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Delivering Food Rewards without Getting Your Fingers Pinched

October 14, 2013     Ed Frawley

Just as the timing of the world is important, so too is HOW the reward is offered to the dog. It is a big mistake to give a high food drive dog a piece of food from the tips of our fingers. It can result in blisters and blackened fingernails.

Some dogs will naturally take food in gently. Others will need the training to take the food in gently. Then there will be dogs that are so driven for food that nipping a finger or two isn't a concern for them at all.

The best and correct way to delivery the food reward to your dog is on the open flat palm of the hand.

To hold this treat, simply place it between your thumb and the base of your index finger (see image below). When you hold it like this, it's easy to release the treat with your thumb. The treat will roll into the palm of your hand of which the dog can take of of. When you give your dog a treat this way, you won't get bit.

The correct way to hold a food reward - pinched between thumb and base of the finger.

As mentioned in Determining Your Reward, SOFT TREATS are the best treat to give.
They are easy to eat. Too often dogs will hack up hard crunchy treats.

This is the incorrect way to give food to your dog.
Dogs with high food drive will bite your fingertips.

You can store food in a bait pouch. Our belt is kept in the middle or our back or in the pocket of a training vest or jacket. Sometimes, we will pre-load our hand with a food reward, meaning we will have food in the hand before the exercise begins.

Dogs will figure out when you have food pre-loaded in your hand. Some dogs will try to take that food from your hand. Here are a few things you can do to prevent it:

Close your hand into a fist and hold it flat against the front of your leg. When the dog continues to try and take food from your hand, we say and do nothing. Simply stand there. The dog will eventually give up and look at you. Once that happens, mark the look and reward the dog with a food treat.

Doing this will teach the dog that he holds the key to the food reward. They learn that they can get the food if they do something you want. Look at the images below for some more reference on how this works:

If your dog tries to take food from your hand, hold both hands against your legs like this until
the dog stops and looks in your eyes. Mark the look and reward.

This photo demonstrates placement of the reward on the target after the mark.