To your pup, a treat or piece of food is like gold, and he sees nothing wrong with lunging in and snatching it from your hand. But grabbing at food is bad puppy manners, so it's time to show him he only gets a bite on your terms.
Start out in a quiet area of your house with no distractions, and hold a treat in front of your pup's nose. Close your hand around the treat and say, "Wait." Only say it once. When your pup inevitably shoves his snout into your fist, licks the crevices of your fingers to try and grab the treat and does anything else to pry out his snack, just stand there and wait.
Open your hand when he pulls back so he sees the treat. Say, "Take." With the delicious snack in clear view, your little guy will probably waste no time in trying to grab it from your hand. If he leans in gently and scoops it up with his tongue, let him indulge in his pleasure and tell him he's a good boy. If he lunges at the treat, close your hand again and say, "Wait." He might huff and puff, but ignore him. Wait until he pulls his inquisitive nose away from your hand, and then let him see the treat again and say, "Take."
Make it a little tougher for him as time goes on. Wait for him to stop sniffing and pawing at the treat, and then make him wait a little longer before you issue the take command. The longer you wait, the more eager he's going to become, so don't get frustrated if he tries to sneak in that big tongue after waiting for 10 seconds. The more difficult you make it, the more he realizes that it's not about the time he waits, it's about listening for the command.
Use the take command every time you give your pup a treat. He has to know that grabbing for any type of food is a huge no-no. So if you let him take a piece of cheese on his own terms, you're making him a very confused puppy, because he's not sure if he should wait for the take command. Anytime you give him a treat or any type of food from your hand, always make him wait for the special word.
Practice with his toys and bones, too. Integrating the take command into your pup's daily life and making him wait for your command until he grabs that dingy rope or his favorite squeaking toy better reinforces the behavior. Plus, it can save your finger from getting mauled if he normally lunges in for a sneak attack on his ball before you can throw it. You don't have to tell him to "take" his toys every time he drops them in your lap, but throwing it in once or twice keeps him from getting a little rusty with the command.
- Remember to only give your little guy his treat if he takes it gently. If you let him lunge in after saying the take command, he's going to think that's appropriate behavior.
- After a while, you probably won't find a need to use the wait command. But it is useful if you want go a step further, such as placing treats on his paws and making him wait for the take command.
- The process used to teach the take command is somewhat similar to the command to "leave it," but never use the two together. When teaching the "leave it" command, you always feed a treat to your pup from your other hand, never the one holding the initial treat.
- Smacking your pup on his nose or yelling at him will not make him stop his behavior.
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.