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8 Reasons Your Dog Might Refuse to Eat from Your Hand

Written By: Sharon Waddington

Last Updated:

As a dog owner, ensuring that your furry friend is eating well and getting the nutrition necessary to stay healthy is important. However, what do you do when your dog refuses to eat from your hand? Seeing your dog turn their nose up at the food you offer can be concerning and frustrating, especially when trying to build a bond with them.

Your dog might refuse to eat from your hand due to fear, lack of trust, illness, dental problems, food aversion, training issues, distractions, age, stress, or medical conditions.

Understanding the possible reasons behind your dog’s reluctance to eat can help you identify the root cause and take appropriate steps to address it.

This article will explore some common reasons why dogs refuse to eat from their owner’s hands and provide tips on overcoming these challenges.

Why won't my dog eat from my hand? Sad Looking Puppy not hungry.

Why Won’t My Dog Eat From My Hand?

There are many reasons why your dog might refuse to eat from your hand, ranging from medical issues to behavioral problems. Let’s look at the main reasons in more detail.

Fear or Anxiety

So, you’re trying to feed your dog from your hand, but they keep avoiding your outstretched palm like it’s a hot potato. 

What’s going on here? Well, one possibility is that your furry friend feels anxious or scared. Maybe they had a bad experience with food before, or they’re just naturally a bit nervous. 

Who knows, maybe they just heard a scary noise and are convinced your hand is out to get them.

Either way, if your dog refuses to eat from your hand due to fear or anxiety, you’ll need to take a gentle approach. For starters, don’t force the issue – if your dog doesn’t want to eat from your hand, don’t push the issue. 

Instead, create a calm and relaxing environment to help your dog feel more at ease. Play some soothing music, or give them a relaxing massage. 

Hey, who knows, maybe they’ll even start eating from your hand after they’re all chilled out!

Lack of Trust

If your dog doesn’t trust you, it’s kind of like trying to feed a wild animal – they’re just not going to take food from your hand. 

Dogs are intuitive creatures and can sense something’s off, so if they don’t trust you, it’s likely for a good reason. 

Maybe you’ve accidentally scared them in the past, or maybe they’re just generally wary of new people and situations.

“If you want to build trust with your dog and encourage them to eat from your hand, it’s important to take things slow and be patient.” 

World of Dogz

Start by spending some quality one-on-one time with your dog, and work on building a bond through positive reinforcement techniques.

Offer them treats and praise when they do something good, and avoid punishing them for mistakes. 

Over time, your dog will start to see you as a trusted friend rather than a potential threat, and they’ll be more likely to take food from your hand. 

Dog Uninterested in Food and Sleeping next to his food.


You know when you’re under the weather, and the thought of eating anything just makes you want to curl up in a ball and nap? 

Well, dogs can feel the same way when they’re not feeling their best. If your dog is sick or experiencing digestive issues, it may not want to eat from your hand or eat at all. 

This is especially true if they’ve associated food with discomfort, like recently eating something that upset their stomach.

If you suspect your dog is refusing to eat from your hand due to an illness, it’s important to take them to the vet as soon as possible. 

Your vet can diagnose any underlying health issues and recommend a treatment plan to help your furry friend feel better. In the meantime, try offering your dog small, frequent meals of easily digestible foods like boiled chicken and rice. 

And don’t take it personally if your dog isn’t interested in eating from your hand – they’re probably not feeling up to it now.

Dental Problems

Have you ever had a toothache? It’s the worst, right? Well, imagine feeling that pain every time you take a bite of food. 

That’s what it can be like for dogs with dental problems. If your furry friend is experiencing tooth pain or discomfort, they may not want to eat from your hand or eat at all, especially if they’re on a dry food diet

Signs of dental issues in dogs include bad breath, excessive drooling, and reluctance to eat or drink.

If you suspect your dog is refusing to eat from your hand due to dental issues, it’s important to take them to the vet for a checkup. 

Your vet can examine your dog’s teeth and gums and recommend treatment options such as teeth cleaning or extractions. In the meantime, try offering your dog soft, easy-to-eat foods like canned or moistened kibble

And don’t worry if your dog isn’t interested in eating from your hand – they’re probably just trying to avoid additional pain or discomfort.

