"Taking Treats Nicely!" Game
Being opportunists most dog's when presented with food will grab, lunge, snatch, bite at it to get it. This exercise is to teach your dog that they can have the food but they must make it from your hand nicely and softly.
Step 1: Pinch a treat between your fingers so your dog can take it when they lick but if they nibble or bite at your fingers for the treat they can't get the treat. I suggest using treats that you can easily hold onto if your dog uses their teeth, avoid slimy and slippery treats.
Step 2: Offer the treat to your dog and hold it right in front of their mouth but don't release it. I find it is best if you shut your eyes or look away for this step as I find our eyes play tricks on us and by the time you bridge the lick the tongue has disappeared
Wait and see if your dog licks for the treat. The moment you feel your dog lick for the treat, bridge and release the treat for your dog to eat. Through repetition your dog should be less nibbley and more lickey.
Hold a treat between your fingers, that you can easily hold onto if the dog tries to take it with his teeth. Wait and see if the dog licks the treat. If he licks the treat let it go. If he doesn’t keep waiting or try to hold the treat in a different way that might give him the idea to lick it. You can first have your dog lick a thin layer peanut butter off a spoon to give him the idea of licking instead of biting.
Once your dog is reliably licking the treat out of your fingers, you can say your cue “Lick” or whatever cue you wish, like “Gentle”, before your dog licks it out of your hand.
It’s important to add the cue after your dog is calm and has started to take treats softly. Most dog owners say “gentle” every time they think their dog might take the treat hard, which is when the dog is excited. It is a much better idea to associate the cue when the dog is calm and the dog is already offering the behavior.
First play these games with low value treats and then higher value treats. Practice these games with the dog in different positions in relation to you as well as in different training locations, to help the dog generalize the behavior. When you first begin you can play the games after your dog has had a meal and is less interested in food.
*Troubleshoot: If you find your dog is struggling to understand that they need to lick, try repositioning and holding the treat in a different way that might give them a different perspective and the idea to lick.
*Troubleshoot: If after trying the above start with covering the palm of your hand in a thin layer of peanut butter to lick to give them the idea of licking instead go biting. Fade the peanut butter from your whole palm to pinching a bloop of peanut butter in-between your fingers.