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How to Train Your Small Dog to Eat at Certain Times

How to Train Your Small Dog to Eat at Certain Times
Easy difficulty iconEasy
Time icon3-6 Days
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

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.

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Defining Tasks

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.  

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Getting Started

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.

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The Schedule Method

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1

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.

2

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.

3

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.

4

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.

5

Implement schedule

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

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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.

2

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.

3

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.

4

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.

5

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

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Schedule feedings at meal time

Schedule your dog to eat when you or other dogs in the family eat.

2

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.

3

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.

4

Remove dish

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.

5

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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fido

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Chihuahua

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9 Years

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my dog has weird food timings. he wants to eat and poop in the middle of the night all of a sudden. he will keep crying unless food is given / unless he's taken out to pee. he wants to eat food whenever he feels like, and his eating habits are not scheduled

May 5, 2021

fido's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Nishna, First, I would consider a trip to your vet to make sure that there isn't something medical underneath this, given pup's age and this being a new behavior for them. Having ruled out anything medical like a digestive or metabolic issue (I am not a vet), with your vets go ahead, I would start by scheduling pup's food three times a day (you can do two but when first starting, three gives pup an extra option for eating). I would feed breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Feeding pup somewhere calm like a closed crate or quiet room in case distraction or anxiety is causing pup not to eat during the day. Give pup 1 hour with the food. If pup isn't touching it at all, take the food up after an hour and wait until the next feeding time to give. Give extra at the remaining meals to make up for what pup didn't eat at previous meals if pup finishes that meal and is still hungry. For the dinner meal, I would start that meal closer to bedtime initially so its closer to when pup is eating at night now. As pup begins eating then, I would gradually scale that meal back to a normal dinner time, closer to when you eat dinner. Once pup's dinner is at least two hours before bed and there are no middle of the night meals, you can expect pup to not need to poop at night unless there is a medical issue that needs addressing with your vet. If needed, you can add a kibble topper, like stella and chewy, to pup's food. Crush the kibble topper into a powder in a baggie with pup's food ration for the following day, and feeding pup out of that, to flavor the kibble and help motivate pup. When pup wakes needing to go potty still when you are first implementing this, take pup potty on a leash, walking pup around slowly and keeping the trip super boring, with no treats, feeding, play, and little attention, then return pup to bed after. After pup has gone potty, if they cry for food, either ignore pup or correct the crying - their internal clock needs to reset, so they are waiting until morning to eat and hungry to eat then. Once pup is isn't eating at night, they should be hungry enough to eat during the day again, which should lead to them going potty more during the day, then needing less night potty trips. It's very possible this whole thing began because pup's bladder woke them up during the night because they are not able to hold it for as long at night due to age. Once pup was awake, they thought it was morning and time to eat. Since they were persistent and fed, then it began messing up their whole internal clock and feeding schedule, making this issue worse and worse. After you get daytime and night time adjusted again, pup may still need to pee at night legitimately. Either you can take them potty at night or train them to use a disposable real grass pad in an exercise pen they begin sleeping in at night, and go potty outside during the day. Either way I would keep meals for daytime and you can ignore the crying, or if pup is too persistent for that, correct it, so pup learns to simply go back to sleep after they wake up to pee. To address the crying after pup has gone potty and is crying just for food, first, work on teaching the Quiet command during the day using the Quiet method from the article linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Second, during the day practice the Surprise method from the article linked below. Whenever pup stays quiet in the crate/exercise pen/room where he sleeps for 5 minutes, sprinkle some treats into the crate without opening it, then leave the room again. As he improves, only give the treats every 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour, 1.5 hour, 2, hour, 3 hour. Practice crating him during the day for 1-3 hours each day that you can. If you are home during the day, have lots of 30 minute - 1 hour long sessions with breaks between to practice this, to help pup learn sooner. Whenever he cries in the crate, tell him "Quiet". If he gets quiet - Great! Sprinkle treats in after five minutes if he stays quiet. If he continues barking or stops and starts again, spray a quick puff of air from a pet convincer at his side through the crate while calmly saying "Ah Ah", then leave again. Only use unscented air canisters, DON'T use citronella! And avoid spraying in the face. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Repeat the rewards when quiet and the corrections whenever he cries. Practice for a few days until he is doing well during the day. You can either continue what you are currently doing at night during this process or go ahead and jump into what I explain below for night time training - waiting until the day is good before starting the night or starting the night and day both at the same time. When he cries at night when you know it's not a potty issue, tell him Quiet, and correct with the pet convincer if he doesn't become quiet and stay quiet. If pup does need to be taught to use a disposable real grass pad at night because of an aging bladder, check out the exercise pen method. I would modify this method to leave the exercise pen up, since you want pup to still be trained to go potty outside during the day, and the pen only be used at night. Leaving the pen up will make the distinction clearer. I would use disposable real grass pads and not pee pads for this, since pup is used to going outside, and so pup will be less likely to confuse grass pads with carpet and rugs, like they could pee pads. Exercise pen method - litter box in method can be replaced with grass pads. https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy Grass pad brands - amazon also: www.doggielawn.com www.freshpatch.com www.porchpotty.com Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 6, 2021

