Why does your pet want to be hand fed

This was a very interesting article I found from “Daily Paws” recently as I had a lab who would only eat out of my hand when we traveled.


Daily Paws
Daily Paws

Why Does My Dog Want to Be Hand Fed? Here’s What Vets Think Might Be Happening

To develop a strong bond with our dogs, we start by building trust. The way we call their names, give them pats, and offer treats all have an important role in establishing a loving, secure connection. For example, a piece of kibble on the tip of your fingers might be exactly the right way to coax your pooch to eat more slowly or to reward them.

However, sometimes pups refuse to eat from their bowls and only accept food from their humans. “Why does my dog want to be hand fed?” is a common question for many pet parents stymied by this behavior, especially if it comes on suddenly. We asked veterinarians for reasons why this might happen.

Why Dogs Want to Be Hand Fed

Separation anxiety is one possible clue as to why your dog wants to be hand fed, and that condition has many contributing factors. If your pup is a rescue, for instance, and certain triggers upset them, they might want to be hand fed as a form of comfort. Or your pooch doesn’t like being home alone, and seeks more of your direct attention before you leave for work or when you return.

“We have a few dogs that board with us that will only eat if they’re hand fed,” says Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM, of Whitehouse Veterinary Hospital. “They may be unsure of their surroundings and not happy being left, and this is the only way we can get them to eat when they stay with us.”

Here are other potential reasons your pup might prefer nibbles from your palm:

  • Sickness: Sometimes when they’re under the weather, nurturing them with teaspoons of a bland diet assures they get some sustenance.
  • Multiple dogs: Many hungry pups at feeding time might cause chaos, resulting in some not getting enough to eat from the dog bowls.
  • Human conditioning: Your dog might be eating out of hand because of conditioned behavior created when they were sick or acting picky, during a switch in dog food, or they came from another situation—such as a shelter, foster family, previous owner, or breeder—where hand feeding was the norm.
  • Trauma: A negative event happened near the food bowl and now they associate eating out of a bowl with it. Likewise, if something scared them during feeding, like another dog or a loud noise, this fear may stick with them.
  • Too distracted: Dogs who are vigilant about monitoring their surroundings might be too preoccupied to take time away to eat from their bowl.
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Thanks for sharing this information. I hand feed my dog when she’s in unfamiliar surroundings. I’ve wondered if I should ask my sitters to do this if she won’t eat for them. I’m concerned that it would start a bad habit. If she doesn’t eat she gets vomits, so it might be in their best interest.