If you’ve ever tried to get your dog to take treats from your hand, you probably understand that dogs aren’t all that receptive to the idea of taking treats from us, the humans who are supposed to be the good guys, right?
For some dogs, they just don’t trust us, and they’re not willing to take food from our hands. But why? Why won’t your dog take treats from your hand? And how can you teach them to? Keep reading for answers on The Real Reason Your Dog Won’t Take Treats From Your Hand.
Dogs are smarter than we give them credit for
Dogs are often pegged as being dumb animals, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The canine brain is physically different than ours and has a higher ratio of gray matter to white matter, which enables dogs to think in a more complex way.
This means they can do things like read our body language, make decisions based on cause and effect, and have a sense of time. It also means they understand what we say to them, but just don’t always obey. If your dog seems hesitant when you try to give him treats or food by hand (or refuses outright), there are likely a few reasons behind this behavior.
First off, dogs can be picky about how they take their food. Some might not want it crammed down their throat while others may be set in their ways and refuse to eat anything unless it comes out of a bowl or plate.
Another possible reason for a dog refusing to take food from your hand could stem from past experiences with people. If he was attacked by someone who tried to feed him, he may be wary of anyone trying again.
Also, if a dog has been punished after taking food from someone else’s hand, he will associate the punishment with people reaching for his mouth. These negative associations can leave some dogs frightened or even aggressive around humans attempting to feed them.
They can sense our energy and emotions
If you’re feeling anxious or nervous, your dog can pick up on that. When you offer a treat, they might sense that you’re not really into it and not want to take it from you.
This can be especially true if the dog has had bad experiences in the past with people who have been unkind to them.
If you don’t believe me, just try sitting there while maintaining a neutral energy. Put out an open palm and say here boy! If he comes over to eat it, then great! But don’t be discouraged if he doesn’t come near because he knows what you’re all about.
They know when we’re trying to trick them
It’s not just your dog that knows when you’re trying to trick them into doing something they don’t want to. Dogs are clever creatures, and they can tell when their owners are giving them a treat from their hand instead of the bowl.
They know we’re trying to trick them. When dogs refuse treats from their owner’s hands, it may be for one of these reasons – The food might smell different coming from your hand than in the bowl because you’ve been handling it differently.
- Your pup could also associate food coming out of your hand with other things like discipline, punishment or unpleasant interactions with people or other animals.
- You might have taken his favorite treat and mixed it in with some less desirable ones, so he’s suspicious of anything coming out of your hands now.
They may not be motivated by treats
There are a number of reasons why your dog may not be willing to take treats from your hand. One could be that they are not motivated by treats. If you’ve ever been around a group of dogs, you’ll notice they will occasionally steal food off each other’s plates or gobble up the food in front of them before the other dog can get to it. Dogs with these types of behaviors often don’t care much about getting food from their humans, especially if there is any type of competition going on between them. Other reasons for refusing treats from your hand include:
A) They haven’t had their meal yet: Dogs who have just eaten might not want any more food until after they digest what they just ate. Some people think this is because eating makes their stomach feel full and too close to the treat making them uncomfortable, but some experts believe that giving large amounts of food all at once overloads the stomach and causes nausea. Either way, give your pup a little bit of time before trying again later in the day.
B) They’re suffering from separation anxiety: Separation anxiety is when a dog becomes anxious when separated from their owner and behaves abnormally when left alone. Signs of separation anxiety include destructive behavior like chewing furniture, excessive barking and whining, aggression towards unfamiliar people or animals (even their owners), pacing and hiding.
C) They’re stressed out: The stress response system in a dog’s body has two parts- fight-or-flight mode and the calm-and-connect mode.
So what can you do to get your dog to take treats from your hand?
If your dog is refusing treats from your hand, you need to take some time to evaluate what they’re trying to tell you.
It could be something as simple as not wanting the food or they may have a health issue. If it’s the former, then try giving your dog a different type of treat or find a different way to give them the treat (i.e. put it in their bowl).
If it’s the latter, consult with your veterinarian and make sure there are no underlying issues that need treatment.
Remember that your vet has seen this type of thing before and will be able to help you figure out the best course of action. The sooner you address any potential problems, the more quickly they can get back on track!
So, the next time you find yourself frustrated because your dog won’t take a treat from your hand, remember that there are many reasons why this could be happening.
Don’t give up! It may just take some time for your dog to warm up to you and trust that you will give them treats as long as they don’t steal them from the counter or table.