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Cloud

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german sheperd

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10 Weeks

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Getting him to potty train. We currently live in a 800sqft apartment with access to outside via elevator and stairs. We've been doing the method of putting pads down in the entire living room (where he's generally gone to bathroom) at what point do we know if he's understood pee/poop only on the pads and can start taking some pieces away? He still poops/pees on carpet and seemingly intentionally goes to a part not on the 8-9 pads we have laid out. We take him outside ideally to poop/pee at 7am and walk for 1 hour, then at 1pm-2pm another outside time and then finally 8-9 pm after his meal. Tips to change what we do so he understands only poop/pee on the pads and outside?

Jan. 12, 2021

Cloud's Owner

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Alisha Smith - Alisha S., Dog Trainer

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Hello! I am going to give you some training information on how to work with your dog to use a potty pad. Choose Your Spot Pick a space in your house where you want your dog to go. Obviously, you’ll want this spot to be a low-traffic area. Make sure this spot is easily accessible to your dog, and make sure the floor surface is linoleum or tile, as opposed to carpet. If your dog “misses,” it will be easier to clean up. If the only spot you can put the pee pad is a carpet, you might consider getting a small tarp to put underneath the puppy pee pad to guard against spillage. Choose a spot that is outside of your “smell zone.” An important tip to remember is to make sure not to let your dog decide the spot he likes. Not only might he pick an area you won’t like, but he’ll learn that he is in charge – not you – which can cause a host of problems down the line. Monitor Your Dog When you are potty training your dog, full-time monitoring is an absolute necessity. It’s impossible to correct bad behaviors if you don’t see them happen. Dogs have very short memories. It is important to catch your dog in the act. If your dog goes on the floor, and you try to correct him hours after the fact, he will be confused and upset, not knowing what he did wrong. This can hinder training and your relationship with your dog. Puppies, in particular, must be watched constantly. They have less control over their bowels and will go when they have to go. If you miss these moments, you lose precious training opportunities. Of course, it’s nearly impossible to be with your dog 24 hours a day, but try to spend more time at home during the weeks you are potty training – it will pay off in the long run. Learn Your Dog’s Schedule Dogs, for the most part, are predictable. They will go to the bathroom at predictable times. You should be able to learn when your dog has to go based on timing as much as on his signals. Take some time to study your dog’s bathroom habits. You’ll learn the amount of time after he eats or drinks that he has to go, and you’ll get in rhythm with his daily bathroom schedule. This will help you reduce accidents and speed up the potty training process. Studying your dog’s habits can also help you identify his bathroom “triggers” – like having to go after a certain amount of playtime. Once you learn your dog’s schedule, use it to your advantage in potty training. Bring him to the pee pad a few minutes before he normally goes, and encourage him. This will help him get used to going in the right spot, and help you establish repetition in your training. Choose a Command Word Dogs have keen senses – they respond to sight, smell, and sound. When you begin pee pad training, choose a command word and use it every time you take your dog to the pad. Just about any word will work. The tone of your voice is more important than the actual word. Try phrases like “go on” or “go potty” in a slightly elevated, encouraging tone. Make sure to repeat this same command, in the same tone, every time you take your dog to the pee pad. Avoid Punishment When your dog has an accident, it’s just that – an accident. When you punish your dog during potty training, he will become confused and scared. He doesn’t know what he’s done wrong, and can’t understand why the person he loves most is mad at him. Most importantly, it will not help his potty training. Positive Reinforcement Both human and dog behavior is largely based on incentives. Dogs’ incentives are very simple – they want to eat when they are hungry, play when they are excited, and sleep when they are tired. But the most important thing your dog wants in life is to please you. Use this to your advantage. Whenever your dog goes on his potty training pad, shower him with lots of praise. If he sees that he gets praise for doing his business on the pad, he will be incentivized to keep going on the pad – and he’ll be excited to do it! Potty training – whether it’s a pee pad or going outside – will take time, but if you do it right, can take less time. Many dogs are potty trained in less than two weeks. Just remember that you and your dog are partners. Do everything you can to help him learn the proper etiquette, and you will enjoy a long, quality relationship together. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thank you for writing in.

Jan. 12, 2021


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