For most dogs, mealtime is the best part of their day – Charles Shultz got it right when he depicted Snoopy dancing in glee at “suppertime.” Of course, not all dogs like mealtime, for some dog owners, getting their pup to eat can be a very big chore. Others may take it a little too seriously and guard their food from humans and/or other dogs. The following 10 dog feeding tips can help you at mealtime regardless of the type of dog you have.
#1 – Feed separately
Even if your dogs don’t guard, it’s best to feed them apart for many reasons: you can tell if one of your dogs is not eating; you won’t have to worry if one of your dogs eats another’s medications; your dogs won’t feel like they need to gulp their food so the other’s won’t get it; the list goes on and on. And, feeding your dog around other dogs, can foster guarding behavior!
#2 – Have a beggar? Feed multiple times a day
While some dogs will always act as if they are starving no matter what, you can help by splitting their meal up into two or three meals. Or better yet, you can make a habit of feeding them at the same time as you, so they aren’t as likely to beg. (This has nothing to do with dominance, it just means they will be out of your “hair” eating their own food.) They’ll be getting the same amount, but they will feel like they are getting more food.
#3 – Slow them down
Regardless of their size, it’s not good for a dog to eat fast, and it can be particularly dangerous for a larger dog. Slow them down by using “slow feeder” bowls and/or food toys. If your dog chews on things, make sure you pick one that is hard plastic – some of the feeders have rubber bottoms that, if left alone, dogs will chew off and ingest.
#4 – Raise them up
Along with eating to fast, position of the neck for large dogs can cause problems like bloat. So use a raised feeder for larger dogs.
#5 – Time limit
Do you leave your dog’s food out all day and they don’t go near it? This is a big problem, especially with smaller breed dogs. Instead, give your dog 10 minutes. If she doesn’t eat, pick it up and wait until the next meal. Chances are, your dog will start eating sooner, because she knows the food isn’t going to be there for her to pick at all day.
#6 – Entice them
If you have one of those dogs that is not excited about mealtime, you can help by adding broth, wet food, or a sprinkle of flavor such as freeze dried Stella & Chewy’s or The Honest Kitchen’s Wonders Pollack Fish Skin Treats.
#7 – Train Them
Don’t just give your dog’s food away for free! All that food is an excellent opportunity to instill a work ethic in your dog. You don’t have to train them for the entire meal, just grab a handful and ask them to do a few behaviors. Then have them sit and stay while you put the dish down, then release them to eat the rest. You will find your dog works better for you when he learns “nothing in life is free.” Plus, it helps you remember to train the dog!
#8 – Clean those dishes
You probably don’t think about it, but those dishes get gross quick. If you feed dry kibble, pick a day of the week and make that “dog dish day.” If you feed wet, raw, frozen, or fresh foods, you should be washing that bowl after every meal – even if it looks like your dog licked it “clean” – he didn’t.
#9 – Avoid plastic dog bowls
To go along with #8, avoiding feeding your dog in plastic dog bowls, they absorb too many odors and bacteria. Stainless steel or ceramic is best. (Do you use a metal bowl and your dog is missing hair and have red skin around his muzzle? It could be a metal allergy! Have your vet test him, I have a dog that’s allergic to several types of metal.)
#10 – Don’t tease them
Unless you are a trained dog behaviorist (or working with one), DO NOT DO THIS. Work on the sit/stay/release mentioned above, and then leave your dog alone until he walks away from the bowl, then immediately pick it up as some dogs will guard the empty dish. Part of working with a resource guarding dog is building trust and your dog realizing you are not taking away his “resources.” Teasing him will not help you build that trust and the respect you need to safely live with your dog.