Training "Take A Treat From My Hand"

fearful dogs Oct 24, 2022
dog taking treat from hand

Do you have an anxious dog who is reluctant to take treats from your hand?  If your dog is comfortable approaching you and eating next to you, but not yet taking treats from your hand reliably, this training is for you. If you're not sure if your dog is ready to take treats from your hand, check out this recent blog


Two Strategies For Teaching "Take A Treat From My Hand"

If your dog will eat a treat from the floor right next to you, but is still wary of your hands, you need training steps to bridge that gap.  Here are two approaches that could work for your dog: 


Strategy #1: Hold Out A Treat, Pause, Drop Treat

This is an approach I used with our dog Pancake. To use this strategy, there has to be some version of "offering a treat by hand" that your dog doesn't back away from. Some possibilities for holding out a treat in a way that is "safe" according to your dog could include:  1) Offering a treat below your dog's nose level; 2) Placing your hand on the floor with a treat in it; 3) Holding out a treat low and to the side of your dog, so you're not extending your hand straight toward them. 

There are endless variations on "offering a treat"- these are just suggestions to get you started. 

Once you've identified how you can offer a treat in a non-threatening way, you can try the "offer-pause-drop" strategy. When working with Pancake, I started by holding out a treat in my hand about 2-3' away from him, then immediately dropping it and moving away. When he was reliably moving toward my hand while I was dropping the treat, I added a 2 second pause before dropping the treat. After a while, he came to get the treat from my hand before I dropped it. There are some clips of this in the video below. 


Strategy #2: Use A "Treat Stick"

Another way to train your dog to take a treat from your hand, is to first teach them to eat from a long spoon, spatula, or target stick. You might have to train this first with the implement resting on the floor, without your hand on it.  Some dogs will be too fearful of an implement for this to be an efficient strategy- you'll need to experiment to see if it's a viable approach for your dog.

Once your dog will eat treats from the end of a spoon or target stick while you're holding the other end, you can gradually decrease the distance between your hand and the end of the implement w ith the treat. Check out the video for a demonstration. 


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