The game every owner should play with their dog

Every dog should know how to catch treats!

Treat tossing encourages eye contact, attention, name recognition and good spirits.


22 comments so far

  1. Penny Ronning on

    Outstanding!! Can’t stop laughing and smiling!

    My dogs love this game. The drool starts, the tails start fanning the air, the bodies begin the accordion dance, and the voices start singing at the mention of popcorn!

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks! We play this all the time, everywhere.

  2. Leslie on

    I love this!

    I didn’t realize you actually had to teach some dogs to catch. My Lab could catch a piece of popcorn from 10 feet away with just a flick of his head. Bella can’t catch one thrown straight into her mouth! (It really is embarrassing. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    But a couple of months ago, our trainer showed us how to “lead” the trajectory for her with, essentially, a warm-up throw. We now use, as you say, her name to get her attention and then a one-two pump of the hand to show her where to expect the treat to go. She’s doing so much better with it as a result.

    Loved this video. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks Leslie. I have found that some dogs enjoying trying to catch more than they like the treat. I think that GSDs especially enjoy the sound of their jaws slapping shut ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Equinat-USA (@EquinatUSA) on

    This made me laugh so hard, everyone in the office came to see what I was laughing at.

    It is a little sad for a dog not to have that skill. Have you noticed dogs in multi dog homes – learn this skill really fast.

    If your dog just can’t master “catch” – “find it” is another good one. That way when a guest tosses your dog a treat and it misses. You can just explain it much prefers find it. So it let the treat bounce away on purpose, so it could practice find it ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • fearfuldogs on

      Best thing about this game is how much fun practicing is. Hope you didn’t get caught out watching videos at work!

  4. Equinat-USA (@EquinatUSA) on

    It is fun and their attention to whose name is being called is very intense. Plus once they have catch down with a treat, they pick up Frisbee much faster too.

    No problem watching dog videos at work. As long as it is something dog related it is ok.

  5. Mel on

    Oh Debbie! This is the side of you I have never seen! You are hysterically funny! I had to share this one for sure. Thanks for the laugh and good advice. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Kerry on

    You inspired me to try teaching this to my dog. I always like to do something training oriented with his meals and haven’t had any new ideas for a month or so. This was fun and easy. He has about a 50% catch rate and we are getting better – I say we, because my throws definitely need some work.

    But my favorite thing is the unintended consequence of forcing him to relax a bit. He can resource guard against my other dog so this allows me to slow him down a little in his eating and deal with her presence. Fortunately she isn’t actually intersted in the game so I’m just trying to teach him it’s ok if she walks around the room. He is definitely learning to chill. Great idea!

    • fearfuldogs on

      That’s fabulous that you started doing this with your dog. Be careful if the dog misses the treat and another dog goes for it. I don’t play this with groups of dogs if any are inclined to get snarky over dropped treats. I like this game for my boarders because dogs learn that every bowl of food or hand reaching out with a treat is not necessarily for them. This is a challenge for dogs in one dog household, but it does help them with impulse control.

      • Kerry on

        Yep. I try to be very aware of Ayla’s location as Huck has warned her off food in the past. If they were both equally interested, this probably wouldn’t work, but she is 16 and either isn’t aware of what we are doing or doesn’t want to challenge him so she keeps her distance. He was a terrible resource guarder for the first month I had him, but he really turned around quickly. Now I treat him like a recovering addict. He currently has a 30-day snarl-free chip.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Nice of you to be his sponsor!

  7. Lizzie on

    Oh Debbie, you absolutely must make a clip showing how to teach a dog to catch treats!

    I’ve never owned a dog that couldn’t catch food until Gracie, she is useless. My two oldies really put her to shame. I’ve been trying with her on and off for ages but she just doesn’t get it; even dropping treats from above her nose does not promt her mouth to open. She will even turn her head to avoid the treat, although she isn’t scared at all, never is around food, but she is really competitive if the other dogs are around, and can become quite hyper which doesn’t help with her concentration.

    It would be neat though if she could learn the’catching game.’

    • fearfuldogs on

      Will/can she catch anything? A ball or tossed toy? You could alternate toy with a treat and see if she sorts it out.

      I like popcorn because it has a lot of wind resistance along with being able to see, so it drops more slowly.

      You could also use big pieces of really good food, chicken or steak chunks. There might be more motivation.

  8. Lizzie on

    No she can’t/doesn’t catch anything, and again she isn’t terribly interested in playing with toys or balls. Her brain just doesn’t seem to understand that there are more ways to eat food than forage from the floor or bowl.

    She’s not vey good at taking from my hand either, she grabs or snatches, something else I’ve been trying to ‘train’ her out of.

    Still I’ll give the larger pieces of food a whirl and see if that helps! Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Debbie Jacobs on

      Have you played the ‘zen’ game of taking treats with her? You hold the treat in your fist until she stops biting or trying to grab it. As soon as she stops she gets the food. The dog gets what they stop struggling to have.

      • Lizzie on

        I tried this approach with Gracie but as she knows the ‘leave’ command it has only served to confuse her; she can’t understand why she isn’t getting the treat when she turns away, and so grabs it even harder when I do release my hand.

        I think she finds it difficult to follow things with her eyes, as you say in your last post, which might explain in some way why she isn’t very interested in playing fetch with a ball. The single motivator for Gracie has always been food, so long as she can sniff it out. She is so good at nose work now that I am running out of places to hide her Kong!

  9. Kerry on

    Since Huck and I have been having fun, I tried this with a friend’s dog over the weekend and for her, I just don’t think catching treats is in her future. She would let it hit her over and over again and never make an attempt to open her mouth. She still loved the game but I just felt like she was giving me this look like I’m not sure why you want to hit me with the treat before I eat it, but whatever floats your boat as long as you keep giving me that food.

    I think you can improve accuracy and initiative but I don’t know how to make a dog realize that catching could be fun. She has the opposite habit of taking treats from your dog. She has the softest mouth. I’ve never had a dog so tentatively and sweetly take a treat. Which is why I think she doesn’t want to catch it. I think she wants to make sure it’s really OK for her to eat it before she tries.

    • fearfuldogs on

      I have a boarder here now who has a similar response. She wonders why I’m hitting her on the head with treats. She will also check out treats before taking them from my hand. She’s not a very food motivated dog to begin with and I’ve found getting her to run around and look for treats I’ve tossed on the floor gets her more excited. I’ve been working on clicking her for eye contact since the goal for me with her is attention and learning to work for rewards (she has lovely owners but they’ve never done any consistent or formal training with her).

      Some dogs don’t see well, or track moving objects well either.

      • Heather on

        I can’t get my foster boy to realize he needs to open his mouth. all that happened was i perfected my throw to hit his middle nose-leaving me to feel like a bully! i tried throwing a little off, thinking if he had to “snap” at it; nope. Sits and “looks sad or confused”, tracks where it lands and helps himself. he’s so good natured about it. my resident dog is a great demo for catching–>there’s no range that she somehow can’t catch it, lives for this game. 6 months together and we’re still working on this. Alas, he has gained so many other things. maybe if i can get him to catch his ball, this will follow. poor guy, even that, he’s head bobbing with his mouth open and paws kinda flailing, but he’s getting on top of the ball some and isn’t spooked by it now, so maybe a few more months. he’s definitely gonna be the last one picked for the softball team for a while longer. he’s a good sport about things the human deems important and gives a most valiant try; can’t help but respect him for that. i don’t know many humns that would keep trying as hard or as long and have fun with it.

      • Debbie on

        Sounds like a fun shaping exercise.

        Debbie Jacobs

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