Off & Take it
A major criticism of using food in training is that the dog may become over excited, worry at the food, or even bite the hand that feeds it. However, the use of food is indispensable for classical conditioning, temperament training and behavior modification. Also using food and toy lures and rewards just makes teaching basic manners easier, quicker and just so much more fun for owners. Even so, food is used only initially to teach the dog what we want him to do. Once the dog learns the meaning of our handsignals and verbal instructions, food is no longer necessary as a lure. Also, we want to phase out food rewards and replace them with more meaningful Life Rewards (toys, games, and activities) as quickly as possible. See Food Critics
For the meantime though, we want to teach dogs to pay attention to food in our hands but never to touch, unless requested to “Take it.” The process is simple. Hold a piece of kibble in a clenched fist in front of your dog’s nose and ignore everything your dog does (licking, nibbling, or pawing your hand). Immediately praise your dog the moment he ceases contact with your hand and then say, “Take it” and open your fist so the dog may take the kibble from the palm of your hand. Repeat the sequence several times. After six to eight repetitions, you will find that your dog will quickly pull his muzzle back when you present the kibble in your fist. On subsequent trials, say, “Off,” “Don’t Touch,” or “Leave it” before presenting your fist. Count out the period of non-contact in “good dogs,” and say, “Take it” before presenting the kibble on the palm of your hand. You will also notice your dog is in a sit-stay and looking up at you with great attention.
Teaching “Off” is extremely useful for instructing your dog not to touch all sorts of things, such as, food on the coffee table, food you’re eating, food that children are eating, used-diapers, the baby, a shy dog, the cat, cat feces, or any feces or carrion. Also, by teaching “off” your dog also learns “Take it,” which will facilitate teaching your dog to retrieve and play tug o’ war according to the rules.