I don’t use treats at all.  These dogs are often so food-centric that as soon as they discover I’m carrying food they will do anything — including knocking me over and tearing open the pocket or pouch — to get it.  They have no idea about doing what I want them to do to get the food doled out to them a morsel at a time.  They want the food, they want all of it, they want it NOW.  That can be dangerous.

So instead I reward these dogs’ good behavior with head scratches and neck rubs.  And that may take some work too.  Dogs that have been abused or neglected for a long time are not accustomed to being touched except in violence and will be skittish about it.  Be patient.  Take it slow.  Earn his trust.

Use a soft voice, and stay as low as possible so you are not towering over the dog.  That’s intimidating to them.  Also avoid staring at her eyes: her instincts tell her this is a challenge and hostility.

Once he’s adjusted to the idea that touching is pleasant, petting will serve as reward enough until you’ve gained enough respect that he will trust you to give out the food treats as they are earned.

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