When I’m training my dog, I like to use treats, but after each session I need to check I’ve still got all of my fingers! He takes treats so enthusiastically, he often nips me accidentally. Do you have any tips on how to avoid this in future?
Denise Price advises…
This made me laugh, as it sounds so familiar! I have a dog exactly like this – Mabel. She is such a fan of food and is rather greedy too (she is a Labrador cross, and certainly has the stereotypical Labrador appetite), so we had to work on this with her.
Using food rewards is an efficient way of reinforcing a behaviour. When your dog has done exactly what you’re after, it’s a quick way of paying for a job well done. But if your dog is too keen on the food, he can accidentally catch your fingers. Here are my top tips to preserving your fingertips:
- Reduce the value of the treat – for example, if your dog is too excited/ bitey with sausage, switch to a dried treat.
- Deliver the treat in the palm of your hand rather than from your fingertips. Imagine you’re feeding a sugar cube to a horse (not a healthy horse snack, but something we used to do in the ‘olden days’).
- Deliver the treat calmly and slowly. If your movements are calm and slow, this will encourage your dog to take the treat more slowly too.
- For exciting exercises, playing with a toy may be more appropriate. ere are times when you want your dog to be energetic and excited, so allowing him to tug at a suitable toy could be a better way of rewarding him.
- If your dog is about to snatch a treat, calmly withdraw it and close your palm so he can’t get to it. Present your palm again, allowing him to get the treat if he does so gently. Many people say the word “gently”. It shouldn’t take too many repetitions for him to get the gist!