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.
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!
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.