How to Train Your Dog to Eat from His Bowl

Medium
2-4 Weeks
General

Introduction

Your pup started out life getting all of his nutrition from his mother's milk, but there comes a time when he needs to learn how to eat from his bowl. You can try hand feeding him for a while, but there is going to come a time when he needs to grow up and learn to eat from a bowl. Not only will this make life easier for you, but it will allow you to keep a much closer eye on how much and how often he eats.

While training your dog to eat from his bowl can be a little challenging, it is a great exercise in discipline for both of you. It also gives you time to spend working on some of the more basic commands such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’, and ‘come’. It will also reduce the risk of your dog being injured if he has a habit of running in a rush to get to his food.

Defining Tasks

The basic idea is to teach your pup that the only place he should be eating from is his bowl and nowhere else. At the same time, you will be teaching him not to rush towards his food dish and that there are specific times when his food will be put in front of him. This is one of the more important general tasks you can teach your dog and should be done at the same time as he is being weaned, if possible, or as soon after as possible.

In reality, you can teach any age dog to eat from a bowl, but the sooner you get started the easier the training sessions are likely to go.  You may want to choose and use a command word or phrase to help with the training such as "Come eat!" or "It's dinner time!". No matter what you choose, be sure to stick to the same command each time and always place his food dish in the same place each time to help avoid confusion.

Getting Started

Getting started is relatively simple, you won't need much to train your dog as eating is a natural process and no matter what, your dog will eventually eat when he gets hungry enough. However, like most types of training, there are a few things you will need in order for the training to be successful.  These include:

  • A hungry dog: You cannot teach your dog to eat from his bowl unless he is hungry.
  • His favorite food: This is not a good time to try an unfamiliar food.
  • A feeding station: Supply a bowl specifically for your dog and choose a spot to place it for each feeding.
  • Time: no training happens overnight, you need to have plenty of time for this process.
  • Patience: Like time, you need to be patient with your pup or you may discourage him rather than getting him to eat from his bowl.
  • Praise: Always be ready with plenty of praise when he gets things right.

The New Bowl Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Fresh start
Start by purchasing your dog a new bowl if he has been avoiding eating out of the one you already have.
Step
2
Choose wisely
The current bowl may frighten him, or if it is a metal bowl it might slip all over the place when he is trying to eat. Also, try smaller bowl as a larger one might overwhelm him. You can always move up to a bigger bowl when he is ready.
Step
3
The right spot
Find a quiet spot for him to eat so that he can eat his dinner in peace and quiet.
Step
4
Jazz it up
Try pouring a little chicken broth or stock in the bowl to encourage him to eat from the bowl and give him lots of praise when he decides to go ahead and eat.
Step
5
Manage mealtime
Keep food availability to a minimum, say for around 20 minutes before picking up the bowl. Keep trying until he is ready to eat the minute you put the bowl down.
Recommend training method?

The Full Bowl Method

Effective
1 Vote
Step
1
Dish it out
Start by placing an appropriate amount of food in your pup's food dish.
Step
2
Call him to the table
Bring your dog into the room where you plan to feed him and stand there with his bowl in your hands.
Step
3
Sit first
Have him sit and then slowly lower the food bowl in front of his face until it is on the ground.
Step
4
Work on those manners
If he tries to move from the sitting position or goes for the food. Raise the bowl and make him sit again. Keep at this until he remains in the sitting position while you place the bowl on the ground.
Step
5
Dig in!
Give him your chosen command such as "Time to eat!" or " Chow down!" or anything else you choose to use. Let him enjoy his food and repeat this process until he eats every time you put his bowl down.
Recommend training method?

The Separate Meal Time Method

Least Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
Dinner reservation
Plan your dog's meal times separate from your own.
Step
2
Choose a time and cue
Create a time for him to eat and a specific feeding command.
Step
3
Serve the meal
Call your dog into the room where you plan to feed him, have him sit, and place a bowl of food in front of him.
Step
4
Wait for it...
Make him remain in the seating position until you give him the command to eat.
Step
5
Doggie bag
If for any reason he chooses not to eat, after 5 minutes be sure to pick up the bowl.
Step
6
Try again
In 12 hours try this again, chances are good he will be hungry enough to eat.
Step
7
Repeat
Keep repeating this until he eats when you put his bowl down. Be patient, it won't take long.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Nahla
Chihuahua
6 Years
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Question
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Nahla
Chihuahua
6 Years

Nahla has had the same bowl since we got her 3 years ago. Last week she stopped eating from her bowl and will only eat from our hands or the floor. She is eating her same food, but not from her bowl. We add broth to her food, pup peroni, etc and she still won't eat from the bowl. i bought a new small bowl and she still won't use it. we are at a loss here. help!

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
85 Dog owners recommended

Hello, my first thought is to have her checked out by the veterinarian. She may have a dental issue that is causing pain and she is associating eating from the bowl with the pain. Small dogs have teeth that are very close together and it is not uncommon that they will need a cleaning or dental work, even at the age of Nahla. The vet can also assess whether Nahla has a stomach upset of some sort. In the meantime, you can try feeding her on a plastic mat that is easily wiped clean after a meal. (Also, If the bowl is metal, this can sometimes scare a dog - even though she always used a metal bowl. You can try plastic instead.) All the best to Nahla!

