How to Train Your Dog to Eat at Certain Times

Medium
2-14 Weeks
General

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.

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.

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.

The Now or Later Method

ribbon-method-1
Most Recommended
2 Votes
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Food as Reward Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
1 Vote
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Group Pressure Method

ribbon-method-2
Least Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Coral Drake

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

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Milo
cavalier kinds
8 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Milo
cavalier kinds
8 Months

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

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 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

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Eddie
Cock-A-Poo
6 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Eddie
Cock-A-Poo
6 Years

My question is about my daughters 6 year old dog. She has been feeding him at 5:00 am because he demands it. He scratches at the bed sheets until she complies. She now has a 4 week old baby who also feeds on demand. How can she get her dog to eat later in the morning so she can get some sleep?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Barbara, I would have her do one of two things. First, have the dog sleep in the crate in another room so pup cannot wake her in the morning. Second, teach pup Place, which means go to their bed. When pup wakes her at 5am if pup needs to go potty, take pup outside, but keep the trip boring and on leash, bringing pup back inside right after they go, and ignoring pup as she at least pretends to go back to bed. When pup starts scratching because she didn't feed, have her tell pup Place. If pup obeys, great, make pup wait until it's the time she wants pup to start waking up to feed. If pup disobeys and doesn't stay on place quietly, and comes back over to scratch again, I would use a pet convincer which is a small pressurized canister of unscented air. Calmly tell pup "Ah Ah" and spray a puff of air at pup's side. Repeat the correction each time pup begs, until pup stops begging and it's time to get up. If pup wakes up and she knows they don't have to go potty, she can go straight to telling pup Place and correcting if pup disobeys. She will need to be firm and persistent about this for a few days, but since pup is already waking her up early she is likely loosing sleep at that time now anyway. Pup's internal clock can reset if there is not some unusual medical reason why pup must eat more frequently. Pup needs to be required to wait to be fed until the new breakfast time for pup's internal clock to reset in a few days though. Once pup's internal clock has reset to the new breakfast time pup also likely won't need to go potty that early and will sleep later in general. Pup is begging so I would encourage her that in the end it's best for her family, including pup in the long run, if pup learns some new rules and things are a bit firm for a little while. She and the baby are priority. If this is hard to do with pup uncrated because she will have to correct more often, I would have her crate him right now. If he is not already used to a crate, expect crying at first. During the day she can practice the Surprise method below to help him get used to the crate, but don't give any treats in the early morning or night because we want pup sleeping then. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate At the same time, while practicing the Surprise method during the day, I would also practice the Quiet method. When he barks or scratches to get out of the crate to eat, tell him "Quiet". Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark If he disobeys her Quiet command and keeps crying or stops but starts again, she can spray a small puff of air from the Pet convincer at his side through the crate while saying "Ah Ah" calmly, then leave again. Repeating this each time pup begs until breakfast time, when it's time to get out. Only use the unscented air from the Pet Convincers - don't use citronella, it's too harsh and lingers for too long so can be confusing. Don't spray in the face. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Coco
Maltese
1 Year
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Coco
Maltese
1 Year

Hi my names Kiara and I wanted to know how I can have my dog eat on a schedule. I don’t like the fact of him having his food out all day because it could get stale and I want him to have fresh food whenever he eats. Give me all the tips and tricks you got I’m all ears haha!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kiara, First, I would feed pup their meals in a calm, distraction free location. Leave the food down with pup for 1 hour. If pup isn't actively eating it for at least the past fifteen minutes at the end of the hour, pick it up. If your schedule will allow I would feed pup breakfast, lunch and dinner for a while, so pup has an extra opportunity to eat after not eating breakfast. Repeat the 1 hour then taking the food up at each meal. Give additional food at each meal if pup didn't eat before, so that pup's overall daily amount is being offered with a couple of opportunities to eat it (pup may not eat as much overall at first but as long as they are eating some and that's short term, that's generally fine. Always check with your vet for any medical concerns or feeding safety though. I am not a vet). If pup still won't eat after doing this schedule, you can make the food temporarily more enticing. I would purchase something like a freeze dried meal topper, like nature's variety or stella and chewy type meal toppers (always observe any recalls for any food brands though). Crush the topper up in a ziploc bag and put pup's daily amount of food into the bag too, then shake the bag up to coat the kibble with the powder. Let the two items sit together overnight so the powder flavors the kibble, then feed the meals out of that baggie of dog food the next day. If pup doesn't like the powder, you can use something like goat's milk the next day instead. Once pup is eating well on a regular schedule, gradually decrease the added goats milk or powder until pup it back to normal kibble after a couple of weeks of scaling back. If you wish to feed a kibble topper long term, you can also do that since they are formulated for that purpose, or you can use a food similar to nature's variety raw boost or ziwi peak that contains the extra freeze dried meat already. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

All right thank you so much Caitlin! Hope this works for my pup.