Brown Doberman

Food Aversion

You know how some people can’t stand the taste or texture of certain foods, even if they’re supposed to be healthy or delicious? 

Well, dogs can be the same way. If your furry friend has developed an aversion to certain types of food or treats, they may refuse to eat them – even if you’re offering it from your hand. 

This can be due to various factors, such as an unpleasant experience or simply not liking the taste or smell of the food.

“If you suspect your dog is refusing to eat from your hand due to food aversion, try offering different types of treats or food to see what they prefer.” 

World of Dogz

It’s also a good idea to vary their diet to ensure they get all the nutrients they need. And if you’re still having trouble, consult your vet or a professional dog trainer for advice on changing your dog’s eating habits. 

Remember, just like people, dogs have their individual preferences and tastes, so it may take some trial and error to find the perfect snack that your furry friend will happily accept from your hand.

Training Issues

Have you ever tried to teach someone a new skill, but they just couldn’t get the hang of it? Well, it’s the same with dogs. 

If your furry friend needs proper training to take food from your hand, they may need help understanding what you want them to do. 

They might even feel anxious or hesitant if they need clarification on what’s expected of them.

If you suspect your dog is refusing to eat from your hand due to training issues, it’s important to take a step back and re-evaluate your training techniques. 

Use consistent commands and positive reinforcement to encourage your dog to take food from your hand. 

Start with small, easy-to-swallow treats and gradually work to larger or more challenging treats as your dog becomes more comfortable with the process.

And don’t forget to be patient – learning a new skill can take time and practice, but with the right training and encouragement, your furry friend will be chowing down from your hand in no time.


We all know what it’s like to be distracted by something – whether it’s a noisy neighbor or a TV show we can’t take our eyes off of. 

Well, dogs are no different. If there are too many distractions, your furry friend may not be focused on eating – even if you’re offering a delicious treat from your hand. 

This is especially true if other dogs or people are around, as they can be a source of excitement or anxiety for your dog.

I can certainly relate to this as my German Shepherd will not even be interested in a piece of juicy steal if there’s a more interesting squirrel to chase, such is her prey drive.

If you suspect that distractions are why your dog refuses to eat from your hand, try finding a quiet and calm area where you can have your dog’s undivided attention. 

Close the doors and windows to reduce outside noise, and make sure other pets or people are kept away during the training session. 

You can also try using a command or signal to indicate that it’s time to focus on eating, such as a specific word or hand gesture. 

With patience and persistence, your furry friend will learn to tune out distractions and focus on enjoying a tasty treat from your hand.

Tired Golden Retriever

Dog’s Age

Ah, the golden years – a time for relaxing and taking it easy. But for our furry friends, old age can sometimes come with its own set of challenges. 

As dogs age, they may experience vision or hearing loss, making it more difficult to notice when you’re offering them food from your hand. 

They may also have dental issues that make eating painful or uncomfortable, even if they’re offered their favorite treats.

If you suspect that age may be a factor in why your dog refuses to eat from your hand, it’s important to be patient and understanding. You can also check out this article for greater insight, Why Won’t My Old Dog Eat?

Offer softer or more easily digestible foods your dog can enjoy without discomfort. Consider using verbal cues or physical signals to indicate that food is being offered, such as a gentle tap on their nose or a phrase they associate with mealtime. 

And always be sure to consult with your vet to rule out any underlying health issues that may be contributing to your furry friend’s lack of appetite. 

With extra love and care, your senior dog can still enjoy delicious treats and meals – even if they prefer to eat them from their bowl rather than your hand.


Why Won’t My Dog Eat From My Hand?

There could be various reasons your dog won’t eat from your hand, including fear, lack of trust, illness, dental problems, food aversion, training issues, distractions, age, stress, or medical conditions. Determining the underlying cause and addressing it appropriately is important to ensure your dog is happy and healthy.

How Do I Get My Dog To Eat From My Hand?

To get your dog to eat from your hand, start by offering small, tasty treats that your dog enjoys. Hold the treat in the palm of your hand, let your dog sniff it, and then open your hand to let them take it.

Use positive reinforcement and gradually increase the difficulty level, such as holding the treat higher or further away. Be patient and consistent, and always make it a positive experience for your dog.

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Sharon Waddington

Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs.