The short answer yes, but then you knew that! And with the ever-increasing idea of using positive reinforcement to train your pup, dog treats make this much easier.
What is the "Right Way"?
The “right way” can vary depending on the training and goals you and your pup have at any given time, but the most common is feeding the dog treats directly to your dogs’ mouth.
However, even this is not as simple as you might think. Offer the treat a little high and he may get up (if lying down) or jump up if he is sitting. If the treat is too low, he may think you are asking him to lay down, too close and he may back up, then too far away and he may grab for it. If you have a pup that has a habit of lunging for treats you may subconsciously pull away when offering the treat, which will encourage him further to grab for the morsel. Who said training a dog was easy!
How Do I Do It?
Pat Miller (Whole Dog Journal) recommends offering “the treat a half-inch to an inch away from the dog’s mouth, right at nose level, and keep your hand still as she takes it from your fingers”. Whereas Roman Gottfried insists that you hold your treat in front of your dog, wait until he looks you in the eye (however briefly), then give him the treat. This is your pup asking if he can have it. Both training methods work depending on the kind of training you are doing, however what I like about Roman’s method is that my pup has to focus on me before he can be rewarded, which is great if there are distractions!
How Do I Stop My Dog Taking My Fingers at the Same Time?
Some dogs seem to take treats like a shark taking a baby seal off a beach, and no matter how many times you try to teach them to take with a soft mouth, your fingers sometimes still get caught between the enamel. My advice is to feed them from the flat of your hand, as you would a horse. This way as their nose hits your palm and their mouth opens, they take the treat and not another finger, and always give a verbal que such as “gently” because a calm voice will be effective in preventing your finger inadvertently being pinched.
Training treats are a great way to reward your pup but please remember to use a high value dog treat and only a small amount every time. Our pups like quantity over quality and we do not want them getting chubby!