Nipped fingers are an occupational hazard when working with dogs. Even dogs with good bite inhibition can forget themselves from time to time when in the middle of an exuberant training session. When I have a dog that is a bit to nippy and impolite when taking a treat, I use a simple wrist curl to help protect my fingers and teach the dog that soft and polite is the way to get that reward.
To begin with, I use a very small treat size. Think mincing not chopping. I’ve found that some dogs seem to grab at bigger chunks with more vigor than smaller ones and I’ve yet to meet the dog who won’t work the same for either.
With the treat between your thumb and forefinger and pointed towards the dog, offer the treat. If the dog is being too nippy simply roll your wrist inward so the dog’s mouth is at the back of your hand. Normally this causes the dog to stop nipping and start sniffing. When the sniff becomes more investigative than pushy, slowly uncurl your wrist. If the dog continues being polite, keep uncurling the wrist until the dog gets the treat. If the dog becomes too pushy, curl your wrist back again until they get the idea.
Usually it only takes a few curls per session for them to get it. Once you know that they will respond to the wrist curl by being polite, pair a word with the wrist curl that will become the cue for being polite. “Manners” or “Easy” said in a nice polite voice are excellent choices but you can use anything you want. The dog will quickly learn to associate the word with the action and soon a simple reminder of “Manners” may be all you need to save your fingers from the purple patch produced by the puppy pinch.
If you have other effective ways of teaching your pooch not to pinch and keeping your fingers fastened, please leave a comment and share them with us.
Kevin, Jackie, Gavin, Annie, Tosha, Elbee