How to Train Your Dog to Only Eat from His Bowl

Medium
2-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

You love him, the family loves him and so does anyone that visits the house. Apart from the mother-in-law, but you’re secretly quite happy he scares her a tad. However, while your dog is fantastic in so many ways, he does have a rather bad habit. He eats from anywhere and he eats anything. Unfortunately, that includes jumping up at the table to steal food. It also includes eating out of the cat’s bowl. Which has meant their relationship has turned somewhat sour.

Training him to eat only from his bowl can only bring benefits. You’ll no longer have to keep food high up or in the middle of the table. You’ll be able to leave him in the kitchen unattended. Not to mention your cat might become considerably happier. Succeed with this training and the only people that will suffer is your kids when they no longer have a way of discarding their vegetables.

Defining Tasks

Training your dog to eat only from his bowl won’t be a walk in the park. It’s particularly difficult if his bad eating habits have developed over many years. You’ll need to take a number of steps to deter him from eating anywhere else. You’ll also need to use obedience commands to regain control and cement your position as pack leader. You’ll then need to use food and treats to motivate him to only eat from his bowl in future.

If he’s a puppy and the habit is relatively new you could see results in just a couple of weeks. If he’s older and been running the show for many years then you may need up to six weeks. Get this training right and you may have a hygienic house where all the pets actually get on.

Getting Started

Before training can start you’ll need to gather a few bits. You’ll need a nice clean and appealing food bowl for him. You’ll then need baby gates, a deterrence collar and a water spray bottle for one of the methods.

You’ll need to get your hands on a decent supply of treats, or break his favorite food into small pieces. You’ll also need to set aside a few minutes each day to training.

Apart from that, just bring a pro-active attitude and you’re ready to get to work!

The Deterrence Method

Effective
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Step
1
Baby gates
Fit gates to the kitchen door and anywhere else that food is stored. While you get this habit under control you need to restrict his access to food when you’re not around. If he can’t get to it, it won’t be on the menu.
Step
2
Deterrence collar
You can pick up remote controlled deterrence collars from a range of online and local pet stores. When you see him going to eat anything that isn’t from his bowl, hit the button and an unpleasant spray of citronella will be fired towards his face. This will quickly make him think twice in future.
Step
3
‘NO’
If you do catch him eating something not in his bowl, rush over and say ‘NO’ in a loud and firm voice. Don’t scare him, but make sure he knows he’s done something wrong. You can then pull him out of the room by the collar and don’t give him attention for a few minutes.
Step
4
Spray bottle
Carry a water bottle with you at all times. Whenever you see him eating something outside of the bowl, rush over and give a short spray near his face. You can do this at the same time as giving the ‘NO’ command above.
Step
5
Move food
On top of the gates, try and keep food out of reach as much as possible. Store it in a high place and don’t leave food on the table. If you have a cat or another pet, make sure their food is also not accessible to him. If you follow all of these measures you’ll soon break the habit and he’ll give up trying.
Recommend training method?

The Routine Method

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Step
1
Routine
Make sure you give him his meals at the same times each day. If you’re in a consistent routine he’ll know when to expect food and he’ll be less inclined to go searching for it elsewhere. As soon as his eating schedule gets out of sync, hunger will drive him to scavenge.
Step
2
Remove the bowl
When it isn’t a meal time, make sure you move the bowl out of sight. You want him to associate the bowl only with food, so don’t keep it around when it’s empty. He’ll quickly realize that if there’s no bowl around, then food isn’t on the menu.
Step
3
No feeding at the table
Get the family together for a canine meeting. Make sure you enforce a 'no feeding him anywhere but the bowl' rule. That means no feeding him at the table, no feeding him when you’re sat on the sofa. Zero, nothing, not even a crumb. If you can’t stay disciplined you can’t expect him too either.
Step
4
Distractions
If you see him sniffing around and heading for food that isn’t allowed, distract him. You can do that by getting him to perform a trick. Have him ‘sit’, ‘roll over’ and anything else you like. Then afterwards, give him a treat in his bowl.
Step
5
Exercise
Make sure he gets plenty of exercise each day. It may sound unrelated, but many dogs hunt for food purely out of boredom. If he’s knackered because he’s been on a long walk, he’ll spend the afternoon dozing instead of causing trouble. Alternatively, take him out and throw a ball for 15 minutes. The sprinting will quickly tire him out.
Recommend training method?

