I hand feed Tuckerman and have for quite some time now. I never put much thought into it until recently when clients would catch me doing it and say things like, "Oh my god, is he alright?" or "Geez, what a spoiled dog!". It's occurred to me that hand feeding is probably a weird idea to most people. I guess now that I think about it, I'd agree. It's kind of weird.
But it's also kind of awesome. So today, I'd like to share a few reasons why I do it.
Before we get to the reasons, it's probably worth explaining what I mean by hand feeding.
In a nutshell, Tuck gets 1 1/2 cups of dry food every meal. Instead of putting it in his bowl and letting him have at it, I let him eat small portions of it out of my cupped hands a little at a time. So, the 1 1/2 cups is given in small hand fulls (about 12 to 15) until he's done. Know what I mean? Good.
So, why hand feed?
The Bonding Experience
The bond that can form between people and dogs is extraordinary. For most dogs, feeding time is paramount. I believe it's an opportunity to connect with your dog, every single day. Yes, obviously the food always 'comes from you'. But in this case, it literally is coming from you. I talk to him and take my time (splitting his meal into 10-15 handfulls) in between handfulls. He has learned to be extremely gentle and its just a great experience. He looks me straight in the eyes in between as I talk to him and he is absolutely asking for more. It's a very calming, very trusting experience.
Slow Him Down
Bloat is a very real, very serious (fatal if not treated immediately) concern for dog owners. Especially larger and/or older and/or deep chested dogs, where it is more prevalent. Some ways to deal with that are slow-feed bowls, which I have used in the past. To me, when combined with the other benefits of hand feeding, this is an awesome way to slow him down. I take my time in between handfuls...and can even make smaller handfuls to really let him enjoy the meal for longer. For added safety, don't let your dog exercise for at least an hour before or after eating as well.
Ensure he gets his medicines
There are many different supplements and meds that a dog may be taking. In Tuckerman's case, the list is fairly long partly because of his age. Currently, Tuck gets the following things daily: Salmon Oil, Glucosamine and 4 to 5 other medicines. When giving supplements, it may not be such a big deal if the dog accidentally skips one. Dogs are known to drop pills in other places in the house after you thought they had eaten them. Worse and potentially more dangerous is if they don't eat a pill and another dog in the household goes over and does. Hand-feeding allows me to ensure that he is getting each of his pills.
It's Just Fun
Not much is better to me in the world then interacting with Tuckerman. Feeding is an often-overlooked opportunity to interact with your dog during his/her favorite time...food time! I love watching how excited (yet gentle) he is. I love talking to him while he is eating out of my hands. Also...it's just good for me too. In a world where we constantly run around like crazy and make excuses that we don't have time for anything...hand-feeding Tuck forces me to slow down and be in the moment. It's truly one of my favorite moments each day.
Have you ever hand-fed your dog?
I'd love to hear about it, or your thoughts on maybe trying it. Please comment below.
Written by Bryan, Owner & Founder of Appalachian Tails. Please comment below or if you'd like to speak directly with Bryan feel free to contact him here.