Teach Your Dog to Take Treats Gently

Another alternative is not to give a treat, chew or toy directly from your hand. Instead, ask your dog to do a sit or down, mark the calm behavior with a clicker or verbal marker like “good,” and then toss or lay the toy on the ground in front of him or in a food bowl. Teach your dog to wait calmly until he is released and can retrieve the item.

Reinforcing Good Behavior

The way you offer a treat can also influence how your dog behaves. When a treat or chew is held just out of his reach, it forces him to jump or stand on his hind legs to get it and makes it more likely that he will snatch the item from the person offering it. This can create a cycle in which the person giving the treat anticipates the dog’s reaction and pulls away more quickly, emphasizing the dog’s need to move fast in order to get what he is being offered.

To help prevent your dog from jumping up to get his treat or toy, place your hands just under or aligned with the level of the dog’s muzzle rather than above the muzzle. This enables him to reach the treat without having to jump or stand on two legs.

Be sure that everyone who gives your dog food or toy rewards does so in a consistent manner, designed to promote and reinforce the gentle taking of treats. This can include offering treats on a flat palm and holding them low enough that the dog does not need to reach or jump.

When there are multiple dogs in a household, establish a routine for how dogs are rewarded. Ask all the dogs for a calm behavior, like a sit, and then hand out treats in a consistent order — smallest to biggest, for example, or oldest to youngest. This makes the situation more predictable for your dogs and less competitive, which helps eliminate grabbing.

When you play with your dog, avoid hand wrestling, as it teaches your canine that putting his teeth on your skin is an acceptable behavior. When you play tug-of-war or fetch with your pooch, have structured rules to discourage his teeth from touching your skin, such as immediately ending a game if teeth touch hands or skin.

If with training or change of delivery tactics there is little improvement or there is a sign of aggression or fear involved with the behavior, immediately contact a professional, starting with your veterinarian, for further assistance.