How to Train Your Dog to Eat at Certain Times

How to Train Your Dog to Eat at Certain Times
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-14 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

Maybe it used to be fine for your only dog to take her time nibbling from her bowl as she chose, but now you have a new puppy who will scarf down whatever he sees, including your older dog’s food. Maybe your dog has always been a finicky eater, and you are sick of catering to her desire for kibble at four in the morning after she has refused to eat all day. Perhaps your vet has advised you that your dog is too heavy and that unless she loses some weight she will begin to have issues with her hips, heart, or other serious issues.

There are many reasons why we may want our dog to eat reliably at specific times, but getting her to do so may prove challenging. After all, you can lead a horse to water, but can’t make it drink, right? When it comes to dogs and their kibble, there are some reliable ways to make sure your dog eats when food is offered.

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Defining Tasks

It is essential that you take full control of your dog’s eating schedule, if you are to convince her to eat at certain times. Have a serious talk with you family about how important it is that no one feed the dog, no matter how pitiful and hopeful she may seem. Do not give into your dog’s demands, even if she barks incessantly and paws her food bowl across the floor. Tell her you know she wants to eat, but that she will have to wait.

If your dog refuses to eat at the set time, you must remove the food and not allow access to it again until the set time, no matter how much your dog might beg and demand later when she gets hungry. Check with your vet to be sure of safety for your particular dog, but in general, a dog can go a day or a day and a half without eating with no ill effects. So, no matter what your dog might have to say about it, she is not, in fact, starving.

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Getting Started

Make sure your dog’s food is both nutritious and delicious. Adding incentives like a little bit of wet food juice over kibble, or carrots and sweet potatoes mixed with the kibble, can encourage an unenthusiastic eater. Freezing chunks of food or adding water and heating kibble can make boring foods more interesting. Adding green beans can stretch out the food for dieting dogs.

Feeding out of food toys or spreading kibble over a clean hard floor to be searched out can slow down eating and make feeding time more interesting. Giving green beans, ice cubes, or rawhide chews between meals can help hold over the hungry pup. Never reward demanding behavior, but wait until your dog is calm to give her anything.

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The Now or Later Method

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1

Brief chance

About an hour before the desired feeding time, put your dog’s food bowl down for only a minute or two, whether or not she eats from it. This will introduce the idea that feeding will not last forever.

2

Food time

At your desired time, put down the food bowl and allow your dog to eat until she stops eating. If she doesn’t eat, leave the bowl down for about fifteen minutes before removing it.

3

Resist temptation

Do not give in to your dog’s demands for food. If she acts demandingly, sternly tell her that it is not dinner time. If she still seems bothered, wait until she is behaving and give her a hold over snack like ice cubes or green beans.

4

Food time again

Give your dog an opportunity to eat for brief periods between established food times, but always make them brief. This way your dog will learn that only during the designated feeding times does she have ample opportunity to eat.

5

Remove additional feeding times

Remove snack times between feedings, only giving your dog rawhides, green beans, ice cubes, etc. between meals. Your dog should have understood by this stage that feeding times are designated times.

The Food as Reward Method

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1

Earning food

This method teaches dogs that food is not a guaranteed possession bestowed upon them reliably when they want it, but rather a reward for work well done.

2

Tricks for treats

At the time you would like to feed your dog, divide up the food she should be getting. Ask her to do a fun easy trick and give her several kernels of food.

3

Mix it up

Give your dog a bunch of kernels of food for one trick, and only a few for another. Add in some really yummy treats, but also occasional carrots, green beans, or sweet potato.

4

More food, fewer tricks

Add more food per trick until your dog is eating her entire bowl at the designated time for a simple trick.

5

Tricks for treats in between

If your dog is hungry or bored in between meals, just ask her to do a trick and give her a snack. Soon she will be accustomed to the schedule and need fewer snacks.

The Group Pressure Method

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Everyone is eating

If everyone is eating, it is harder for your dog not to. Feeding your dog around other eating dogs will entice her to eat, just like seeing other people eat entices us to eat.

