What’s the best way to build a bond with your dog? And why would you need to?
Reasons for strengthening your relationship with your dog may include: adopting a new dog, introducing a new family member – either human or pet, getting to know a puppy, one person’s relationship isn’t as strong as another’s, building your dog’s confidence, establishing a training relationship, overcoming reactivity, etc.
No matter the reason, this method will tighten your bond, improve your dog’s manners, bolster his/her confidence in you, not cost anything extra, and only take a little extra time.
So – how do I build my bond with my dog
It’s actually pretty easy. Ditch the bowl. Hand-feed your dog.
There’s no actual benefit to feeding a dog from a bowl, other than convenience. In the last few years lots of different feeding tools have become popular; raised bowls, snuffle mats, slow-feeders. But there’s no better tool than your hands.
At your own pace
Maybe the first time you sit with your dog, food bowl in your lap instead of on the floor, your dog will be confused. But it won’t take long until your dog thinks it’s the best thing ever – they get your undivided attention and food at the same time! What more could your dog possibly want?
You don’t have to feed every meal by hand. You don’t even have to do it every day. But for family members who want to build a bond with your dog, it’s a golden opportunity. If there’s someone in the house the dog doesn’t listen to, that’s the person who should try it.
Even better bonding
Don’t just sit there and hand over food – ask the dog to do something! The basis of all training games (the best way to train!) is to get the dog’s attention. Chances are your dog is never more focused than when food is involved!
If you do have the opposite issue, a finicky dog, the problem will turn around when the food comes from your hand instead! If your dog isn’t crazy about their regular food, slip in some yummy treats every once in a while. If your dog doesn’t know that the next bite holds, there’s more fun in the game.
There are people who despair when their dogs won’t eat out of a bowl. They complain that their dog is “spoiled” or “stubborn” because they like to eat from their person’s hand.
Thinking about it, it’s really more of an opportunity to spend time together, rather than an inconvenience. No dog will purposely starve themselves. If they won’t eat, it’s either because they’re not hungry, or not motivated.
If you commit to changing your relationship with your dog through hand-feeding, your dog will look forward to meal times with an eagerness you’ve never seen before.
Use the food
If you feed wet food, it can get a little messy to feed your dog by hand. Fortunately, hands wash clean easily. If you prefer, you can even teach your dog to take the wet food from a spoon. Another training game!
Feeding a dog by hand can make all the difference in the world. When Fran brought Tango home, he was a terror – trying to bite anyone who wasn’t Fran, dogs and humans alike. Hope started hand-feeding Tango and within weeks, he was her best friend, too.
As a matter of fact, Tango now loves just about everyone, because Fran asked just about everyone they encountered to give him treats.
Change your dog’s meals into a chance to build your bond. You’ll have a better-behaved, more likeable, confident dog. And a rock-solid bond with your dog.