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3 Benefits of Hand Feeding Your Dog: Vet Approved Facts

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on April 11, 2024 by Dogster Team

person feeding dog by hand

3 Benefits of Hand Feeding Your Dog: Vet Approved Facts


Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo


Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Hand feeding your dog isn’t something that you may consider, especially if your dog doesn’t have any issues that make it difficult for them to eat directly out of the bowl. But you may be surprised to find that hand feeding your dog can provide benefits that are worth considering. In this article, we will explore all the reasons why hand-feeding your dog can be incredibly beneficial.

The 3 Main Benefits of Hand-Feeding Your Dog

1. Helps with Trauma & Relaxes Them

dog lying on the floor resting its head on man's leg
Image By: Zen Chung, Pexels

Some dogs may experience trauma that occurred near the food bowl, and they now associate eating from the bowl with the negative experience. Or they can have separation anxiety when the owner leaves for the day.

Feeding the dog by hand builds trust and helps make them feel more at ease and less anxious than they would be if you were to continue using a traditional bowl feeder. This also allows you to bond with your dog every day – something that can be especially beneficial to dogs who are rescues or young pups.

2. Assists and Detects Dogs with Dental Issues

Dog dental
Image by: Zivica Kerkez, Shutterstock

Hand feeding can also give you insight into whether your dog might be having dental problems, for instance, whether your dog needs to eat smaller bites or if they’re having trouble chewing.

It might also help dogs with sensitive jaws that are in the process of healing after surgery or dental work.

3. It’s Great for Young Pups

woman feeding a beagle puppy by hand
Image By: Kampus Production, Pexels

Hand feeding is an effective way to feed puppies that aren’t yet old enough for regular dog food. It also allows you to monitor exactly how much they’re eating. Sometimes young pups can eat really fast until they’re about to pop, and hand-feeding them small portions can help monitor their daily feeding habit up close and slow them down a bit (something that can also help reduce gas).

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How to Hand-Feed Your Dog

woman feeding a white dog from her palm
Image by: Anna Tarazevich, Pexels

There are a few different ways to hand feed your dog, depending on what works best for you and your dog.

Traditional hand feeding: Simply put, this is when you put your dog’s regular food into your hand before letting them eat. It’s important to ensure that your dog’s regular food isn’t difficult for them to eat.

Spoon feeding: This is another common way to hand feed your dog. Spoon feeding is helpful if your dog has dental issues and needs soft food.

Finger feeding: Finger feeding is the most intimate way of hand feeding your dog. This means that you just feed your dog with your fingers, sort of the same way you’d eat popcorn. It’s best to do this once your dog is comfortable with traditional or spoon feeding.

How to Create the Right Feeding Schedule for Your Dog

When it comes to feeding your pup, timing can be everything – especially if you’re someone with a crazy schedule. Feeding your dog at the right time can help avoid unnecessary weight gain and will ensure that it won’t go too long without a good meal.

Keep in mind that not all dogs will respond to feeding schedules the same way, so trial and error is definitely key here. Let’s look at some ways to create a schedule that works for you and your pup.

smiling black woman training dog outdoors
Image by: Samson Katt, Pexels

Change Meal Frequency According to Age/Activity Level

Most dogs need two to three feedings a day. However if your dog is very young, or very active, they might need more feedings. You might also consider free feeding, where food is available at all times.

Early Morning Feeding (6 a.m. – 8 a.m.)

Feeding your dog early in the day may be ideal if you head out to work around this time. Be sure to measure out your dog’s food and have a nice bowl of water next to the feeding bowl. If you won’t be home for another 8 to 12 hours, you should leave a bit of extra food out for the dog to eat before you get back.

Note that some dogs simply aren’t hungry in the morning and may not eat their first meal until mid-morning or later in the afternoon. In this case, it’s best to set the food out right before you head out if you don’t have anyone else at home to feed it.

Midday Feeding (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.)

With most midday feedings, you can be sure that your dog will likely burn off this meal within the next few hours. Feed your dog at 10 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. if it’s had an active afternoon, is a growing puppy or is a larger breed.

Afternoon/Evening Feeding (4 p.m. – 7 p.m.)

This is the time when most dogs and families are finally together for the day. Your dog might get a normal meal early, and then a snack just before bed. Or you might feed two smaller meals if you’ve been away from the house since early morning.

  • Determine proper dog food portions and ideal daily intake with our helpful calorie calculator here.

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Wrapping Things Up

Hand-feeding your dog is a great way to bond with them and show them you care. It’s also a great way to help them transition to a new diet, monitor their eating habits, and be more in touch with their needs. Hand feeding is simple and straightforward, but the benefits are well worth the effort.

In addition to hand feeding, it is also best to develop a solid feeding schedule for your dog during the weekdays and on the weekends. This will get your dog into a daily routine and help you gauge how much food you need to buy each week.

Featured Image Credit: Maksim Goncharenok, Pexels

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