Why Food Training?
Food training means feeding your dog at regular intervals and setting expectations about how he behaves. Food training is important to your dog’s health for a few reasons. It helps with portion control so your dog can maintain a healthy weight. Free-feeding or giving your dog unlimited access to food can lead to overeating.
Regular feeding also helps you monitor your dog’s eating behaviour. Changes in eating patterns are one of the first signs of a health issue. You’re more likely to notice a problem sooner if you’re feeding set amounts in set intervals.
Food training also helps establish positive behaviours about eating. If dogs know what to expect, they won’t be as possessive about food or show signs of aggression at feeding time. This also helps your dog identify you as the source of food. When free-feeding, it’s more difficult for your dog to understand where food comes from.
How to Food Train
Feed your pet three times daily for a specific time period, usually about 20 minutes, and then remove the food. Soon, your dog will understand the concept of mealtimes and look to you at feeding time.
Contrary to popular belief, your meal times do not need to be exact. Rather, they should be approximate, or within a window of a few hours. This way, your dog will not become pushy and demanding at an exact time each day. Your dog will come to trust that food is on its way, even if it’s not exactly 5 p.m.
If dogs seem to be possessive about a bowl, you can curb this behaviour with some simple training techniques:
- Set the empty bowl in your lap. Place a few kibble in the bowl and let your dog eat. Add a treat sometimes to show it’s a good thing that your hand is near. Repeat this until your dog has eaten the whole meal. Repeat this process for a few days.
- When your dog seems comfortable with the bowl in your lap, leave your hand close to the bowl during eating. Let your dog get used to your hand sharing the feeding space. If your dog won’t tolerate this, consult a behaviourist for more involved training help. If your dog seems okay with your hand, repeat this step for several days and then move on.
- Feed your dog directly from your hand for a few days.
From then on, your dog should be comfortable with you nearby during eating times. Occasionally, swirl your hand in the bowl or sit near while your dog feeds to refresh the training.