Teaching an older dog to wait for their food is something that can make mealtimes more pleasant for everyone. It is also an opportunity to teach your dog “impulse control,” a term professional trainers use that basically means any trick that teaches your dog that waiting leads to great things.
If your older dog is used to things a certain way, it can be tricky to teach him a new way of doing things. That is why our methods start by teaching some version of “wait” independent of dinner time, only adding the dinner time 'wait' ritual once your dog understands the concept of waiting in the more general sense.
We have included three methods for teaching your older dog to wait for their food:
Sit Method: This method will simultaneously teach your dog to stay in a sit when told to wait, a trick you can easily develop for use at any time or place.
Behind the Line Method: This method will teach your dog to respect a barrier that you create with a rope or yard stick on the floor. Take this trick with you on the road to teach your dog to respect boundaries, such as not entering a specific room while visiting with family.
On the Mat Method: This method gives you a tool that will serve you well in many situations – you can send your dog to their mat even if you are traveling (as long as you bring the mat with you!)
Caution: If you suspect your dog is a food guarder (for instance they growl or bark if someone comes near to them while they are eating) consult an animal behaviorist before working on this skill around dinner time. In some cases, working on “Wait!” around feeding time can exacerbate already established food guarding behaviors.
Get the following items ready, regardless of the training method you choose:
You will need the following additional items for the different methods:
Behind the Line: You will need a 3’ rope, yard stick or other item you can use to demarcate a line on the floor that you can pick up and move to practice this behavior from different locations.
On the Mat: You will need a mat that your dog can sit on.
Note that teaching any “impulse control” behavior takes some time and practice, especially with older dogs. Keep your training sessions short, and return to the prior step each time you resume training. All of the methods described assume that you will be breaking the training up into several sessions as your dog picks up these skills.