2

Bowls down

At the designated feeding time, lay bowls down several feet away, one for each dog. Stand guard and prevent anyone from eating each other’s food.

3

Better eat

If your dog is not accustomed to group feeding she will likely take longer than the other dogs, especially since she may not have wanted to eat right then and expects to take her time. Guard her and her food unless she walks away, even if she isn’t eating. Eventually, the pressure of the other dogs wanting her food will encourage her to start eating.

4

Missed your chance

If your dog walks away from her less than empty bowl, remove the food and don’t offer it again until next feeding time. She will learn that she better eat when the other dogs do or not at all.

5

Remove the pack

After your dog is competently eating at the same times as the other dogs, you should be able to feed her separately and have her eat reliably at the designated time.

By Coral Drake

Published: 12/21/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Lyka

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Mixed breed

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6 Months

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Question

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the challenge is: 1. she does not like dog food, but licks the sauce of a wet food 2. because of that, i tried giving her homemade (found recipes online) and it worked for a several months 3. she eats inside her cage, sometimes she finishes it, sometimes she does not. 4. if she won't finish it, she will just select a few large meat pieces to eat, but if she cannot find one, she will turn her back and just sleep 5. she sleeps until past lunch time, then go out to stretch, roam and play (in short, she is free in the afternoon) 6. then by about 6pm, it is dinner time, sometimes she'd eat, sometimes she won't, but would eat what ever is thrown near her (much like stray feeding) even if it is the same food that she gets during her main meal. 7. then recently, her eating habits changed again. the last full meal she had that she finished was last Sept 24, dinner time. Saturday morning (sept 25), she did not eat her breakfast, slept through it while inside the cage, and when she woke up, she ate half of it. in the evening, she only ate a few chunks of meat. 8. Sept 26, she did not eat breakfast again but looks for food. i allowed her out of the cage the whole day. i prepared boiled chicken with green beans and sweet potatoes and eggs. she did not eat from the bowl, but ate on my hand. she'll take a few then walk away and bury some. then when called, she'd eat again through stray feeding. this took a while until she was able to finish the meal. 9. sept 27, today, she's like that again, turns away from her food (just sniffs it). we offered a few chunks, she took it and buried it. 10. she used to obey when being told to get in the cage, but it is becoming difficult. she won't go in even there are treats inside. she'll just hide.

Sept. 27, 2021

Lyka's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Jha, I would start by speaking with your vet. As dogs get older their metabolisms often change at different points, so I would have your vet check her weight and see if she is being overfed or loosing weight with the pickiness. If she is being overfed, that could be why she is so picky. If pup is loosing weight despite the homemade food, I would look into a medical reason for why she won't eat. Parasites, a food allergy ingredient, nutritional imbalance, bacterial imbalance, infection (even an ear infection or tooth infection that causes pain while chewing or swallowing), or multiple other illnesses or injuries could be related to picky eating. I am not a vet though, so speak with your vet. With what you are feeding pup, it sounds like their is something more than just disliking her food going on. When you hand feed that may be giving pup the extra motivation she needs to eat despite the discomfort. If there isn't anything medically wrong, I would try making the food more fun by using puzzle toy type feeders that pup has to hunt the food in. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Oct. 4, 2021

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Milo

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cavalier kinds

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8 Months

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My dog will bite or growl with no pattern. One minute he is eating treats or getting pet and the next he is biting. This aggression is displayed towards all people but particularly my brother, who has done nothing to deserve that agression

Aug. 13, 2021

Milo's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I recommend having pup evaluated by an animal behaviorist who has a lot of experience with aggression. Someone with an animal behaviorist degree opposed to a trainer, specifically will have some medical background in their training, to evaluate whether pup's behavior is a learned behavior to get what pup wants or related to something like resource guarding or a low tolerance to being touched, or something medical or genetically inherit, that's needs to be addressed with your vet. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Aug. 16, 2021


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