Learning how to train a dog to take food gently out of your hands is an important task that all dog owners must master.  For many dogs, taking a portion of their owner’s finger, along with a morsel of food, is a sure-fire way to make sure they actually get the treat from owners.  Owners have a habit of pulling their hands away as soon as they feel the dog’s mouth on their skin, a reaction that will need to be changed.

Other dogs that exhibit overly-grabby behaviors are merely overly-excited about receiving a treat anyway they can get it.  In each of these cases, these dogs have either picked-up some bad habits, as a result of some improper training on the part of their owners, and/or really haven’t been properly taught how to take food from their owner in the first place.

“Your job as a dog owner is to show your dog the correct way to get the things he desires in life.”

Option 1 – How to Train a Dog to Take Food Gently

In this first method, on how to train a dog to take food gently, feed your dog small morsels of food from your hand, but try not to remove your fingers from the food. Keep them tight on the food so the dog is always in contact with them.

If he’s a little nippy, and your first instinct is to move your hand away, DON’T!! Keep your hand there and wait until he’s figured out that he doesn’t get the treat until the nipping stops. Once the light bulb goes off, and he’s calm, reward him.

Any type of misbehavior, i.e., barking, pawing, etc. just results in the delay of him receiving his treat. Remain quiet and still, and wait him out. Hang on tight until he eases his mouth, then release the food, and give him some nice praise for doing such a great job. This teaches bite inhibition as well. If his teeth are really causing you a lot of pain, you can try this with gloves on or try Option 2.

Option 2 – Alternate Method If Nipping Persists

If, after practicing with Option 1, your dog is still nipping you when you feed him from your hand or you just cannot tolerate his nipping, give this option a try.

Put a treat in your hand (referred to as “baiting your hand”) and hold it approximately at your eye level. Ask him to sit and slowly bring your baited hand down towards his mouth. If he remains seated and attempts to take the treat gently, say “Yes” or “Good” and give him the treat.

If the dog has learned to respond to Clicker Training, you can always reinforce his positive behavior with the clicker as well. If he jumps out of the sit or goes to lunge for your hand with his mouth, just say “Ahh-Ahh”, and abruptly pull the treat away back up to your eye level.

Try the exercise again.  Keep practicing this exercise of lowering and pulling away as needed, until your dog has learned the proper way to get his rewards.  Learning how to train a dog to take food gently takes practice and patience, but with perseverance, you can master the technique.


  1. Thanks! I modified option one (kept the treat in my fist so I had no fingers being sacrificed!) nand it is working well after just 3 minutes/one session! We adopted the dog after she was abandoned, and she’s about 7 years old, so it’s encouraging that she CAN be taught new tricks!

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