How to Train Your Dog to Be Gentle

How to Train Your Dog to Be Gentle
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Time icon2-4 Days
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Your sweet new puppy jumps up on you when you give him treats, wrestles and nips you while playing, or snatches food and runs away, so cute right? Wrong! It may seem cute now, but when he weighs 100 pounds, having him jump, mouth, or snatch things from your hand can result in injury and will not be appreciated by others who are the victims of his aggressive treat taking habits or play. Teaching your dog manners and gentleness when taking food, greeting others, and playing is important for your safety and the safety of other household members and visitors, and teaches your dog an important expectation that will translate to other training.

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Defining Tasks

In order to keep yourself, and everyone else, safe around your grabby, rambunctious, dog, you need to teach him to be gentle. Dogs should be taught to take treats from your hand gently and calmly, and that play does not involve mouthing, scratching, jumping, or grabbing your arm or clothes. Verbally reminding your dog to “Be Gentle” or Easy” to indicate to him that his behavior is getting too rough and he needs to “take it down a notch”, will make him a much more pleasant companion and avoid injuries. The best way to ensure your dog is gentle, is to start teaching him when he is young and correcting bad behavior as soon as it manifests. If your dog has already started to be grabby or plays too rough you will need to counteract this behavior by guiding him towards gentle behaviors; carefully taking food from your hands or playing with a toy instead of your arm! Most dogs learn this behavior fairly readily as they are eager to please you, especially if you have already established with your dog that you are his leader, and the provider of all good things!

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Getting Started

To teach your dog to take food gently, you will need lots of different kinds of treats with which to teach him gentle treat taking behaviors. For correcting play that has become too aggressive, a toy for your dog should be employed to transfer his mouthing behavior to a more appropriate target, while still allowing him to enjoy playing. Be sure not to get over excited, or yell when correcting behavior as your are trying to establish a calm gentle behavior and you want to create a calm environment to match the behavior you are teaching your dog.

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The Gentle Treat Taking Method

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Gentle Treat Taking method for How to Train Your Dog to Be Gentle
1

Pre-feed

Feed your dog their regular meal to make it easier for him to calmly take treats, as he is not too hungry. Take your dog to a quiet place, free from distractions, so he does not get excited by interruptions and can concentrate on you.

2

Control

Have your dog sit, or have someone hold him on a leash.

3

Offer

Hold a treat in your hand and say “gentle” or “easy”.

4

Correct

If your dog grabs for the treat, close and withdraw your hand, say “no”. Offer your hand again, give the command for gentle. When he slowly puts his nose up to your hand to gently lick your hand, provide him with the treat say "yes" or "good".

5

Repeat

Repeat several times a day for a few days. Your dog will learn that approaching your hand with the treat slowly, and gently gets results, grabbing does not. If your dog is liable to take you fingers off, he is so grabby, you can wear gloves during this procedure. Or see the Implement method for an alternative.

The Using an Implement Method

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Using an Implement method for How to Train Your Dog to Be Gentle
1

Pre-feed

Feed your dog their regular meal to make it easier for him to calmly take treats as he is not too hungry. Have someone hold your dog on a leash.

2

Offer

Put some peanut butter or cream cheese on the end of a wooden spoon and hold in front of your dog. Say “gentle” or “easy”.

3

Correct

If your dog grabs for the treat, withdraw the spoon, have your handler restrain the dog, say “no”, and wait until he is calm

4

Reward

Offer the spoon again and give the command for gentle. When your dog slowly puts his nose up to the spoon, and gently licks, say “gentle” again, and “good”. Let him have the treat, but if he grabs at it, withdraw the spoon. Repeat as necessary until your dog learns to take the treat gently.

5

Use your hand

Now repeat the process, using your hand until your dog takes a treat gently from your hand.

The Play Gently with Toy Method

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Play Gently with Toy method for How to Train Your Dog to Be Gentle
1

Offer toy

When playing with your dog, provide him with a toy to grab, not your arm.

2

Withdraw

If your dog grabs your arm, stop playing immediately, and walk away.

