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Teaching How to Take Treats Gently: Using the Palm Down - Palm Up Technique

 Written by Mike Purcell, Owner of All Canines, CPDT-KA 

  • Watch our IG video on how to use our treat-giving technique 

Do you wish your dog had more impulse control? Do you find that your dog is sometimes mouthy or attempts to snatch treats out of your hand? Do you wish you could teach your dog a strong “leave it” cue but don’t know where to start? You are in luck because it all starts with teaching how to take treats gently.  

Many out there have a difficult time giving treats to their dogs. Now don’t get me wrong, none of us has any problem feeding our dog some delicious Saint Rocco’s Treats, but sometimes actually giving them to our dog can be a struggle. We must understand that we play a role in just about everything our dogs do. The treat exchange really is that. An exchange. A transferring of something delicious, like one of All Canines’ favorites, a Savory Red Meat Treat, to our best friends. We can teach our dogs how to take treats gently from our hand with a simple technique, some patience, and maybe some tasty Helt’s Honey Treats.  

For all dogs, you are ultimately the access to those 2 or 3 little pieces of Saint Rocco’s. Because we play a role in this exchange, we play a role in how they are given. And your dog learns their role in how they should be taken. It’s important to understand that these are two different species learning to communicate with each other with no words. One behaves based on the actions of the other. We want to be sure to give the treat in a calm manner. There is no need to be in a rush. I like to say in training the energy you give is the energy you will get. If you are in a rush to give the treat, your dog may be in a rush to get the treat. One of the main reasons I love Saint Rocco’s treats for all of my training sessions is because they break up into the perfect bite-sized treats for all the dogs I get the privilege to work with.  

To start teaching your dog this, you will want to start with a few small treats in a closed fist with your palm facing down. Then put your hand out in front of your dog. You will probably find they become fascinated by your hand. Why wouldn’t they? You have Saint Rocco’s in your hand! Your dog may sniff all around, nose at your hand, or even get a little mouthy or swat at your hand. It is important not to move the hand or say anything if any of the above happens because we are teaching your dog what to do to get a reward. Behaviors that are rewarded are repeated. So, we want to teach and reward when one of two things happens: 

A. Your dog disengages from your hand. Moves their nose away from the hand. Looks away from the hand.  
B. Your dog engages with you. They look you in the eyes.  

Once your dog does either A or B you will begin to move your fist from the palm down position to palm up. You will move slowly at first. What is likely to happen is when you move your hand, your dog will again show interest in your hand. It is important at these moments to stop moving your hand and wait again for eye contact or no interest in the hand. When you reach the palm-up position and your dog is doing A or B from above, you will open the hand and give your dog the treats. You may find that your fingertips end up underneath your dog’s chin. What is happening is your dog is learning to take the treats from your palm in a calm manner.  

When you repeat this each and every day, you will have taught something new to your dog. You will have strengthened your bond with them. And you and your dog will develop a stronger understanding of each other. You will teach your dog that there is value in disengaging with something they are interested in. This exact method is how I start training a “leave it” cue with all the dogs I work with. Even better though, you will teach your dog there is value in engagement, particularly in making eye contact with you. Because when we have our dogs, engagement, we can teach them amazing things.  

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