Work To Earn = Better Focus!


I wish the dog trainer I had in 1991 told me to hand feed my two pups! Since 1991, I have been hand feeding my pups and dogs, for trust, bonding, training cues and if they needed a “check in”.  As a trainer, I always tell my pet parents to hand feed their pups for a while, or their teen / adult dogs if need be it! Below are the reasons why it’s such a great idea!


Hand Feeding:

It is the foundation of a good working relationship.

Hand feeding isn’t the answer to all behavioral problems, but it is a way to take a dog that has trust issues and turn them around. So whether your dog has a specific phobia or is shy around people, hand feeding is the first step to changing those behaviors. For people that are training to do competition dog sports, hand feeding is the way to get the dog to bond to you to the point that they never take their eyes off of you. For people that just want an all-around great pet, hand feeding is one of the steps I recommend. It’s for any dog, any owner that wants a special bond with their dog.

In order to make training fun and enjoyable, it must be rewarding. If your dog doesn’t care one way or the other about treats, doesn’t like to play with toys and won’t bother to walk across the room for an ear scratch, how are you going to reward him? If he sees no reason to work for what he gets because it’s always available, gets it on demand, or is easily stolen, changing his meals to scheduled feedings and teaching him to work to earn can help repair a rocky relationship.



Why hand feed?

This is an excellent way to start off puppies.

If you do this for the first 6 months of a dog’s life, you will have a dog that is more bonded to you than you have ever had before. Training will be extremely easy with those dogs. It’s just getting people to actually do it. Most people say they just don’t have time. But it doesn’t take much more time than putting food in a bowl for the dog. This is also a great way to work your training cues while hand feeding. Remember the “Nothing in life is free” rule! It’s easy to have a well mannered dog, you just need to put the time and commitment into him or her! 


Hand feeding teaching the dog to focus on you! You control the food, the goodies, the treats. And you are making them work for it, even better yet!  This makes for a non demanding dog, or a request barker later.


If your dog is pushy, bossy, or rude, hard to motivate, disinterested, or has its own agenda, (or even if it isn’t) hand feeding will improve your relationship with your dog.


Teachings you dog to have manners around food


Ability to drop everything and come when called


Slow down fast eaters


So how do you do this?

Find a spot on the floor, this can be where your pup or dog eats now, or better yet, for socialization, you can feed him in different areas of the house. Put the dog food in his bowl. Hand out the kibble here and there without asking the dog to do anything. If the dog naturally comes to you, immediately give the dog some of it’s kibble. If they are sitting there staring at you, give them a few pieces. Make sure NOT to reward bad behavior.  If you give a dog kibble that is jumping up, barking, pawing at you, or misbehaving, then you reward that bad behavior, you don’t want that. So I ask that the dog is standing or sitting patiently, acting calm before you hand feed them. Once the dog has the routine down, start asking the dog to do things for the food. Sit, watch me, down, shake, spin, and so on. Great time to work in your training skills you learned in class. So in the end, they are working for every kibble they eat. “Nothing in life is free” rule. Dogs want a leader, and they want a job. By doing this, you accomplish both.

It doesn’t have to be just one person in the house that is feeding the dog as long as the food is pre measured so you don’t over or under feed the dog. Kids do really well with this. And you wouldn’t believe the bonding and understanding that kids and dogs have when they have hand fed. This will also help with the recall. A dog that is hand fed will almost always come to your hand if you put it out. You just better not try to trick them too many times by not having food in it or they get wise to this trick.


Have you ever seen the dogs that never take their eyes off their owners? Hand feeding is the way to accomplish that.


Yes, hand feeding can be a pain. And yes, you have to be committed to doing it for months to make it work. But once the routine is established, then it becomes much easier. And you will have a much better dog because of it.

 Now that is worth it to work the work to earn rule!



Michele Ryan – Rowdy Rover Blog