How to Train Your Dog to Eat from His Bowl

How to Train Your Dog to Eat from His Bowl
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-4 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

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.

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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.

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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.

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The New Bowl Method

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Effective

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1

Fresh start

Start by purchasing your dog a new bowl if he has been avoiding eating out of the one you already have.

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.

3

The right spot

Find a quiet spot for him to eat so that he can eat his dinner in peace and quiet.

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.

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.

The Full Bowl Method

Effective

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1

Dish it out

Start by placing an appropriate amount of food in your pup's food dish.

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.

3

Sit first

Have him sit and then slowly lower the food bowl in front of his face until it is on the ground.

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.

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.

The Separate Meal Time Method

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1

Dinner reservation

Plan your dog's meal times separate from your own.

2

Choose a time and cue

Create a time for him to eat and a specific feeding command.

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.

4

Wait for it...

Make him remain in the seating position until you give him the command to eat.

5

Doggie bag

If for any reason he chooses not to eat, after 5 minutes be sure to pick up the bowl.

6

Try again

In 12 hours try this again, chances are good he will be hungry enough to eat.

7

Repeat

Keep repeating this until he eats when you put his bowl down. Be patient, it won't take long.

By Amy Caldwell

Published: 11/27/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Tigger

Dog breed icon

Chihuahua

Dog age icon

14 Years

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Question

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Tigger is very picky, and feeding him has always been a challenge. I am currently feeding him small spoonfuls of his food on a mat as he will turn away from his food if I put it on a bowl or plate. This routine has been very successful for us since I took over the feeding schedule 5 months ago, but I’d really love to be able to just put a bowl down on the floor and have him eat from it without any fuss as my other two dogs do. He does not like new foods or toppers added to his food; in fact, I’m afraid to try adding anything to his food because this is the only food and feeding routine that has ever been successful for this long, and he has let himself starve in the past.

June 25, 2022

Tigger's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Vanessa, I hate to say so, but I suspect this is more medical than just behavioral. Because of pup's age and history, I personally would keep doing what you are doing even though it's hard. I suspect pup's desire not to eat might be more about pup's digestive system or overall health than anything else. I would speak with your vet or someone who specializes in the digestive system to see if anything can be down to support that better, so pup feels more like eating. I am sorry I am not of more help in this case. I think if you try some of the common suggestions for addressing pickiness, you will risk making things worse, since I feel like this is likely more health related than just behavioral, and right now pup is eating. If pup stops eating with the current routine, I am happy to offer suggestions to try then, but none of those suggestions are probably preferable to what you are currently doing that's working. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 27, 2022

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Gucci

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Maltese

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3 Years

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Question

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My dog is really fussy with her. She will only her kibble if I put a treat in it.

May 1, 2022

Gucci's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Reena, The easiest thing to do in this case might be to purchase something that has an included meal topper in it, like freeze dried meat pieces, like nature's variety raw boost as an example. Training wise, I suggest purchasing freeze dried meal toppers, like nature's variety or stella and chewy, and crushing up a small amount of those in a ziploc bag until it's powdery, then mixing pup's kibble for the next day with that powder in the bag overnight and feeding pup that feed - which looks like their normal food but smells and tastes like the kibble topper powder also. Once pup is eager to eat again without adding the treat in, after at least a week of doing this, then you can gradually decrease the amount of powder used each day, until you are down to normal food again. For dogs who are very food motivated but just being stubborn about the treat, I would simply wait pup out without giving the treat. Dogs who are food motivated but have just learned that they can get a treat by waiting will often eat once hungry enough if they see that you are not giving in. Dogs who are truly picky and not motivated by food often need the powder or kibble topper incentive. Check with your vet that pup isn't being overfed or is overweight too. Often dogs metabolisms will slow down, meaning a lower need in calories, as they age. If that's the case, that can lead to picky eating sometimes, and you can decide with your vet how to decrease pup's food intake a bit, which should lead to them being more hungry and eager to eat. Only do this if pup's physical weight and food amount necessitates it though, not just to get pup to eat quicker, since you don't want a dog who isn't overweight loosing weight. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 4, 2022


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