Stop Your Dog’s Snatching
Stop Your Dog’s Snatching
How many dog owners suffer with a dog that grabs a little bit of flesh when they come in to take a treat?
This problem plagues many a dog owner.
I have to confess, I have been to quite a few homes where I have had a blood letting because the dog came in too hard for a treat!
This is totally unacceptable.
What if a toddler was holding a hotdog and wandering around the house?
Can you imagine the horrors and the implications?
The dog hurts the child, simply because he wanted the food, the child incurs a bite and a scar and the dog loses his life… I think that is the epitome of deplorable conditions for both the dog and the child.
When I was Younger
Do you ever look back on experiences in your life and wonder just how you survived?
I have those moments too!
Several years ago, I taught an adolescent Cheetah to take treats nicely.
That’s right. A wild cat, I was unimpressed and not scared when I taught her positively, to take treats nicely.
And, let me just say if I could do this with a wild cat, chances are you can do this with your family pet!
However, if your dog is possessive or you are afraid of being bitten badly, seek the help of a boarded veterinary behaviorist. Nothing is worth wearing the scar of being bitten badly by your dog! But, only you can make that educated decision based on your experiences!
Ironically, I never felt in mortal danger with my Cheetah friend, even when she swept in for her reward.
If the subject (please don’t work with big cats… I might have been a little crazy) goes to snatch the treat in my hand; I close the treat inside my fist and lock the dog/cheetah out.
- Don’t yell!
- Don’t smack!
- Don’t backhand!
- Don’t yank or kick!
Aggression is often met with aggression.
I want to teach my dog that being “snatchy” equals no reward.
Again, most dogs won’t become angry and bite (if they are not truly possessive) they just become confused and frustrated.
After all, when a dog snaps for a treat, chances are the human equivalent of the equation usually tosses or screams and lets go of the reward; therefore rewarding snatchy behavior.
I mean, if I as a human, could draw a little blood and get the Cheetos or diamonds that I desire, wouldn’t I try?
Dogs learn very quickly, if they swoop in with teeth; they can get what they want.
This is why I encapsulate the reward in my fist.
And, surprisingly most dogs won’t bite your fist that hard.
A bite to the finger hurts, especially if it is anywhere near the fingernail.
A mouth to the fist is much less intimidating. Most of the time the teeth barely hit it and glance off because there is no immediate reward.
I use this term a lot lately.
Impulse control is basically controlling your impulse to do something that is not socially acceptable.
Someone yells at you at work; you can’t punch them in the face… you control your impulses.
Your boss yells at you; your impulse may be to cuss or call names or walk out… yet you control your impulses because your family needs to eat.
Dogs, also need to learn to control their impulses.
They can’t steal food whenever we are eating and they want it.
They can’t react behaviorally (chasing, barking, other bad behaviors) whenever they like.
They must learn to listen and control their impulses until they are given the okay!
I use a treat that I know my dog wants
As soon as he lunges toward it; I encapsulate it into my fist.
I wait until he shows me an appropriate behavior (sit, down, respectful eye contact)
And then I mark that behavior (with a clicker preferably) and give the dog a reward.
I say “a reward” because I don’t always want him to think that he will get exactly what we are working with! Sometimes he will get something better and sometimes he will get more volume but not the same thing we are working with at that time.
Again, I don’t want my dog to think this is just a game of who is faster to the reward.
I want to teach my dog….
I want to teach my dog that just because it is in my hand, and he wants it, doesn’t mean he can bully me or lunge for it!
Ironically, I also don’t want to have to yell LEAVE IT!
I want my dog to have a good leave it; as well and for more on that click here.
But I want my dog to immediately control his impulse to steal or grab or snatch something without requiring a command.
This should not be a product of who is faster; me to yell or my dog to snatch.
I want his default to be sitting and looking at me for approval or disproval (for that matter).
Then, I Up the Ante
Next I test my dog and up the ante.
Sometimes dogs think that if a treat raises above a certain amount of feet or (more likely) lowers below a certain amount of feet, it becomes theirs.
Put a treat in your hand and then put your hand on the floor.
Chances are once it is below about 3 feet, the dog thinks it belongs to him.
If it hits the floor…. Then the chances are even higher that the dog claims ownership.
However, the last thing I want my dog to learn is that what hits the floor is his!
After all, have you never opened a pill bottle and had the contents spill on the floor?
Imagine your Nyquil pills hitting the floor when you are sick? If your dog swallows those, it could kill him!
I want my dog to think twice if something hits the floor.
I want him to wait to be told he can “take” whatever it is; instead of just pouncing out of opportunity.
This skill could very likely save his life!
Once my dog understands that he is not to snatch things out of my hand; I move the food or toy or whatever is desired to the floor without being in my hand.
I also must ensure that I can get to the treat faster; so I ready my foot to go over the treat or toy.
While you are teaching, do your best to keep an accidental reward for bad behavior from happening.
It is predictable that your dog will try to grab whatever hits the floor. You must prepare for this, or again this becomes a game of who is the fastest.
And, most often, your dog will be quicker.
Instead, we just want him to eventually give up on trying to get the reward.
Now that your dog has more control of himself, it is time to take this up to the ultimate form of control.
I drop a treat and let it bounce.
Again, most dogs will give chase and I have to cover it with my foot.
But, if they have been successful up until now, they will quickly understand what you want and begin showing you good behavior.
1 Rule On How To Stop Your Dog’s Snatching
My big rule for this particular part of impulse control is that I rarely if EVER allow my dog to eat a treat that drops to the floor.
I want him to understand that he will be rewarded from my hand, but that he will not be rewarded for chasing or lunging at the treat.
This lessens the chance of it becoming that game of who is faster to the reward.
Because, I for one drop things like pills, chocolate, grapes, raisins and other toxic items that I don’t want my dog to consume!
His life just may depend on it some day!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.