How to Teach Your Dog to Wait for His Meal

It’s amazing how our animals always know when meal time is. If you feed on even a semi-regular schedule, your dog probably starts to act excited or even demanding right around that time each day. For most dogs, mealtime is one of their favorite times of the day, which means that when you walk to where their food is kept, or pick up their dish, they get excited. Very excited. This can lead to some pretty annoying habits, including demand barking and jumping on you.

Instead of fighting your pup to get their food and set it on the ground without spilling it everywhere, you can train her to wait nicely for it.

There are a few ways you can do this. It’s just a personal preference on what works for you and your dog.

Teach Your Dog to Sit For His Meal

This option is good for the dog that is excited, but not jumping all over and demand barking. Maybe they get a little “hoppy” – bouncing those front feet off the floor – but they aren’t all over you. It’s fairly easy to teach and just takes a bit of patience. It works better if your dog already knows sit, because they are used to doing that behavior, but it’s not necessary.

To teach, all you have to do is hold your dog’s bowl of food in your hand and wait for him to sit. It’s best to stand so that the bowl will be several inches away from your dog when you set it down.

If he jumps on you, turn away from him.

As soon as he sits, start to bring the bowl to the floor. If he pops up, stand back upright, bringing the bowl with you.

The first few times this is going to take a few minutes! Be patient!

If your dog starts to demand bark, walk away! Leave the room he is in if you have to and close the door so he can’t follow. Return when he stops barking.

When you can get the bowl all the way to the ground and your dog doesn’t move, start to move your hand away – BUT BE READY! If your dog breaks his stay before your hand is away, pick the bowl up before he can get to it. And Start over.

When your dog sits and stays so you can lower the bowl, move your hand away and stand up, then you can say your stay release word (if you have one) or whatever word you want to use – like “free,” “okay,” “break,” etc. This lets the dog know he can get his food. If it’s the first time you are using this word, you may have to point to food or encourage him to move, but it won’t take long for them to figure it out.

Variations

The following variations are good for dogs that are more excited at mealtime and have a tendency to jump all over you as you try to get their food ready. These options give them a job “stay where you put them and wait quietly” while you prepare their meal. It’s definitely handy if you have to get their food ready, such as preparing meaty bones, chopping up vegetables or measuring medications.

If your dog is already kennel trained, you can train him to go in his kennel and stay, with the door open, until you bring him his food. It’s just like teaching a stay. If your dog breaks it, return him to the kennel. Same directions as above, except he is lying or sitting in his kennel. Once he realises he won’t get fed until he waits quietly in his kennel, he will be happy to wait.

If your dog is trained to stay on a mat/dog bed, you can do this with that behavior as well. Same steps as above, just he is lying on his mat waiting for you to release him to get his food rather than in the kennel.

Remember – If your dog starts to demand bark, walk away! Close a door and leave the room he is in if you have to. Return when he stops barking.

Teaching your dog manners at mealtime is not just nice for you, it’s nice for anyone who may have to watch him for you when you go out of town. Just be consistent and your dog will be a polite dinner guest in no time.

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2 Comments

  1. I’ve got the waiting part sorted out with my two, the harder part is dealing with the buckets of drool they produce while in that sitting position as the food is arriving haha

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