How To Teach "gentle" When Feeding Treats

Discussion in 'Obedience Training' started by mia113, May 18, 2014.

  1. mia113 Well-Known Member

    Mia isn't too bad at the moment when it comes to biting but can snatch and bite harder when I feed her a treat. How do you train them to take the food/treats gently without snatching?
    Evie and running_dog like this.

  2. running_dog Honored Member

    The method I used with Gus is from the Sue Ailsby Training levels.

    Hold a treat in your closed fist, allow the dog to sniff and paw at your fist but do not release the treat. When your dog momentarily pauses and stops touching your hand you click and drop the treat on the floor for the dog to eat. Over time you build up the amount of distance and time that your dog will leave your hand alone. Basically the dog is learning that by not fussing at your hand it will get the treat. Obviously it is not directly teaching your dog to take nicely but it is teaching it impulse control which is the essential foundation for taking treats nicely. If a dog is superb at leaving your closed fist alone when it contains a really good treat it is unlikely it is going to chomp your hand off if you offer it a treat. It is good to get in the habit of holding out every treat in your fist so that the dog has a moment to sniff and calm down and remember not to snatch and grab before you open your hand and give it the treat.
  3. running_dog Honored Member

    I've just remembered another thing you can do is offer a low/mediocre treat in your hand (hold it in your closed fist first if necessary), if the dog takes nicely, click and drop a super good extra tasty treat on the floor for your dog to eat. That way your dog learns that if it takes nicely it gets even better treats. Gradually you can increase the value of the treats you are offering from your hand and teach the dog that if it takes nicely it might get better treats or two treats or more from your hand but if it snatches it is game over and you stop playing.
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  4. JazzyandVeronica Experienced Member

    I used a similar method with Veronica but instead of dropping the treat when she stopped poking at my hand and tying to get the treat, I opened my hand and allowed her to take the treat from my palm. Any additional rudeness or roughness resulted in me closing my fist back up and she only got the treat when she took it gently.

    I also taught gentle through bite inhibition. I prefer teeth gently on humans vs. no teeth at all on humans...just personal preference.
    running_dog, mia113 and Anneke like this.
  5. Evie Experienced Member

    How'd you teach bite inhibition? I agree with the teeth gently vs. no teeth at all. But once again, just personal preference...
    running_dog likes this.
  6. JazzyandVeronica Experienced Member

    I started when she was a puppy, I would allow her to mouth my hands and give her verbal feedback on what was an acceptable level of pressure. I'm not sure how this would work with an adult dog but I'm guessing you could implement it if you had a mouthy dog. (Harder and riskier with an adult though, depending upon how hard of a mouth they've developed.)

    I also brush V.'s teeth almost every night. It's for dental hygiene but also to keep her used to my having my hands in her mouth. I use a finger brush and I do the outside of her teeth and have her open her mouth and do the inside of her teeth.
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  7. running_dog Honored Member

    I love this idea and used it with Zac without ever needing to drop the treat on the floor.

    However my reservation is that if a dog is a real snatcher (like Gus was and 4 dogs I walk are) then it will have the treat and half your hand before you get your fist closed again in response to "rudeness". That means the dog has just been rewarded (it got the treat) for nipping and there is no way you can take that back.

    Also if the dog doesn't understand the principle of gentleness then closing my fist again in response to "rudeness" can actually make the dog into a worse snatcher because it thinks that it just wasn't fast enough last time!

    Therefore until the dog develops self control and understands the principle of gentleness I would always start with dropping the treat, that way I can be absolutely sure the dog gets rewarded for the right thing. I use your method but later in the training process.
    JazzyandVeronica likes this.
  8. running_dog Honored Member

    I'm not sure I like the idea of encouraging dogs to mouth people, there are too many opportunities for things to go wrong, not so much with the dog as with human perceptions. What if Gus gently mouthed a child? Even my nieces would scream he'd bitten them and the consequences if he gently mouthed a child who petted him in the street don't bear thinking about. I'd say that a dogs nose, lips and tongue on skin are fine but in most cases for the dog's sake I favour teaching no teeth on skin in modern society.

    I know it depends on the dog and the circumstances. Zac who has great bite control nips me (and only me) gently when he is very pleased with himself. I'm fine with that because he doesn't actually choose to get involved with most people so he'd never nip them. Teeth on skin with Gus, and other very outgoing dogs would be much more of a problem because he thinks almost everyone (especially everychild) is his best friend as soon as he meets them so if he was allowed to mouth us he would mouth them.
    JazzyandVeronica likes this.
  9. JazzyandVeronica Experienced Member

    You make some good points running dog. I do like the idea of dropping the treat for a really rambunctious dog.

