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

Effective
0 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 Group Pressure Method

Effective
0 Votes
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?

The Food as Reward Method

Effective
0 Votes
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?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Picasso
Toy Fox Terrier
13 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Picasso
Toy Fox Terrier
13 Years

I have always left dry food out all day and Picasso could eat freely all his life. He had 3/4's of his teeth removed and now eats canned food. Picasso whines and will not stop until he is fed at 4am then whines and will not stop to go out at 6am. He goes out on a leash. Evening same 4pm eat 6pm go out will whine or bark to let me know. Eats all canned food. Give 1/2 in the morning and 1/2 in afternoon. Challenge how to move him to a more reasonable time to eat in the morning. His whining wakes me up and I cannot ignore because I cannot go back to sleep.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
112 Dog owners recommended

Hello Karen, First of all, make sure that he is getting enough to eat. Since the canned food is mostly made of water, compare the fat, protein, and carbohydrate amounts to the previous dry food that you were feeding and make sure that it is comparable amounts. Also, keep an eye on his weight. When you look at him from the side he should have a bit of a tuck-up at his abdomen. He should not have a line going straight across from his chest to his rear end without any tuck at his abdomen. He also should not have an extreme tuck. Run your hands over his ribs and back. You should be able to feel his ribs easily but they should not protrude and you should not be able to easily count every single spinal column along his back. There should be a little bit of padding. First, check that the calorie content is comparable to what he was eating before. If the amounts are good, then move onto my next suggestion below, but over the next month also keep an eye on his body fat to make sure that he is not gaining or loosing too much weight on the new food. If you determine that he is getting a similar amount of calories, then you can assume that he is asking for food simply because he likes the taste a lot more. It is time to play hard ball with him. He needs to be crate trained and to sleep in a crate in another room at night. He should be able to wait to eat just as well as before as long as he is getting enough food to eat calorie wise. His whining needs to be ignored. He has learned by you getting up to feed him, even just a couple of times, that if he is persistent that you will give in and feed him. If he is in another room, then his whining should wake you up less, he will be less motivated to continue the whining because he cannot see you, and he will learn to go back to sleep when he wakes up. Once he has learned to sleep through that early morning wake up time, then you can try moving him to your bedroom again. When you move him back into your bedroom, expect a couple of nights of early morning wake ups at first. Keep him in the crate in your room at first, and ignore the whining. Since you already taught him that whining will do him no good by having him sleep in the other room, he should give up much sooner and go back to sleeping in the morning in a couple of days. Bring a book or something to read when you transition him back to your room and maybe do it on the weekend so that you can take a nap later in the day. If he is not already crate trained, then follow one of the methods from the article that I have linked below. You can do all of the methods, but focus on the "Surprise" method the most. https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate If you do not want to bring him back into your room once he is trained to sleep in the crate in another location, that is fine also. You can continue having him sleep somewhere else. You can also try getting up with him at 4am and taking him out, but then going an unpleasant activity with him afterwards and not feeding him until the usual time. This method is less likely to work but I have seen it work rather quickly before. The unpleasant activity does not have to be something punishing. You might pull him into the bed with your and make him cuddle if he is comfortable cuddling but it is not what he wants right then. You could also give him a bath or make him work on his obedience. Anything that he does not like enough to wake you up for that is not feeding him. Either way, do not feed him until it is within an hour of when you want to be feeding him in the long run. If you want him to wait until 8am to eat, then do not feed him before 7am. If you do feed him, then his body will come to expect food at that time and will biologically wake him up every day. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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