Mealtime

First and foremost, let’s get started off on the right paw with mealtimes. Teaching kitchen manners is EVERYTHING! 

In this recorded live training, you’ll see how I teach dogs to settle on a bed while I’m meal-prepping, which is the first step in the process of having a peaceful mealtime for YOU. 

During YOUR meal, management is key. Having your new pup behind a baby gate, in a crate, in a LTCA – these are your best bets. I’ll often coordinate their mealtime with mine so that they’re busy while I’m busy. Less work for both of us! The sooner you get into this habit, the better. 

Most dogs will be “fine” the first few times they watch you eat and then the jumping up, begging, food-snatching, and counter-surfing will happen “out of the blue”. Expect it and prevent it. 

We’ll talk about how to deliver meals to your dog shortly, but in the meantime, some myth-busting! 

Myth: People should eat before the dog eats. This shows the dog that there is a hierarchy.

False: Dogs do not perceive mealtime this way. They simply eat when food is available without overanalysing who eats first and why. This is far too complex a thought process that only a human is capable of, thanks to meta-cognition and the size of our pre-frontal cortex (30% of our brain) compared to the size of a dog’s pre-frontal cortex (7% of their brain). 

Myth: Dogs should rest quietly while we eat. 

False: Well, yes. That would be nice! However, it’s not likely to happen naturally. Dogs are hunters and scavengers, so they’re opportunists. They don’t rest quietly during our mealtime naturally so I like to set them up for success; feed them at the same time as us, but feed them in a long-term confinement area or crate so that there is physical separation between us. This prevents them from snatching up dropped food items, jumping on our laps, counter-surfing, and begging. Easy solution!

Myth: If I give my dog “human food” s/he will learn to beg.

False: So…what the heck is “human food” anyway? Food is food is food. Kibble is simply an extraordinarily processed version of food. Look at the ingredients! Hopefully you see protein on there, like chicken, beef, salmon, lamb, etc. If you feed your dog some boiled chicken as a topper or a treat, they’re not going to start begging as a result. They’re going to be interested in food either way – it smells amazing to them and is far more enticing than dry kibble. Now, if you feed them from your plate when they’re begging, you will most definitely create a dog who begs because it works. If you don’t feed them when they’re begging, you might see a decline in that begging behaviour. 

Myth: I should be able to stick my hand in their food bowl and take their food away as I please.

False: That is super-rude. If anyone did that to me, I would absolutely put up a fight! Yes, it’s frightening when dogs become aggressive over people reaching for their food – they’re protecting a life-sustaining resource as they’re programmed to do! We want to start young. While they’re eating, walk up, drop a delicious treat into their bowl and walk away. Simple! If you do that a couple times during each meal, you’ll have a dog who happily anticipates you approaching and reaching for their food! Ta-da! Magic! Food-guarding has been avoided altogether by creating a fantastic association with you approaching, rather than teaching them that you’re a thief! 

How should meals be delivered to your dog? Let me guess – you purchased a bowl for food and a bowl for water and you placed them on the floor. 

Take that food bowl and return it. You don’t need it. 

You don’t need a food bowl! You’ve got a growing, learning animal here, who is programmed to hunt and scavenge, so get started off on the right paw and don’t give out free food. 

You’ll find that dogs who work for their meals in various ways are easier to train, easier to settle, and exhibit fewer behaviour challenges like barking, nipping, digging, etc. 

How can you get your dog to work for their meals? Easy! Here are a few ways: 

  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Food-dispensing toys
  • Use every piece of food in training
  • Feed only on walks to create great associations and build excellent behaviour
  • Food scatter
  • Hand-feed for eye contact
  • Recall training and name-recognition
  • Puzzle bowl
  • Stuffed Kong

Partial meals in a kibble bag

Partial meals out of a food toy

How to stuff a food toy