3

Try again

Try again a few hours later, offer your dog the toy to grab.

4

Play

If your dog grabs the toy, continue playing with him. Play tug of war or toss and fetch the toy. If the dog grabs you, end the game immediately and withdraw.

5

Repeat

Repeat this procedure several times, over a few days. Your dog will quickly learn that if he plays rough, play ends, and if he uses his toy, play continues.

By Amy Caldwell

Published: 10/06/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Dozer

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Blue Blood Cane Corso

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8 Weeks

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Question

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Keeps nibbling clothes and feet

May 23, 2022

Dozer's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Dawn, For chewing on items, check out this article: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ For the biting of people, check out the article linked below. Starting today, use the "Bite Inhibition" method. BUT at the same time, begin teaching "Leave It" from the "Leave It" method. As soon as pup is good as the Leave It game, start telling pup to "Leave It" when he attempts to bite or is tempted to bite. Reward pup if he makes a good choice. If he disobeys your leave it command, use the Pressure method to gently discipline pup for biting when you told him not to. The order or all of this is very important - the Bite Inhibition method can be used for the next couple of weeks while pup is learning leave it, but leave it will teach pup to stop the biting entirely. The pressure method teaches pup that you mean what you say without being overly harsh - but because you have taught pup to leave it first, pup clearly understands that you are not just roughhousing (which is what pup probably thinks most of the time right now), so it is more effective. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite I would also work on teaching the Out command, and then use the section from the article on How to Use Out to Deal with Pushiness, to enforce it when pup doesn't listen, especially around other animals or kids. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Another important part of this is puppy learning bite inhibition. Puppies have to learn while young how to control the pressure of their mouths - this is typically done through play with other puppies. See if there is a puppy class in your area that comes well recommended and has time for moderated off-leash puppy play. If you can't join a class, look for a free puppy play group, or recruit some friends with puppies to come over if you can and create your own group. You are looking for puppies under 6 months of age - since young puppies play differently than adult dogs. Moderate the puppies' play and whenever one pup seems overwhelmed or they are all getting too excited, interrupt their play, let everyone calm down, then let the most timid pup go first to see if they still want to play - if they do, then you can let the other puppies go too when they are waiting for permission. Finding a good puppy class - no class will be ideal but here's what to shoot for: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/puppy-classes-when-to-start/ When pup gets especially wound up, he probably needs a nap too. At this age puppies will sometimes get really hyper when they are overtired or haven't had any mental stimulation through something like training. When you spot that and think pup could be tired, place pup in their crate or an exercise pen with a food stuffed Kong for a bit to help him calm down and rest. Finally, check out the PDF e-book downloads found on this website, written by one of the founders of the association of professional dog trainers, and a pioneer in starting puppy kindergarten classes in the USA. Click on the pictures of the puppies to download the PDF books: https://www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads/ Know that mouthiness at this age is completely normal. It's not fun but it is normal for it to take some time for a puppy to learn self-control well enough to stop. Try not to get discouraged if you don't see instant progress, any progress and moving in the right direction in this area is good, so keep working at it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 23, 2022

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Poppi

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Chorkie

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21 Years

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We just got a pair of bernadoodles and want to keep them from crowding her.

May 17, 2022

Poppi's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Linda, I would work on teaching: Place, Out, Leave It, and Crate Training. Crate the dogs or confine in separate rooms when you aren't there to supervise while they are still learning boundaries around each other. Utilize Place to have them practice being in the same room all together but everyone in their own spot without pestering one another. Out - which means leave the area, and Leave It, can be used to communicate that the dogs need to give space to each other. You be the one to enforce all commands so the don't have to resort to aggression or hide in order to get space from another dog. Keep a calm but confident attitude. Utilize a drag leash on any dog who doesn't listen well when you are home to ensure it doesn't get caught on something, so that you can calmly pick up the end of the leash to enforce Place, Leave It, Out or another command if pup disobeys the verbal command the first time. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Crate Training - Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 18, 2022


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