Should I Try To Get My Dog To Take A Treat From My Hand?

fearful dogs Oct 17, 2022
Dog afraid of reaching hand

We all want our dogs to take treats from us, and most dogs love treats! However, for a fearful dog, taking a treat from a person's hand is no small feat. It is a skill that we can teach our dogs, but not until they're ready. 


Three Signs Your Dog Isn't Ready To Take A Treat From Your Hand

The tips here are meant to be generally useful- but your dog is an individual. If your dog is uncomfortable taking treats from your hand, and this isn't improving, work with a qualified positive reinforcement trainer.  You can reach out to us for help (email [email protected], or read about our training options here on the website). 


Sign #1: The Space "Buffer"

If your dog doesn't readily approach you all the way- if they always keep a foot (or two, or three) of space between you, then it's not time to try to hand feed. Check out the video below for an example. Work on your dog's comfort with approaching you first, before starting to train your dog to take food from your hand. 


Sign #2: Not Eating Consistently

If your dog isn't yet eating consistently, and enthusiastically, when you're nearby, they're probably not ready to take treats from your hand. Train your dog to eat happily near you. Once your dog will reliably eat when right next to you, they might be ready to take treats from your hand. 


Sign #3: Aggression 

If your dog sometimes growls, barks, or lunges at you when you're nearby, it's not yet time to work on hand feeding. If your dog is still scared enough to try to drive you away, asking them to approach to take a treat from you hand isn't a good idea. Many dogs won't approach at all, but some might come close to get the treat, become frightened, and bite. 


Is your dog ready to learn to take treats from your hand? Shoot us a message or email ([email protected]). We'd love to hear what is working for you, or how we can help. 

If you're looking for more training support for your fearful pup, check out our monthly training membership, or our one-on-one training program