Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How to Get Your Fox to Take Treats Nicely.

What I did with Gizmo (and my dog) for curbing the "taking your fingers along with the treats" problem worked pretty well. You'll probably be bit more than a couple times doing it this way, but it'll save your fingers in the long run.

What you do is take a strong-smelling treat, and hold it with your fingers curled around it so that they can smell it, but not grab it. Hold your hand out towards the fox. Generally they'll lunge fangs-first; quickly pull your hand away and say "No! Be nice." Keep your voice calm, but firm. Offer your hand again; if they lunge or snap again, do the same thing as before. Rinse repeat.

Foxes are very fast, so you'll probably get your knuckles bit more than once while doing this--but no matter what, do NOT drop the treat; otherwise you'll just be reinforcing the biting behavior.

Eventually, when you hold your hand out, she won't lunge. She may sniff at it curiously, or she may just ignore it, or she may give you a baffled look. So long as it's not a lunge or a snap, immediately release the treat and praise her gently while she eats it.

Get another treat and offer it in the same way. If she lunges, pull your hand away and say "No! Be nice." again in the same firm tone. Basically repeat what you did above.

Continue until you have given her three treats, then take a break from it by playing a game she likes.

If you do this 3-to-5 times a day, and give her 3-to-5 treats a "session", and keep this up for a week straight, by the end of the week, she shouldn't be snapping at treats.

Once you start this training, though, it's very important that from then on out, you never, ever give her a treat if she snaps at you. "Only polite foxes get treats" should be a rule that is set in stone. If she bites you and gets the treat anyway later on, you'll be right back to square one again.


  1. I don't think it's necessary to use any type of verbal corrections, but I do like the praise idea.

    How I trained taking a treat nicely, was to hold it in my fist until the dog - or fox, as the case may be - stopped biting/scratching/licking at it. Then I clicked the clicker and gave it to him.

    Generally, it works better with an animal that already has a nice bite inhibition. If your pet is seriously injuring you, I suggest teaching bite inhibition first, and just toss the treat until bite inhibition is taught.

    1. You need to remember that foxes are -not- dogs. While the spoken command doesn't do much one way or the other for dogs, for foxes it leads to them grasping the concept much better.

      Foxes are extremely "auditory" animals--how they hunt and survive in the wild is dependent almost entirely on their ears. When dealing with foxes, adding a verbal command to anything you are trying to teach helps them learn faster, as they are designed to hunt and learn with their ears.

      Having a spoken command also gives you a handy reminder if you're giving a particularly good treat that the animal might be tempted to lunge at. Saying "be nice" before you offer it reminds the fox of its manners.

  2. My fox (Male, 5 weeks, Fawn in color), and he is a little food aggressive, he growls if I try to take it away (Which right now is not a necessity, I just had to give him more) but he won't bite, However the other one (Male, 5 weeks, red, Black in color) will bite, Is this natural or How can I correct it? Thank you.

    1. Almost all foxes will bite if you mess with them while eating. This is part of their nature and cannot be easily trained out of them.

      My advice is to leave your foxes alone while they are eating. If you need to give them more, wait until they have finished what they already have before you touch the bowl.

  3. I use a similar method with my dogs, in addition to "nobody gets chicken when they jump on my knees and try to knock me over": I have a pack of four that eats meals together, and they ALL have to be calm before ANYBODY gets food; the littlest one will even put his feet on the others' backs to tell them to stop bouncing around me, because that's not allowed and he's not getting his food until they're calm - he was the most recent addition and the youngest member, so he's last in line anyway. The little one also understands both "be gentle" and "be careful": the first is for small, soft treats that I want him to take extra-nice (often by closing his mouth gently around my fingers so I can let the treat go on his tongue and not risk dropping it or having him slurp it off my hand and onto the carpet), the second means that a small bite of food is perched on the tip of a fork or butter knife, and so he needs to watch out for a sharp point (he's mastered the art of eating from utensils without cutting or jabbing himself; I wouldn't let the others eat such small bites from them because they're too excitable and can get so worked up that they'll hurt themselves - they can take a raw chicken wing off a fork, though).

    In fact, this even worked with my grandmother's lab who was constantly snapping fingers; she always threw treats at him, but he got it right away when I offered him a treat knuckles-first and slowly rotated my fingers around to let him take it.

    1. Wild urban fox gets treats


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