Different reasons may lead to dogs eating with human hands and as such it can become a real behavioral problem. Your dog’s meal may have turned into an emotinal issue that requires corrective actions.
So you have been overjoyed since your canine friend has come into your life! Your little puppy or dog is a love, so cute, funny, endearing, etc. In short, you are crazy about it you make a point of applying everything that the breeder advised you, and of course you are paying particular attention to the diet. You scrupulously follow the indications at the back of the packet of kibble (the same as at the farm), weigh the quantity to be given, and stay with him to check that the meal is going well.
Yes … ok … but now, your dog starts to sulk his bowl … and the first time around you don’t worry too much, it probably had too much of these little treats that you gave it during the day. But the sulking keeps going, and each day, the dog sees its master arrive with the food bowl, sniffs it and leaves it to lie down with a sigh.
The veterinarian does not find any medical cause, all the test results are impeccable. It is such a heartbreak to see this little guy take on this little air so unhappy when the time comes to eat that you become more and more anxious when giving it … You try to add appetizing things, you encourage, caress, and congratulate it on the smallest bit swallowed, and finally you give up and end up giving food to your dog by hand, one kibble after the other, because it’s the only way to make it eat enough!
While the choice of food (and the studies done on their composition) has never been so vast and varied, feeding our companions becomes more and more of a challenge. Can the behavior of dogs eating with human hands be fixed, and if so, what are the solutions?
Some misconceptions about dogs and their food
The dog is not a well-oiled machine, it does not eat constant amounts of food every day. A puppy has its own growth phases. However, during this period, he has a great need for food, which is reduced during the rest period. While the portion indicated by the food manufacturer matters, it is only an indication! Like a child, a puppy can devour for a while, then briefly snack, but as long as its weight gain is regular there is no need to panic … it’s normal!
There are little eaters and you constantly have to watch their weight. If the curve is good for a puppy, or stable for an adult dog, there is no need to worry as its body is mature and everything is fine.
Dogs eat grass, which provides them with necessary fiber. This does not mean that their diet is inappropriate, just that they are filling a gap. If however they consume compulsively, vomit, eat … etc, they certainly have a digestive problem that must be treated!
Similar to humans, the outside temperature affects a dog’s appetite. The cold burns more calories, and therefore increases the appetite of dogs, while the heat has the opposite effect!
Medical causes of dogs eating with human hands
If a dog has a sudden loss of appetite, and especially if it is accompanied by a change in behavior, it is first of all necessary to eliminate the medical causes!
First, check that there is no object stuck in the mouth and eliminate any dental problems. The teeth should be healthy and the gums soft and pink. If they are swollen or red, there is a strong suspicion of an abscess, in which case the dog will experience pain while eating. An appropriate treatment will help him regain his appetite!
Also remember to deworm your canine friend regularly (once a month until the age of 6 months then 2 times a year throughout their life), as the presence of worms can disrupt its appetite.
If the dog tries to vomit, goes around in circles, does not manage to lie down, with a swollen belly, it may be a stomach upset, and in this case it is an absolute emergency situation … take the dog to the vet now!
The medical causes can be varied and more or less insidious. Food intolerance, hyper acidity of the stomach, thyroid, kidney problem, intoxication, anaplasmosis… the list is endless! Only a thorough veterinary examination can help understand and treat the problem. Always start by eliminating these risks. However, an examination may not reveal any particular concern, and it is therefore necessary to take a more … psychological approach!
In many cases, dogs eating with human hands or with a total loss of apetite are having behavioral problems. There are obviously intrinsic reasons for such misbehavior:
- The presence of a female in the neibourghood, even if far away (up to 3 km) can make the dog in love lose all appetite! It is not uncommon for a male to lose several pounds during this … euh … exciting period!
- As we have seen, access to food is ritualized in dogs. We must therefore ensure that each dog eats peacefully, even if it means separating them so that their surroundings are calm and secure.
Human causes of dogs eating with human hands
But in the majority of cases the blockage comes from … the dog owner! Many cases of dogs who eat poorly are due to the presence of the master, the pressure he puts (unconsciously) on his dog to see him eat well, and the emotional blackmail that the dog can get from it. The more the owner worries, the less the dog eats, to the point of swallowing nothing more if it is not given by hand.
For humans, food is a real issue! I love you so I feed you! And he therefore naturally awaits the return of love marked by an empty plate (“finish your plate to please Mom” doesn’t remind you of anything?). But it’s a behavior or a notion that has absolutely no meaning for the dog. On the other hand, he perfectly perceives the tension from his master during the meal. And this nervousness felt will have, on some dogs, the exact opposite effect! Since there is an increase in the level of stress at the time of the meal, the dog can associate it to a potential danger and will not want to touch the bowl.
Dog is playing with your emotions
In some other cases, our canine companions will simply on our emotions and our weaknesses! Unwittingly, we teach the dog that by refusing his bowl, he will have something better instead. What do you do when your dog doesn’t eat? You look at solving the problem the easy way! Meat juice, cheese, oil, or even a mixture of meat and croquettes, table scraps to finish with a homemade diet!
We all have done it to one extent or another! Your dog learns that suffice to wait in front of his bowl without touching it to have something much better! And it will turn into a real tyrant! I taste, I like something new for a day or two … and then no, I don’t want it anymore because you will surely have a better offer! Sounds familiar right?
Stress can another factor causing a loss of appetite. As with humans, a change of environment can influence the body, but everything returns to normal naturally after a few days. However, if you feel guilty because this stress is due to a life change that you imposed on him (baby, moving house, new companion, etc.) and that you pay particular attention to watching him eat, it may turn into a vicious circle. The dog finds that when he is not eating you are stressed and if he senses you are not well, he is searching for an answer which increases his own level of stress.
When and how to feed your dog?
A puppy generally eats three times a day for up to 6 months, the adult once or twice depending on the size and level of activity. The main thing should be to have meals, as far as possible, at regular times and in a quiet environment. Regular schedule does not mean to the minute (although many of our companions have a clock in their stomachs and know how to remind you and they rarely skip that time!), But you should avoid playing with meal time such as one day at noon, the next day in the evening, then the following morning. Your dog needs stability and consistency in its life and the meal schedule should follow such principles.
The dog must be able to eat calmly and safely. So avoid busy places or moments of intense actrivity in the house. And above all, avoid putting his hand in the bowl, or withdrawing it, to supposedly test his “submission”. It’s completely stupid! This will only create increased anxiety when he eats, a concern that has no reason to be!
Do not show any emotion when he eats. Eating is a natural act that requires no particular reward, so there is no need to marvel! The best is even to leave the room and let your quietly eat.
Remove the bowl after 15/20 minutes, again without any comment. Do not give in to the temptation to force-feed your dog with little extras throughout the day because he has nothing in his stomach! A healthy dog does not allow himself to starve and his body is designed to withstand several days of fasting without worry!
What to feed your dog?
It can also happen that a dog ends up getting tired of his food and that we are then forced to change it! But waht should you choose?
Overall, there are today three ways to feed your animal well: industrial, family and natural.
The range goes from absolute horror to a balanced diet corresponding to the specific needs of each age and size of dog. The main advantage is the ease of use, transport and storage. It is imperative to avoid inexpensive food, consisting of waste unfit for human consumption and not containing the slightest trace of meat from the muscles, all masked by uplifting salt contributions to give palatability. Not only these foods do not meet the needs of your dog, but will probably damage the kidneys in the medium term by creating insufficiency, stones, urea … It is therefore essential to choose “premium” kibbles that are found in pet store or veterinarian! Several brands offer different tastes, allowing you to vary the menus a little, without disturbing digestion.