    I also agree allot will depend upon the behavior of the individual dog in making a determination of one's personal comfort level and preference.

    Interestingly Veronica stopped mouthing as she got older and only retained the soft mouth aspects of the training...I'm guessing she just grew out of mouthing in general. Also, she never mouthed anyone outside of the immediate family...and now I can't remember why lol! (In my defense it was 8 years ago). She was socialized ALLOT...but I think she only did the mouthing when she was over-tired and fusing so that was always at home with us, or when we were putting on her collar, leash, coat...which we were the only one's doing that.

    I believe she mouthed in play also...and again, all interactions with people outside of me and my husband were highly supervised, not because I didn't trust her, but because I didn't trust the reactions/perceptions of people who weren't us (I was just a super over observant, micro manager because of the "pit bull" designation). Plus I may be in the minority here but I never thought dog/puppies of any breed and very small children were a great combination for just the reason you mentioned, as well as accidents occurring because there are people who think their children should be able to do whatever they like to the dog and that the dog should have an infinite amount of tolerance. I am in the minority I know, but I disagree. I think if you touch the stove you get burned, if you pull the dog's tail, you get bit. - good life lessons all around - there should be a responsible adult there making sure lessons are learned without any of the negative consequences actually happening. That's called parenting. (Sorry for my rant, you can tell that's a subject I can get on a soap box about :p ).

    But I do agree with you about the perceptions of modern society. Veronica is extremely out-going, loves people and loves to interact with them. But she only does so with my permission, while on leash while I'm standing there monitoring the entire interaction (unless I know the people VERY well, I know their approach to dogs and I know their perceptions about dog behavior and they are adults - then if we're in accord on all those things - I trust them to be responsible and interact with Veronica.)

    In other situations, walking on the street, meeting strangers I have trained her to ignore baby carriages and small children and focus on me. I don't want some hysterical person yelling "Oooh that pit bull smelled my baby" - plus I think it would be rude, not everyone likes dogs and I totally get people not wanting strange dogs around their children. I only allow Veronica to interact with children who's parents ask if she can. If the child asks I make it a point to say to the child "only if your mom/dad says it's OK" while looking at the parent. (Of course there are those occasional sad cases where the child has already thrown themselves around Veronica and the parent is no where in sight...). When given permission Veronica will give some licks and kisses and then I thank the parent/child for giving her attention and we walk away.

    But I think in her case, allowing the mouthing helped her to develop a soft mouth but it didn't encourage her to maintain the mouthing beyond the stage where it would naturally fall off anyway and she was developing more "grown up" behaviors.
    running_dog likes this.
  10. running_dog Honored Member

    Thank you for clarifying, that makes things a lot clearer, I think it is a perfectly valid training step for some dogs.

    I'm in the camp that always points out that the parent should keep the child from abusing the dog and presents the dog's defence when things do go wrong. In that I think we do agree. But a dog is NOT justified a bite for a pulled tail in the first instance any more than he is justified a bite for if someone accidentally stands on his tail, he IS justified in growling like thunder.

    In principle I agree that small children and dogs don't mix...

    ... But I just can't escape from the reality that my siblings grew up with a dog from birth and he adored them and they him. He died before I was born and we did not get another until I was about 5, I would not have dreamed of deliberately hurting him, sure I did some stupid things but it was so special to have a dog that we truly wouldn't ever have teased him or done anything like pulling his tail, he was one of us, we defended him fiercely against any visiting children who dared to break our family rules. He always had his crate which he could go to when he wanted to get away from it all and we never touched him at meal times. He was allowed to growl a warning when he was accidentally trodden on (we always apologised!), and I vividly remember our fury when some adult visitor was unpleasant when the dog growled at my father. Even more vividly remembered is the wave of love and pride I felt for my father when he quietly and politely defended the dog's right to growl - after he'd apologised to the dog of course.

    Of course supervision is required for very small children, as a toddler my nephew used to attempt to pinch the dogs ears and stroke their fur backwards and I felt just like you and resolved not to trust him at all, but I was again challenged when I heard that this same nephew (when he was 4), thinking no one was watching, was not sneakily pulling Gus's tail but putting his arm gently across his shoulders and whispering into a floppy black ear "I love you Gus, I really do."

    In an ideal world I'd do the same with strange children but for Gus to ignore a child would be like him ignoring a giant plodgeable muddy puddle... it is just not going to happen any time soon! So yes I leash him when children are around but I also build in safety just in case and to me letting him think mouthing is okay wouldn't be a good idea for our life style - especially as being half labrador he is actually a very mouthy sort of dog. I do see that in Veronica's case it was fine and with the level of supervision she gets was no problem.

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