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Hi, I posted a little while ago about my anxiety with my new dog Ziggy. One thing I've noticed that I'm not sure what to do about is that he seems particularly nippy with treats and training. He doesn't seem to have any patience and even if he doesn't do the asked for task, even the beginnings of the task he goes ferociously after my hand for a treat just because he know they are there. How am I supposed to train this out of him? Do I have to stop the training session as soon as he does this behavior? I can't really have fun with training or make any progress if I can't teach him to wait and listen.

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My boy did this a lot as a puppy and will still revert back to being quite nippy with treats if he starts to get overly excited or stressed during a training session. There are a few ways to teach Ziggy to take treats gently, assuming he's just being too rough and not actually ferociously attacking you.

 

One approach is to hold a treat in a closed fist in front of him. Most likely he will nudge, try to nibble, and paw at your hand trying to get the treat. Just stay calm and keep your hand closed. Eventually, since his approaches aren't working, he'll have to re-evaluate the situation. The instant he backs off from your hand and stops trying to muscle the treat away from you "click & treat" (or use a word like "yes" and treat). You need to watch him closely and time it just right, but the moment he stops bullying you for the treat and gives you some space is when he gets his reward. In the beginning your window of opportunity to reward his self control might be very short, but as you work on this, hold him to a higher standard. Make him back off further, or wait longer before rewarding with the treat. I also used this as a starting point for "wait". I can tell my dog to "wait", hold a high value treat in my open hand right in front of his face and he'll wait patiently until I say "OK".

 

Another approach, which is one I still have to use pretty often as my boy gets uber excited during training, is to teach a word that means "use your mouth gently". My cue is "nice" but I've seen trainers use "soft". Doesn't matter what word you use, you are trying to get him to understand that "if you use your mouth roughly with me you get nothing". So, here's what you do: Hold a treat firmly pinched between your fingers. Make sure you have a good enough hold on it that there's no chance he'd be able to get it out. If he tries to take the treat gently (using his tongue to lick your fingers) allow him to have it. If he goes for the treat like a land shark (using his teeth and being pushy) in a loud, high pitched voice yell "OUCH!" and poke him on the nose or muzzle with the fingers holding the treat. You do not need to poke him hard, you just want to get his attention and surprise him a bit. This just simulates what another dog would do to communicate that he is being too rough (a yelp and a light nip). Then offer the treat again (still pinched between your fingers) and if he tries to take it gently let him have it and "good nice"! Otherwise repeat the "ouch" routine. It might take him a few tries, but these dogs are so smart, he'll eventually try a different tactic that doesn't involve mugging you for treats and find he gets more rewards that way.

 

I'd love to hear suggestions from others about how to keep an excitable dog calm during training, as mine is still a bit of a nut job about the whole thing. I've thought about starting my own thread, but I'll troll yours instead. ;)

 

Things that DO seem to help: 1) Speaking softly, keeping praise pretty low key. 2) Keeping treats in a pocket (or treat bag) instead of in your hand, as the dog seems more inclined to focus on you instead of what you are holding. 3) Take "time-outs" when things get too intense. When my dog starts to bark at me during training (I really hate that) I will turn away from him, not even look at him and count to 30. Then I reengage him and we restart the lesson with a clean slate. 4) Know when to quit. Ideally the training session should end before the dog loses focus or starts to get stressed out. In your other post I think you mentioned Ziggy is 9 months? Try to be patient with him, that's a tough age for training.

 

Good luck and I look forward to reading what others suggest!

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These sound great, I tried the first one at different heights because it seems when I try to lure him into down is when he gets worse. I think we're going to have to work on it like everything but he seemed to get the gist after awhile. It would be nice to rein this in before he goes to obedience classes : p

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I hear you, for the good of your own fingers tips it's good to get this under control sooner rather then later. ;) I'm glad to hear he's beginning to get the idea! I'd say if he's getting the message when the treat is held up higher that's great, work from there!

 

I also would encourage you to work on this independent of other commands. Teaching him to show a little bit of self control and to be gentle taking a treat could easily warrant it's own training sessions until the concept becomes clear to him. Once he understands that he *has* to be gentle taking treats from your hand... every time... then it's easier to reinforce the behavior while you are working on other things. I hope this makes sense...

 

Have fun and keep up the good work, you two!!

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Thank your for posting, schrevolution! And thank you for the answer, Camden's mom- I needed some help in this exact thing with Jack- he was really turning into a thug with treats, but it's getting better - at first he was like "?" "what's wrong with you?" and walking off. I kept calling him over and trying again and saying "easy." He's getting much better at taking the treats from me.

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at first he was like "?" "what's wrong with you?" and walking off. I kept calling him over and trying again and saying "easy." He's getting much better at taking the treats from me.

I'm curious, were you using the "ouch" and poke technique when he walked away? Avoidance would be a very respectful reaction if that's the case. I think this means you successfully communicated to Jack that he was being too rough and he gave you space... good boy!!! I'd do just what you are doing, let him know it's OK to come back and give him another chance to try again and take the treats "easy".

 

If Jack is a super sensitive fellow, you could probably just use the word "ouch" and eliminate the little poke on the nose (the nip). I suggested the poke because some dogs are SO food motivated that if you pull the hand holding the treat *away* from them they will just continue to go after your hand (which turns the whole exercise into a game of "keeping away" and completely defeats the purpose).

 

Anyways, sounds like both these boys are starting to "get it". Happy training!! :D

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My border collie was snappy with treats as well. I did work like in the video above, using the command "Take it Gentle". Now the command is sufficient to have him wait to get the treat. In high excitement times, I use command and the palm/thumb method.

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