Dogs love training treats, as they should, because dog training treats are their paychecks. Sometimes, excitement takes over around high value treats, and dogs snatch treats from their pet parents’ hands or bait bags. This behavior is frustrating. Dogs quickly learn that snatching treats from your hand works, especially if they were successful at stealing and eating the treat. If this has happened to you, then you were mugged by your dog. 🙂
Just like humans, dogs need to be taught how to behave politely around resources they want. Soon, your dog will learn that if you do this, she can have that. Here are a couple of games that will teach your dog manners around something she really loves. Remember, it’s all about self-control.
Leave It Game
When you’re standing in front of something you really want, it’s hard to stand still and ignore it. Imagine a deliciously frosted cupcake sitting inches from your hand, and your tummy is growling. Don’t like cupcakes? Then, picture a frosty mug of beer on a 110-degree day. Self-control is key here.
Your parents have likely taught you to wait until everyone else selects a cupcake before reaching for one. It’s manners 101. Self-control is a learned behavior, and most of us need daily practice to remind us to control our behavior.
Self-control is a learned behavior for your dog too. It’s time to teach your dog the “leave it” game. Hold a pea-sized piece of cheese in your closed hand and place your hand 1-2 inches in front of your dog’s nose. Of course, she’ll lick your hand, but the moment she stops touching your hand, say “yes” and give her the treat.
It’s important to teach dogs that human hands make good things happen.
Using a marker word teaches your dog her action is why she earned the reward. Take another treat and practice again. If your dog stops licking or touching your hand for a nanosecond, immediately say “yes” and reward. Practice 1-2 minutes per day. Soon, your dog will ignore your closed treat hand because she’s learned ignoring makes the treat appear.
It’s important to teach dogs that human hands make good things happen. The “touch” game teaches your dog to touch her nose to the palm of your hand. It’s a quick and fun dog game that can be played anywhere. Plus, this game teaches your dog how to politely earn treats instead of mugging you for them. 🙂
Holding your hand sideways, place your palm about 2 inches away from your dog’s nose. Your dog will look at you for a second and likely sniff your hand. The moment you feel her nose touch your hand, say “yes” and give her a treat. Practice for 1-2 minutes per day. Once your dog understands to touch your hand, start moving your hand farther away. Dogs learn this behavior quickly, and it’s a fun game to play with guests!
Now, your dog has learned a game that makes dog training treats appear. Be prepared, your dog may start an impromptu game to earn some treats or share food from your dinner plate. Dogs are super smart, and you can’t blame her for trying, right? If this happens, ignore it. When your dog pokes your hand, leg or treat bag with her nose, just look away for a second. Walk away and play a quick game of “touch” with your hand. This teaches your dog that an open hand means “the bar is open” and when your hand is away “the bar is closed.”