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How to build a stronger relationship with your dog

Every dog owner wants to have a great relationship with their canine friend, don’t you agree? After all, dogs are social creatures, and they thrive when a good dog/human relationship exists. Although there are many ways to nurture a great connection with your furry friend, we will focus on a powerful approach to make that happen: hand feeding.

What is Hand Feeding?

Hand feeding is just what it sound like, your dog will get his food from your hand. However, you want your dog to be earning his food. You are not going to hand it to him for free. Actually, dogs enjoy earning their meals and it's a great way to work their mind and body. Taking a few minutes to teach your dog is far more valuable than putting it the bowl for mindless eating.

Dog Training Ooltewah & McDonald TN
You want to create a relationship between you and your dog instead of a relationship between your dog and his bowl.

Believe it or not, one of the best things you can do for your dog/puppy is to get rid of his food bowl! Okay, so not literally tossing it out, but please don’t fill it up and set it in front of your pooch. Feeding in the bowl puts what your dog values in one spot. It creates a relationship between your dog and the bowl instead of between you and your dog. Also, eating from a dish doesn’t teach Fido anything. Even your domesticated pet is still hardwired to work for his food, to search, sniffing it out, or chasing it down. You can enrich your dog’s life and make mealtime fun and interesting by letting him/her work for their dog food.

How to Begin Hand Feeding Your Dog:

If your dog or puppy is not interested in doing things for a dog food reward, simply put the food up and try again in at his next mealtime. Don’t give up or give in; your pup may not be really hungry, or if they are accustomed to eating food from the bowl without having to do something in exchange, it may take a few sessions for them to get used to the new way. I have seen dogs that will skip a couple meals before they are ready to work for their food, but I haven’t seen a dog that will starve himself. Keep offering their food in exchange for any behavior you like that your dog can do. Start with the easiest behaviors and slowly work up to more difficult ones. A toss n come recall (below) is an easy exercise to start with.

“Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise.”

Besides obedience and tricks, practice your dog’s recall. Begin by letting your dog smell the food in your hand and then toss a piece of kibble in front of the dog/puppy, so it slides several feet along the floor, and they can chase it. Make sure your dog is facing and looking in the direction you toss the food. The moment your dog eats the piece of dog food from the floor, you call “come” and hold your hand with food close to your body. You want your dog to come in close to you to eat a few pieces of kibble from you. Repeat this exercise as many times as want. You can also mix your recall toss n come with your dog’s obedience cues and tricks, and you’ll see how much fun this game is for you and your dog! If you don’t have time to do this at every meal or you aren’t able to use up their whole daily ration with teaching, then you can buy or make your own food dispenser toys or puzzle. They are mentally stimulating and create a thinking and problem-solving dog, as your pup tries to get the food out of the toy or puzzle. Remember to keep an eye on your pet while using toys for mealtimes and immediately put them away when your dog finishes.

Some food dispenser toys & puzzles I love:

Outward Hound Bone Puzzle (Shown in video)

The benefits of not setting the food bowl down in front of your canine companion is well worth the effort!

  • It builds your relationship with your dog.

  • You easily slow down voracious eaters that inhale their food.

  • For picky eaters, you create a dog that loves mealtime because it’s now exciting and somehow isn’t as boring as the same stuff that you have put in front of him the past 365 days.

  • Teaches focus since your dog is being rewarded for paying attention to you.

  • Ditching the bowl is extremely beneficial for shy dogs to develop trust and confidence while the outgoing, boisterous dogs learn respect.

Click those links above and get your furry friend some new enrichment toys and puzzles!

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