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Small dogs are usually house dogs, that means they may be confined in the home for several hours a day without access to potty breaks. By scheduling your small dog to eat at certain times you can help regulate when he needs to go to the bathroom, so you are available to let your dog outside for potty breaks, or arrange for a dog sitter or neighbor to let him out when needed. Another benefit of teaching your dog to eat at certain times is that a small dog in the home can eat out of boredom if they are always provided access to food, and because a small dog may be housebound he is prone to weight problems from overeating. Scheduling eating times can also help with training. You can conduct training prior to scheduled meal times and then use the scheduled meal time as part of a reward for a successful training session. Most dogs can be scheduled to eat twice a day, but a small dog or a young dog with a smaller stomach may need to eat three times a day. Water can be provided at all times, or if required for potty training, water can be restricted to 5 or 6 times a day.
If you want your small dog to eat at certain times you will need to set a schedule and then be consistent with it. This means making sure you or someone else is available to feed your dog at the prescribed time. You will need to provide food at the designated time and then remove your dog's food dish, whether they have finished their entire meal or not. Make sure you have time when establishing a feeding schedule so that a hectic schedule does not distract your dog from eating. A panicky morning rush may not be the best time to schedule your dog’s feeding. You should also establish how much to feed your small dog for his breed, weight, and activity level and divide feedings up as evenly as possible, ideally twice a day, 12 hours apart, or 3 times a day about 8 hours apart. You will want to ensure there is adequate time after eating to provide a potty break before bedtime or going to work for the day, so your little guy gets his needed bathroom break approximately ½ to 1 hour after eating.
Be sure to choose a nutritious dog food and determine the correct amount to meet your dog's nutritional requirements. Divide the correct amount into 2 or 3 portions over a 24-hour period and set a schedule. You can use a timer to remind yourself when your dog needs to be fed, or use a time-release feeder. Time-release feeders are especially beneficial if you have to be away from the house for extended periods of time. Remember, your dog will need a bathroom break shortly after eating, so schedule automatic feedings when you will be home shortly afterward to let your dog out or arrange for someone else to take him for a bathroom break. Avoid giving your small dog treats between meals, it doesn't take much to fill up a small dog's tummy and ruin his appetite for dinner.
The Schedule Method
Determine schedule and portions
Determine when you're going to feed your dog based on your availability, and divide the correct amount of food per feeding based on your dog’s daily needs.
Provide food prior to scheduled time
About 1 hour before your scheduled time, provide one portion in a dish for about 1-2 minutes, then remove your dog's dish whether he has eaten or not. This teaches your dog that the dish will not always be available.
Provide food on schedule
At his scheduled feeding time, give your small dog what is left of the food he had access to 1 hour before.
Allow access to food then remove
Leave the dish down for about 10-15 minutes and then remove it whether your dog is finished or not.
Do not provide more food until your dog's next scheduled feeding time. Again, you can repeat giving your dog access to their portion 1 hour before scheduled feeding time until your dog catches on that the dish will not always be available. Once your dog has caught on, start providing meals on your planned schedule only.
The Earn Food Method
Determine a schedule
Determine when you're going to feed your dog based on your availability and divide the correct amount of food per feeding based on daily needs and number of feedings to be provided. Set a timer to notify you when it is time to feed your dog.
Make time for work
At your dog's scheduled feeding time, make some time to work with your dog. Call him over and ask him to perform a task or trick he knows like 'sit' or 'fetch'. Reward with food.
Introduce new tasks
Introduce a new task or trick. To shape the new behavior, use a clicker and provide food as you shape the new behavior.
Allow to earn food
Don't overwhelm your small dog with new behaviors. Introduce a new trick or activity and make sure it is well established. Also, practice old tricks and obedience behaviors your dog knows so he has an opportunity to earn his food with success.
Provide rest of portion
After training for the day is finished, provide whatever food is left for that scheduled time to complete his required nutritional intake. Be sure to praise your dog for a job well done.
The Eat As A Group Method
Schedule feedings at meal time
Schedule your dog to eat when you or other dogs in the family eat.
Feed at meal times
When your family sits down to eat a meal, provide your small dog with his meal. Your dog will be motivated to eat when he hears and sees other “pack” members eating, even if they are human.
Feed other pets
If other dogs are present in the household, feed all dogs at once. If necessary, put up barriers or use crates so that squabbles over food do not occur or to prevent one dog who eats faster from getting more than their fair share.
Allow your dog access to his food during your meal time for at least 10-15 minutes. When you are finished your meal. Remove your dog's dish, whether he is finished or not.
Keep to schedule
Resist temptation to feed your dog between scheduled meals. He will learn to eat when others in your family eat.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 02/13/2018, edited: 01/08/2021