How to Deliver Treats
When training jumpy/mouthy dogs
Food is a very effective and readily available reward for training dogs. The following method makes sure you deliver food (treats) to the dog in a way that’s safe, and helpful for training. This can be particularly important for jumpy/mouthy dogs, who might inadvertently bite the handler’s hand during treat delivery.
EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES NEEDED
A variety of high-value food like meat or cheese
Training treat bag
Food-dispensing toys, food tubes or spoon (optional)
If using solid treats, cut them into a size suitable for the dogs you are training - big enough to be rewarding for the dog, but small enough to allow many rewards before the dog gets full.
Cut treats up before you train. Breaking treats into pieces as you train can slow down delivery and hinder your timing.
Prepare more than you think you’ll need. It’s better to have too much than not enough.
Use a treat bag you are comfortable with. Things to look for:
Easy to clean
Easy to open/close
Easy to reposition around your waist (side to side, front to back, etc.) if desired
Accessibility: minimal time to reach into the bag, remove and deliver the treat
Treats can be delivered by hand, via an implement like a treat tube, or tossed onto the ground. The method you choose will depend on the dog, and the behavior you are rewarding.
Treats can be handed to the dog one at a time with pauses in between, or dispensed continuously (for example when managing jumpy/mouthy dogs). If you need to avoid pauses in treat delivery, feed continuously from a supply held in your hand, using your thumb to push individual treats to the dog.
If a dog bites your fingers when taking treats, the biting is likely to be reinforced when the dog gets the treat. Other treat delivery options that avoid this problem include:
Treat given from your open hand, palm facing up
On the ground
Using a treat tube or spoon
You can also train a dog to take treats more gently.
The way you reach for treats can be distracting to the dog during training. Reach for the food only after you’ve given your marker word or click (if you use one), or after the desired behavior. You can also keep a number of treats in your hand behind your back until you deliver the treat.