The Incentive Method

Effective
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Step
1
No teasing
Talk to everyone in the house and make sure they don’t tease him with food. If you eat your food in front of him while talking to him in a happy, upbeat voice he’s not going to be pleased. He’ll think he’s doing the right thing and still not getting any food.
Step
2
Bed at meal times
At meal times, make sure he isn’t hanging around. Send him to his bed and make sure he stays there for the whole meal. You don’t want to encourage any form of begging.
Step
3
Reward
If he stays in his bed for the whole meal, place some treats or some left over dinner for him in his bowl. Then give him some verbal praise while he eats. You’re showing him that the right thing to do is stay away and wait patiently.
Step
4
Treats in the bowl
You also need to only give him his treats in his bowl. That means no giving him treats out on walks. It also means if he performs an obedience command inside, that instead of throwing him the treat you take him to his bowl and put the treat in there. Follow all of these steps and you’ll reconfigure his mindset as to where and when he gets food.
Step
5
Don’t punish him
If you do catch him eating food he shouldn’t be, don’t punish him. If you shout at him and scare him you may find he becomes aggressive. It’s much easier to deal with a dog that eats too much if he’s not defensive and potentially dangerous.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Grumpy
Maltese mix with a poodle
6 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Grumpy
Maltese mix with a poodle
6 Years

How can I get my dog to stop eating food that he’s not supposed to and to start eating from his bowl only?

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

Hello! Your best bet is to teach him leave it. I will give you instructions for leave it. Leave it is great for anything you want your dog to not get into/go after, or in your case eat. Also, try your best to not give him access to anything but his food while you're going through the process to break this habit. Teaching “leave it” is not difficult. Begin the lessons inside your home or in an area with very few distractions. Here are the steps for teaching “leave it”: Make sure you have two different types of treats. One type can be fairly boring to the dog, but the other type should be a high-value treat that he finds pretty delicious. You will also want to make sure that the treats are broken up into pea-sized pieces so it won’t take him too long to eat them. Put one type of treat in each hand. If you like to train with a clicker as your marker, you can also hold a clicker in the same hand that holds the high-value treat. Then, place both of your hands behind your back. Make a fist with the hand that is holding the treat of lower value and present your fist to your dog, letting him sniff. Say “leave it” and wait until he finishes sniffing your fist. As soon as your dog is done sniffing, you can either click with the clicker or say “yes.” Then offer him the higher-value treat in your other hand. Repeat until your dog immediately stops sniffing your hand when you say “leave it.” When you say “leave it” and he stops sniffing right away, leash your dog and then toss a low-value treat outside of his reach. Wait until he stops sniffing and pulling toward the treat. As soon as he does, either say “yes” or click and then give him a high-value treat from your hand. Practice this exercise a number of times. Over time, by practicing “leave it,” your dog should stop pulling as soon as you give the cue. When rewarding him with a treat, make sure that it is something good, not plain old kibble. By doing so, you are teaching him that asking him to leave some food doesn’t mean he won’t get anything, but that in fact he might get something even more delicious. When your dog is reliably responding to the cue, you can teach him that “leave it” can apply to other things as well, not just food on the floor. Repeat the exercise with five different items that are fairly boring to your dog. After using five different “boring” items, start using slightly more exciting items. You know your dog, so you alone know what items he would consider more interesting, but don’t jump to high-value items right away. To increase his chances of success at learning the cue, you want to work up to high-value items gradually. If Kleenex or a piece of plastic, for instance, would attract your dog on a walk, don’t start with those. Choose the items based on your ultimate goal: Anytime you say “leave it,” you want to be confident that your dog will indeed leave whatever you are asking him to leave. . The reward he receives when he leaves an item can change as well. If your dog has a favorite toy, squeak it and play for a moment when he comes running to you after leaving the other item of interest. Most dogs love interacting with us, so a moment of praise or play with a toy can be just as effective as a treat. Keep it fun Even though you’re practicing “leave it” as a way to keep your dog safe, you want him to see it as a fun game you play. When your dog is proficient at the game in your home, start practicing in a variety of locations with more distractions.

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