The first few times he did it, it was undeniably, totally cute, however, hand-feeding your dog can become problematic rather quickly. While it isn’t the worst behavior to deal with, there are more than a couple of points of concern that can stem from hand-feeding your pooch. But, we are getting ahead of ourselves. Before we can get to the solution we need to address the issue at paw – err hand: Why dogs want to be hand fed?
Your dog wants to be hand-fed because the process itself promotes bonding between the two of you. When glazing at each other’s eyes, it releases love hormones. Other reasons include your dog’s love the attention, problems with his food bowl, oral issues, or previously trained behavior.
When attempting to correct any animal behavior, but even more so with regards to canines, in order to successfully break a habit, we have to know where the offending behavior is coming from. Dogs are extremely intelligent creatures and more often than not, they really do have good reasons for why they do the things they do.
The tricky part is determining what those reasons actually are. The following are the most likely motives behind why your dog wants to be hand-fed.
Why Dogs Want To Be Hand Fed
This is going to be the most common answer to your question. Nine times out of ten, a dog just happens to enjoy and relish in the attention he receives by being hand-fed. Not only does he feel extra loved, but he also feels like he is much more special than all of the other family members.
Simply put, he fancies hogging your complete attention. This behavior, unfortunately, needs to be nipped in the bud as soon as possible to avoid any future behavioral problems.
10. He Has Been Coddled
Honestly, most pet owners are at least somewhat guilty of coddling their precious furball. And who can blame us? They are so cute. And hand-feeding your adorable four-legged fur friend makes you feel like Snow White in the middle of a cartoon forest. We get it, but coddling can reinforce bad behavior, including the perceived need to be hand-fed by you.
09. Oral Issues
If this is something new, there might be more to it than attention-seeking or the result of being over-coddled. Your dog cannot express himself verbally, which means he cannot tell you when he is in pain. If your pooch has a cavity, gingivitis, or (even worse) an oral abscess, it will be painful for him to eat. Being hand-fed might be easier, and less unpleasant, for him.
Typically, but not always, there are other signs with regard to oral concerns, and these can include but are not limited to, abnormal salivating, whimpering, or aggression. If you suspect any kind of oral or dental issues, he should see a veterinarian as soon as possible.
08. A Problem With The Material Of His Feeding Bowl
Some dogs can have problems with their feeding bowls. Whether it be metal or plastic, some dogs have a reaction to the material. It can cause a pimple-like rash around the mouth and on the chin. This may or may not be accompanied by hair loss in the affected area(s).
This can be uncomfortable or even outright painful for your pooch, which can cause him to avoid eating from the dish resulting in the need to be hand-fed. After getting confirmation from the veterinarian, in addition to any treatments, switch it out for a bowl of a different material.
07. Other Animals In The Household
If yours is a multiple-pet household, you just might have a mild bullying or meal-time hogging, problem. Even when dogs are fed from completely separate bowls, they can still fight over or steal one another’s food. This can cause the less confrontational guy to look for other feeding options like being hand-fed from his favorite human. And quite possibly for the bragging rights to the boys as well!
06. It’s A Scent Thing
Scent is huge in the canine world and yours is the one he cherishes the most. When he is being hand-fed by you, both of your scents are being transferred back and forth. Your scent is the most wonderful thing he has ever smelled and food is most probably his next favorite thing in the world. When he gets hand-fed it is like the best of both realms. Delicious food with a little hint of you.
05. The Shape Or Height Of His Feeding Bowl
Much like the material that it is made from, the height or shape of a dog’s feeding bowl can also cause them to avoid eating from them. If the bowl is too deep, it can be difficult for your pooch to eat his food and could possibly cause injury to the throat. A dog’s feeding bowls should be size and breed-appropriate (ie: short enough for a chihuahua or shallow enough for brachycephalic or smooshed-faced – breeds).
04. Sick Or Ill
If your dog is suffering from illness, it could be causing gastrointestinal issues, including nausea. This might make Fido want to be hand-fed as opposed to feeding himself from his bowl. Whether he just wants to be babied because he doesn’t feel well or the motion of feeding himself is actually making it difficult? Who knows.
Ah, the green-eyed monster exists in the canine world too, it’s quite prevalent actually, particularly in a home with multiple fur siblings. If your pooch is feeling pangs of jealousy he might actively seek out more one-on-one activities such as being hand-fed. As this can cause animosity, hand-feeding should not be encouraged unless needed.
02. Previously Trained Behavior
If your pup is a relatively new family member, or he has insisted on being hand-fed from day one, it could be a previously learned behavior. The dogs’ previous owners very well could have conditioned him to believe that being hand-fed was the normal way of eating. On the plus side, as easy as it was to condition him to do the behavior, it should be a relatively pain-free habit to break.
01. Addicted To The Bonding
It is said that the same ‘love hormones’ or endorphins that are released when a mother gazes into her child’s eyes are the same ones that flood the brain of both you and Fido when you lock peepers. Not to mention that being hand-fed is a loving gesture in and of itself, your beloved pup might actually be becoming addicted to the warm and fuzzy feeling-making activity.
Why It Shouldn’t Be Encouraged (Under Normal Circumstances)
Unless there is a good reason, hand-feeding, in general, shouldn’t be encouraged. It can cause care issues if you have to leave him with friends or in a kennel, or could even cause injury if attempted by someone not as acquainted with your pooch. Our pets should have at least a little bit of self-sufficiency.
When It Is Okay To Hand-Feed
There are, however, times when it is okay, or even necessary to hand-feed your dog. Many times hand-feeding is encouraged after surgery, especially any kind of oral surgery for obvious reasons. Likewise, if Fido is recovering from an illness, particularly one in which he lost his appetite or needed to be weaned off of a solid diet.
When first reintroduced to regular food, a dog can get over-excited and attempt to eat and swallow too fast. This can be a choking danger. Until you feel comfortable that he can eat normally, it is usually recommended to hand-feed.
How To Train Your Dog To Eat From A Bowl And, Not Out Of Your Hand
Training your dog to eat from his bowl isn’t necessarily difficult but it likely won’t be fun for either of you. Brace yourself – both human and animal – this is likely going to have to be done cold turkey (hey, you were warned that it wouldn’t be fun!).
Literally, give him no other option but to eat from his bowl. Provide him with a private, quiet, personal area and his own bowl of food, then let him be. A dog is not going to starve himself. He will eat eventually. And when he does, offer him lots of love, praise, and maybe even a treat (but not by hand!).
While it may seem like fairly harmless behavior, having your dog be completely reliant on your hand (literally!) for sustenance is not a great idea. Circumstances change and it could become a problem in the future. It could also cause rivalry within the household if he is not the only pet. In any case, if not absolutely necessary, then hand-feeding should be kept to a minimum. This can save a lot of frustration and avoid causing any conflict in the home. After all, a happy dog means a happy home, right?