Taking Treats on Command...?! - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-04-2008, 08:47 PM Thread Starter
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Taking Treats on Command...?!

I was wondering about training a dog to take treats, or food from the hand only on command? I know that many people have to teach their GSD to be patient and wait to take a treat instead of jumping in excitement, so would it be realistic to teach a dog to only take food from somebody's hand with permission?

This question popped up when me and my friend were with her puppy (5 month old Rottie) and we stopped by at McDonald's to study outside and get her dog some ice to eat. Well, while we were looking the other way, some guy sitting nearby apparently held out a huge chunk of a hamburger for her dog to eat and of course, the puppy gobbled it right up. My friend freaked out and if you were there, it seemed almost like she thought her dog was going to die!

I'm rather worried now that in the future, just in CASE I'm not looking some idiot might feed chocolate or some other harmful food to my dog and he'll eat it and get sick. Is it too hard or confusing to teach a German shepherd not to take food from strangers? Has anyone done it?

And as a side question, how bad is it to feed a dog like a burger or a hot dog occasionally, because while I know human food is unhealthy for dogs, I've seen quite a few people feed their dogs sandwiches or burgers...?

Bear with my paranoia and dog newbness, please

Oh, and feel free to move this thread if it belongs in a more appropriate section

- Grace

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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-04-2008, 09:18 PM
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Re: Taking Treats on Command...?!

My dogs LOVE Arbys. And they're quite the connoisseurs on cheeseburgers too. Hold the onions, of course (onions are bad for dogs). And hold the pickles too (or Mom finds them weeks later, like wrinkled poker chips, wedged in the back seat). We don't like pickles.

Yes, you can train your dog to not take food from anyone other than you. You start much the way you train a "Leave It" command. Someone offers your dog a bland biscuit, and you draw your dog's attention away with a tasty morsel of something far better, like deli meat or a jerky treat. At first, your friend will hold the biscuit just beyond your dog's reach, and you'll put your treat in front of your dog's nose to draw her attention away. Pick a command for starters ("Upgrade!") And ask everyone you meet to work with you, offering your dog a bland snack that you override. Soon, your pup will start to look at YOU as soon as someone offers her a treat.

Then, you start to hand better treats to people, but by now, you have your command in place. Keep going. As soon as the food is put in front of your dog, before she even moves for it, that's when you want to give her the command. The point is that she should not be interested in the food, not that she should turn away from it. It's a subtle difference. As soon as she turns to you, reward that behavior with a treat.

Then you phase out the treats on your end, and replace with praise, attention, petting and playing.

The idea is that your pup knows she'll always get something better from you, whether it's a better snack, attention and love, a toy, or playing her favorite game for a few minutes.

Eventually (and it does take time) you will have a dog that won't take food from anyone. Of course, well meaning friends and family will be a little offended. But that's ok. Your pup will be safe.

And, BTW, never count on this knowledge exclusively. I always tell dog owners, when we are in public, we must pay 100% attention not only to what our dogs are doing, but even more importantly to what everyone else is doing. That means we may not be able to relax at Starbucks like we'd want to because we're always vigilant, or that we have our pockets loaded with our keys and credit cards so we don't stop to dig through our purses (which is distracting).

When we're in public with our dogs, we HAVE to pay attention, always, first and foremost. Our dogs can be perfectly trained. The public, alas, is not so trainable.
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-04-2008, 10:16 PM
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Re: Taking Treats on Command...?!

I cant believe that some stranger would do that. First, he does not know if this dog is going to nicely take the burger, or rip his hand off trying to get it. Secondly, maybe the dog is on a restricted diet. Thirdly...I would have pounced on the guy! I would have had to stand up, I'd have been laying into him so much.

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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-04-2008, 10:59 PM
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Re: Taking Treats on Command...?!

don't feed your dog slop from the fast food places. if you're going to give your dog a burger make sure it's 100% ground beef. cook it yourself for them. my dogs love raw ground beef. i like MacDonalds but i wouldn't feed it to my dogs. iwould also watch how much ice cream i gave my dogs. this year my dog had two table spoons of ice cream and that was on different occassions.

my last Shep was taught not to eat out of strangers hands, other dogs bowls and things off the ground. it was so easy to teach. i used the "hot sauce leave it method". before we left the house for a walk i would place some loaded treat with hot sauce in his path. i would steer him near it without saying anything. we he found the treat of course he would gobble it up. just as he picked up the treat i would say "leave it". after the hot sauce got to him a few times he stopped picking things up off the ground. i also would leave something on the floor indoors that was loaded with hot sauce.

teaching him not to take things from strangers i simply handed them a morsel with the hot sauce. when they offered it to him he would take it at first. as the stranger handed him the treat i would say "leave it" just after he took the treat. he learned quickly. i've been told this doesn't work with all dogs. some like the hot sauce.

usuing the hot sauce method i taught my dog not to take things from strangers and leave it at the same time.

now with the dog i have now i taught him leave it with the more conventional method. while leashed i would walk my dog over to something i placed on the floor. when he reached down to grab it i would say "leave it" and turn and walk away at the same time. i taught him leave it and take it at the same time. after i told him to leave something and he left it i would say "get it" and he would go back and get the treat. after he got this down on the leash i did it off the leash. i would send him to the treat. when he got there i would say "leave it". when he came back to me i would say "get it" and he would get it.

now i can place treats on the table or my dinner, sandwhich, or whatever and say leave it and he doesn't touch a thing. i can leave the room and he won't touch things. now of course i practiced the leaving of the room. i would put something down and leave the room for 2 minutes just to see what he'll do. then i increased the time out of the room. now we're up to 3 minutes, just kidding. i leave the room for a long time. i have to test how long i can leave the room with something on the table.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-05-2008, 01:41 AM
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Re: Taking Treats on Command...?!

