Hand Feeding Makes the Drive Go Round.
Sammie here. Back when I used to work at an animal shelter full-time, one requirement that every animal caregiver had to follow was hand feeding every dog that went through our sheltering system. If they wouldn't eat the shelter kibble, it was a must that we had to make the mushiest meal ever and strap on our gloves to try and get them to eat one way or another - and from our gloved human hands at that! Keep in mind most of these dogs had undergone extreme trauma and were also in the most stressful environment for any dog; a noisy fast-paced shelter. While this particular shelter was practicing a different way of training, I will always stand by hand feeding any dog because the benefits are endless and I've seen the difference between training methods that don't use hand feeding as a tool and methods that DO use food.
Growing up, I would go with my dad to our weekly dog training classes at the local trainers class with our 1 year old Chocolate Lab, Oliver. This particular class was all about obedience, and this particular dog was a whack-job... RIP Oliver - I love you! The classes consisted of exercises and commands with only voice praise and leash pressure adjusted and lots of leash corrections. By the end of these classes, Oliver had a heel to die for when walking him around the neighborhood... but that's about it. Let me be clear that as a 10 year old observing the class, there were certainly many take-aways and I still remember some of the main points, however if food was added into the equation, Oliver would have had less fear and anxiety, a stronger bond with people in general, less incidents where he was running away from home or escaping our Wisconsin vacation house to break into the horse pasture next door (which ended with a very mad neighbor, Oliver almost getting kicked in the head, no response to his electric collar, in fact, that just made him lunge at the horses harder, and a few horses that could have gotten serious injuries) and a better time in the crate or an enclosed space without being extremely destructive (by destructive, I vividly remember walking into the laundry room one day and he had rummaged through my mom's purse and tore up multiple 20, 50, and 100 bills... Talk about a burn to the pocket book).
My point here is that Oliver had no idea where his prey drive was supposed to go & knew that he would be corrected if he expressed any sort of drive or lack of obedience around his humans.
So, let me get to the main point of this blog post: Feeding your dog by hand. Why is it important?
When you have a new puppy, a fearful dog, a new rescue, or an aggressive dog, feeding your dog by hand is the beginning of building trust between man & dog. If you have a dog that doesn't get along with other dogs, hand feed them. Dog is fearful around strangers? Hand feed them. Dog is aggressive around strangers? Hand feed them. Dog is horrible in the crate? Hand feed them... even in the crate! Dog is guarding food from you or other dogs from their food bowl? DEFINITELY hand feed them.
If your dog trusts you, they feel more comfortable, are expressing the very beginning of their drive with the human, and physically get a good feeling when interacting with you.
When the dog starts to build that relationship with the person who is caring for it, with no corrections, they start to feel comfortable enough to express their true nature with you. We believe that step one of any type of training should be hand feeding.
So, get somewhere calm, put your dog's meal in a big bag or treat pouch, keep you fingers together, and start hand feeding! Building a bond with your dog has never been easier and more satisfying for all parties involved. Struggling to feed your dog by hand or any behavioral stuff and need help? Contact us and let's have a conversation.