Owning a dog is often not as delightful as it is often made out to be. After all, there is no guarantee that your dog will immediately trust you as soon as you take them home. This is especially true for older pets, and even more so for rescue dogs who may have been mistreated and developed trust issues as a result.

So should you not bother with older or rescue dogs, and stick with raising dogs from puppies? Absolutely not: there are few things more rewarding than giving a good home to a dog that may not have had the best life. But you have to encourage your dog to trust you, and hand feeding is an excellent way to do that.

This works for dogs of all ages, so feel free to try this with puppies as well as older dogs. All you need to do is go to a place where your dog normally gets food, but withhold it. When your dog is sitting patiently, give them some premium dog food from your hand.

It is important that you wait for your dog to stay still and quiet before you give them any food. If they are barking, jumping up or pawing at you, then giving them food will only reward this behaviour. Only once they are well-behaved should you give them anything.

Continue this for a while, until you feel comfortable making them earn their food. All this entails is making them obey commands before they get any food. Sit, stay, speak, lie down, turn around: all of these are good commands to teach your dog once they are used to the fact that food comes from you, and you alone.

Eventually, you should be able to see the difference in trust. By feeding your dog from your hand, you reinforce the fact that you are the dominant one in your relationship. However, you also remind your dog that you are a benefactor, not a threat. Both of these things serve to build up trust.

If you start this when your dog is very young, you will likely build up quite an extreme loyalty that will be very difficult to break, and a trust that will last for the rest of your dog’s life.

Written by: Hannah