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Question
Ramsey
Saint Bernard
2 Years
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Question
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Ramsey
Saint Bernard
2 Years

Hi,

Last year when it got very hot my puppy went completely off his food. We tried every type of food but he would refuse. At that point I spoon fed him his raw mince and he ate it all. From then I have always spoon fed him. He is not food oriented so I am s ared if I "wait until hes hungry" it could be days.

Is there anyway I can get him back to eating out of a bowl?

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
91 Dog owners recommended

Hello! You can attempt to start putting his spoon in a bowl over the course of a week and then wean him off the spoon until he is eating from the bowl. Scoop some food, give him a bite, then put the spoon into the bowl and see if he will finish the food with the spoon in the bowl.

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Question
Puma
Pit bull
10 Months
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Question
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Puma
Pit bull
10 Months

Puma hates eating from his bowl, but will gobble anything by hand. He’s 10 months going on 11. I’ve tried multiple types of bowl small and big, same results. Need more ideas to get him to eat from his bowl.

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
85 Dog owners recommended

Hello, many dogs have a fear of bowls for some reason. What type of bowl are you using? If it is metal, I suggest trying a plastic bowl with a rubber backing on the bottom to prevent the bowl from slipping around on the floor. If Puma is really frightened by the bowl, I would not push the issue. There are more things to work on, like obedience commands and learning to heel on walks. I would purchase a plastic placemat and let him eat from there. It's easily washable and carefree. Then, place Puma's food there and busy yourself somewhere else in the room. There are many dogs who don't like to be watched when they eat, or they prefer to graze, returning back multiple times throughout the day for a nibble here and there. Good luck!

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Question
Bear
Unknown
8 Months
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Question
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Bear
Unknown
8 Months

He is a rescue dog from a kill shelter in rumanian iv had him 7 weeks he will hand feed and eat from floor but shivers shacks wen they a bowl involved I used plastic and clear bowls so they no reflection he will try burning himself anywhere when his food is in bowl iv done his favourite food chicken and he will look at the bowl shack and buries him self away until the bowl is taken away

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
85 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I am answering this question with what I would do if this situation was the case in a dog I rescued. Bear has had a lot of trauma - even traveling all of the way from Rumania must have been terrifying. I would buy a simple plastic placemat and feed Bear on there. Based on all that he has been through and his obvious distress when he sees a bowl, I would not bother to use one. Save Bear the extreme stress and feed him from the placemat, which is easily picked up and washed when he is done. Some dogs do not like to be watched when they eat, especially dogs that are tense about eating. Give Bear his food with a pat and an encouraging voice and do something else nearby as he eats. All the best to Bear!

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Question
sasha
Staffie cross
12 Years
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Question
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sasha
Staffie cross
12 Years

hello , my sasha won’t eat out of her bowl , i have to hand feed her, i’ll only hand feed her if the weather is hot but where she has got used to it , she expect it.
she would literally go out food all day even if she hungry and i don’t hand fed her .
sometimes she eats out of her bowl not always.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
671 Dog owners recommended

Hello Mallissa, First, I do suggest checking with your vet, especially due to pup's age. There could be a dental, GI or other issue behind the picky eating, especially if it's more recent. I am not a vet. If the issue is purely behavioral, I suggest mixing his food with something he likes the night before feeding him. For example, 1. Start with a food he likes, like Ziwi Peak freeze dried dog food, and a bit of dog food, then gradually increase the dog food and decrease the food he likes overtime. 2. Test out freeze dried meat dog food toppers, like stella and chewy or nature's variety. If he likes those, crush them into a powder in a ziplock bag, then place that and some of his dog food in the bag overnight to flavor and scent the food. Feed that regularly if he will eat it, then gradually decrease how much powder you use and increase the dog food slowly in place of it - go slow so that eating the new food has become habit and he doesn't think about it changing gradually so keeps eating it. 3. Feed something he likes better that is nutritionally formulated for daily feeding and stick to that food long term at this age. Like Ziwi peak or nature's variety raw boost - which is composed of freeze dried food or has it mixed in, if that's in your budget. If pup doesn't like the freeze dried stuff, then do the same thing but use things like minced chicken, liver paste, or goats milk mixed with the dog food and refrigerated together with kibble overnight to flavor it (you may want to do the goats milk last minute because it will get soggy though). Another option, is to have pup work for all of their kibble. Have pup perform commands and tricks and use the dog food that has been mixed with freeze dried powder from a ziplock bag, as rewards for pup obeying commands. Many dogs are actually more enthusiastic about their food if they have to earn it and consider it a treat. Feed pup entire meal amounts this way so that he is hungry during training in place of the bowl for a while. When you do so, act like the food is treats - you should act like you have a great prize not like you have to temp pup to eat. It may seem opposite but what a dog can't have without working for it, often makes it even more appealing. When you feed pup, try feeding pup three meals a day for a while. Feed pup in a quiet area like a crate if they are crate trained, or room by themselves, so they will relax enough to eat. Leave pup for 45 minutes, then if they haven't touched the food, remove it, and try again at the next meal. You can offer pup a bit of food in dog food stuffed toys or as treat rewards for obeying commands to get enough in them to avoid sickness if they tend to throw up when they don't eating anything at all for a meal, but try to avoid the direct hand feeding as an option. Finally, it would be worth consulting your vet about this if you haven't done so lately. They will know your dogs history and what is safest for them. I am not a vet. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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