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Question
Kara
Labrador cross
4 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Kara
Labrador cross
4 Years

Shes growling and showing dominance over our one little Peke male. Also not eating twice a day. Should we feed her together with the other little male Pekes? We have 7 in total all males.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Mandi, I would feed her separate from the other dogs, ideally in a closed crate without others around, to prevent resource guarding starting to happen or getting worse. I would also work on building her respect and trust for you and teaching directional commands, so that her treatment of the other dog is a reflection of her being willing to obey your instructions and give him space when you tell her too. Has she ever shown any form of aggression toward you? Or drawn blood from the other dog? If so, I recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression to help you in person. There may be a bigger issue going on if she is also displaying any form of aggression toward you, that needs to be addressed more comprehensively and carefully in person, with additional safety measures in place. Building respect for you - especially the working method. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Off- section on The Off command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ Drop It – Exchange method: https://wagwalking.com/training/drop-it You can also practice things like calm obedience with the two dogs together, like Down Stay, (but with space between them for safety), and structured heeling walks, and rewarding pup for relaxed body language around the smaller dog (without the other dog seeing, so they don't run over and start a food fight). This also probably involves interrupting the subtle ways they are acting aggressive before a full lunge, growl, or attack happens, like staring, posturing, tensing, stiffening tail, looking puffy and dominant. These interruptions need to be done carefully for your sake, be well timed, and pup have a foundation of already trusting and respecting you, to be effective. That will be best done with the help of a trainer who specializes in things like aggression, and can do it carefully, calmly, confidently, and consistently (which all just happen to be C words haha). Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Thank you. Kara does eat on her own. She hasnt shown any aggression towards me ever or drawn blood. I have a local pet behaviourist whom I will call to assist. Perhaps some obedience lessons are required.

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Question
Sparky & Kenji
Shih Tzu
10 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Sparky & Kenji
Shih Tzu
10 Years

Sparky is my 10 year old shih tzu cross & he has always luckily had perfect weight and a free range feeding schedule. Kenji, my 5 year old Shiba Inu is 10 pounds overweight & so we have decided to put them both on a feeding schedule crating them for 15 minutes twice a day with their measured portion of food. They've both been eating very little and it has my husband and I concerned. Trying to be consistent but also a few days ago tried feeding them in separate rooms with little success to get them to eat much. Have tried and gotten them to eat a bit by placing a few pieces of kibble in front of them at feeding time. But they both are refusing to eat for the most part. I'm especially worried about Sparky given that he is not overweight to begin with. Any advice would be so helpful! Should we just be consistent, let them be kenneled for 15 min 2x per day with their food portions leaving them mostly alone? Should we stop the coaxing and begging them to eat?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Karen, First of all, try to act a bit more nonchalant and confident about the whole thing so that pups aren't picking up on your nervous body language, which can be distracting for them. Second, I would extend the crate time to 30-45 minutes at first. If your schedule will allow, I would also add a third lunchtime meal until they are eating better, then go back to 2 meals later. That simply gives them more opportunities while learning. If your schedule won't allow, that's not completely necessary though. Third, I would add something to the food temporarily to make it enticing. I would try a freeze dried meat kibble topper, like Stella and Chewy or Nature's Variety. Crush the kibble topper into powder and place that and pups' kibble into baggies. Shaking it together and letting it sit that way for an hour or overnight. Feed pups there meals from the flavored topper - the taste and scent should help them get a bit more excited. Once they are eating well at regular times, go back to just 2 feedings a day, and very gradually over 2-4 weeks decrease the amount of powder used until you are back to a normal kibble feeding - you can also include kibble topper pieces in their regular food uncrushed long term if you want to as well though. Other options to try are goats milk and unsalted liver paste. I would recommend trying freeze dried first though since that will be easier to transition away from though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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