Having a dog that is confident, well-behaved with a strong emotional bond to its owner is something all pet parents hope to have.
If you haven't quite established this yet with your own four-legged friend, there is no need to worry. There are some very simple things you can do to help build trust and develop your relationship. One of those is to start hand-feeding your dog.
Hand feeding is the not-so-secret method used by many dog trainers that all dog owners should know about. It's the fastest way to build a bond with your dog and make all your training quicker, easier and more effective.
So what is 'hand feeding'?
We spoke to Vicky Carne, The Dog Coach about the benefits of hand feeding and how it can help in training your dog.
Here's Vicky's video guide explaining more about hand feeding.
Hand feeding obviously involves feeding your dog by hand and not from a bowl. But you won’t just be handing food over to them. You’ll be asking your dog to do something first in order to be rewarded with a mouthful of dinner.
The great benefit of hand feeding is that your dog will be learning while they earn their daily rations. You'll discover that your dog will enjoy the process and hopefully so will you.
It's easier and more practical to feed your dog dry food but you can hand feed whatever type of food you like. It may just be a slightly messier process.
If you're feeding raw food, I'm sure you already know you have to be very careful to wash your hands, clean and disinfect any surfaces or food preparation tools you've used.
If you prefer not to directly handle 'wet' food, there are some options you might want to consider. You can use disposable gloves, a spoon, or squeeze it through a pastry bag or re-usable food pouch.
Is it really worth the bother is the question you’re probably asking?
Well firstly, using meals for training gives you more opportunities to reward your dog without over-feeding them. You can also add in the odd treat for a bit of variety.
Secondly, it's the quickest way to develop a relationship with your dog so they really want to work with you and learn the skills you're teaching them. While I’m sure your dog loves you just for being you – you will inevitably become more interesting when all their food comes directly from you in exchange for fun training activities.
It won't take many days of hand feeding before your dog starts paying you a lot more attention, regardless of whatever else is going on. This becomes more important and vital when you need your dog to come to you when called. And, as a bonus your dog will learn better manners around food.
As humans we would naturally find it a bit irritating if we were asked to stand up, turn round or wait before each mouthful, dogs have evolved to work for their food (yes, even lap dogs).
Whether you have a young puppy or an older dog, if you want to strengthen your bond and improve their manners while enriching their day, try a few weeks of hand feeding. The slightly longer mealtimes today will certainly save you many hours of training in the future.
Do you have a new puppy? Read Vicky's guide on caring for a new puppy.
You can learn more about Bought By Many pet insurance here. We have policies for all dog owners, from £15,000 of vet cover to cover for pre-existing conditions.