Oh please, Doggie Dad. My dogs eat premium diets. My dogs had bison with fresh sweet potato for breakfast and grilled ahi with homemade veggie stew for dinner today. The two younger ones had turkey necks as well. I cook for them and supplement with premium kibble. Each dog has his/her own specialized diet that I've researched carefully.

An occasional Arbys sandwich or cheeseburger won't kill them. Other than sodium level, these are healthy enough for a rare treat. And many members here give their dogs hot dogs (made with lots of sodium and corn syrup) for high value treats while doing intensive training. No dog has ever died from a few junk food treats. Compared to a lot of the stuff that is sold as dog treats, including at better pet stores (some you may actually feed to your dog yourself), these are fine.

It's about OVERALL quality of diet. My kids do just fine. And as long as the OP keeps all things in moderation, hers will too.

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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-05-2008, 10:59 AM
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Re: Taking Treats on Command...?!

I would have never thought that a stranger would offer food to a dog without asking the owner first. My dog would have taken it too, and the I would have been cleaning up a mess in a few hours.

3K9Mom, you make some very good points. I'm going to work on this.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-05-2008, 12:08 PM
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Re: Taking Treats on Command...?!

One thing to keep in mind. If you train your dog NEVER to accept food from strangers - what happens when you have to board them or they have to stay overnight at the vets? They won't eat.

I would have chastised the person for feeding the puppy without my permission and just left it at that.

At little McDs burger isn't going to kill a dog. Heck, mine get a whole cheeseburger once or twice a month from there. During the summer I take them to the local ice cream store for their own vanilla cone (small).
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-05-2008, 03:27 PM
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Re: Taking Treats on Command...?!

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One thing to keep in mind. If you train your dog NEVER to accept food from strangers - what happens when you have to board them or they have to stay overnight at the vets? They won't eat.
Yup. Lauri is exactly right. I've trained a rock solid "leave it" command. And I pay close attention to my dogs. I gave you info on how to train this, but I personally DON'T train my dogs not to take food from others.

They generally won't though. Zamboni only takes food from people she knows. So from the vet and the staff, yes. Our trainers, yes. My mom and other family, most definitely (and may I have more?).

The lady at the park, or a stranger at a restaurant, no. Never.

How does she distinguish? I think it's from years of me saying yes, she can have treats from some people and not others. And once again, we're back to socialization. Dog learn who they can trust (and at what level) the more they meet and interact with people.

My GSD has other rules, but he too makes distinctions.

But I don't let anyone I don't know get that close to my pups. They lie at my feet, under the table, where they're out of the walkway, and away from strangers.
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-05-2008, 07:03 PM
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Re: Taking Treats on Command...?!

I think that boarding a dog andd it refusing to eat is not that much of a problem depending of how you tech it.

If you teach the dog "Do not eat anything not given by me" then you can create a problem, even when given the case I think that any normal dog, after the second day will forgive the lesson and eat anyways.

But is even easier to teach "Do not eat anything until I say so". First, it easy because it's instinctive for them. The leader owns the prize and he decides who eats and when.

Someone holds the treat, you ask for focus or a sit and when you have it, you release the dog letting him to have the treat. You can vary the distance to the treat if the focus on you or a steady sit instead of grabbing the cookie is too difficult for the dog. Then you can start generalizing, not necessarily ask for a perfect focus or to have the dog in a sit, but no cookie without release command. You can teach your helper person to show the treat to the dog but to close the hand if the dog approaches without your permission, leaving the dog without it, but if he waits patiently until you say it's ok, then he will have his cookie.

Since you are using the power of your authority (which does not mean brute force), the dog thinks that all food on the world belongs to you, so he can't touch anything without your permission, but if you are not present he is on his right to consume it.

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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-05-2008, 09:40 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Taking Treats on Command...?!

Thank you everyone for the great ideas and input! Iíve seen a lot of dogs get fed part of an ice cream cone as a treat, or even the occasional burger, and they seem to be happy and healthy, but I just needed to know! And 3k9Mom - I sure wish MY mom was as nice to ME! xD

I am really, really mad at that guy right now, and my friend went right home and took her pup to the vet (nothing was wrong!) after yelling at that guy and saying some rather nasty names, sheís so protective of her baby Iím surprised she didnít pick up our 800 page textbook and smash it on his head. We were looking away at the time because we saw one of our friends and was waving her over. My friend was holding tightly onto the leash and had retracted it so it was quite short. The guy was sitting really close and looked like a major creeper o.O

I was thinking about the problem Iíd have if I had to board my dog (which I hope I wonít need to), so I wasnít sure if I should try teaching ďtake from hand only on commandĒ or if that would cause way too much confusion to distinguish between eating from hand and eating from bowl, or eating on cue when Iím there and eating when he wants when Iím not...

I think the ďleave itĒ command is a really good idea, but after my friendís total freak out, Iím starting to worry about what could get down a dogís throat when I glance away for even a moment. The places where I hang out and live, there are so many adults rather disrespectful of dogs and dog owners in general. You get tons of people just walking up to a dog and patting it on the hand without permission, or trying to coax someone elseís dog to eat some beef jerkey or whatnot when the owner is distracted.

Thanks tons for everyone's help

- Grace

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"Siege" Zala IPO1 (Malinois)

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