Some dogs want to eat all the time while your dog wants to be hand fed. Hand-feeding dogs is not a bad thing. In fact, many trainers recommend it for dogs who have a guarding problem, are way too dominating or feel very territorial around food.
But the key here is moderation. We want to teach our dogs to be independent and yet co-exist at the same time. If you are hand feeding your dog to teach them to co-exist, it great, but if you do it too often you can make them co-dependent – and that’s a problem.
The trick is to be able to get in their food bowl but still being able to leave them alone during meal times so that they can eat on their own.
If your dog has come to a point that they won’t eat anything unless they are hand-fed, you are probably worried.
6 Reasons Why Your Dog Wants To Be Hand Fed:
Your dog probably wants to be hand-fed for the following reasons.
1. Your Dog Is Scared
In many households where there are more than one dogs, one of them may start dominating the other. In situations like this, the submissive dog may show signs of canine anorexia, where they stop eating unless they are very hungry.
In your case, instead of stopping to eat all together they may have developed a new habit. Many dogs in this situation stop eating from their bowls because they know their bowl is not a safe place. Rather, they accept food only from your hands because they know you’ll shoo away the bully.
Other times when they exhibit the same behaviour is if they are scared of the environment where they eat. Is their food bowl near the washing machine? Or the Vaccum cleaner? Chances are they are scared of the machines because of the loud noises they make hence they stopped eating in that area.
Many pet parents give them meals right before they are leaving for work hence they associate food with being alone. Dogs with separation anxiety might be too scared to eat because they know it means you’ll leave.
2. Your Dog Is Busy
Many pet dogs have a guarding tendency towards their home. They want to guard you against everything! That includes other dogs, birds and even butterflies. So, if there is a lot going on outside your house your dog may be too busy guarding you and the house.
Their food remains unattended during this time. Once everything has settled down outside, they will eat from their bowl.
The problem is, many pet parents try to hand feed their pet when they’re busy because they don’t seem interested in their food. We bring the food up to their nose so that they can eat it. This creates a habit for them. It’s great to be able to work and eat at the same time. So, the next time someone is outside, they almost expect you to come at them with food.
3. Your Dog Wants To Socialise
It’s not fun being a dog. They spend most of their time waiting for you to come back from school/work, so when it’s mealtime, they want to do it with you. This behaviour is similar to their ancestors. Wolves usually hunt in packs and the weaker wolves wait for the pack leader to offer them the remaining food.
When they want to be fed it’s their way of asking to spend more time with you.
4. Your Dog Is Bored
It is also possible that your dog is a picky eater. Their current formula is making them disinterested in their food. When you come along, and feed them with your hands you make the food interesting. They eat the food, not because they like it, but because you are there to animate things.
5. Your Dog Is Full
Sometimes dogs have way too many snacks in the day. They beg for table scraps and we oblige. All this food and no play makes your dogs lose hunger.
Dogs with full bellies will poke and pick their food and walk away. If you hand feed them they eat only because you are there to encourage them.
6. Your Dog Is Sick
Sickness can be anything from toothaches to swellings. Dental problems are particularly common in senior dogs. As they grow their tooth start to decay and eating becomes painful. Their food may be appetising but their teeth hurt too much. When you come an feed them, you crush the food in your fingers making it easier for them to eat.
How Make Them Eat Their Own Food?
How do we stop this habit and make them independent around their food? Well, for starters you need to stop hand feeding them. Dogs can stay without food for three days and they usually become hungry after the first day. However, we have seen a fair share of resilient dogs, hence we have a few tips and tricks that will help your dog wolf their meals down again.
1. Change the location
This usually works for dogs that are very scared. By changing their location that is safe from the loud machines, or the other big dog, makes them feel safe and they start eating in no time.
If you have more than one dog, you can start feeding them in their respective crates. By adding a dark coloured blanket on top of the crate you create a sense of safety. They are far more likely to munch their food down when they know they are safe.
2. Add Something Delicious
This method works for picky eaters. If you can add a delicious topping on their meal, they will not care if you’re around. They will eat it up right away. Though this method is great, we suggest not to overuse toppings. Use it sparingly and do without it on certain days.
You can also use different toppings on different days because we don’t want to create boredom.
3. Establish Meal Times
When dogs don’t have any real sense of mealtime they tend to lose interest in their food. If their pickiness and hand-feeding habits are getting in the way of your life, you need to take this very seriously.
You can begin by not giving them any treats throughout the day. That means nothing, not even dog treats. Keep their meal times 20 minutes long and refuse to feed them by hand. If they pick and poke and leave their bowl, pick the bowl up after 20 minutes. Then in the next mealtime, give them whatever they didn’t eat (and a little more if you need to) and leave it for 20 minutes.
This will teach them that food will only come to them during meal times. When they stop having treats throughout the day they will start to develop an appetite for their meal. When they’re hungry, they won’t care if you’re feeding them or not.
4. Go Back To The Basics
Sometimes, if all other methods fail you, you will have to go back to the basics. By this, we mean, training them to eat from their bowl again.
The best way to do it is to feed them with your hand over the bowl. Gradually move closer to the bowl and then with your hand inside the bowl. Then start to drop the food in their bowl with your hand still on top of it.
Gradually start to move your hand away until finally you don’t have have to be in the same room they eat in.
There are many ways to train your dog to eat in their bowl again. It is important to start training as soon as you can. The sooner you break them from the habit, the easier it is going to be for you and your dog.
5. Talk To The Vet
Though it is unlikely, it may be possible that your dog isn’t eating food because of poor oral hygiene, or obstruction in the food pipe etc. If your dog isn’t eating for more than two days, you must take them to the vet.
We hope this gives more light to your problem. We really hope you are able to make your dog feel more comfortable around mealtimes. All the best!