There’s a lot of confusion in the dog training world on how to go about feeding dogs. What’s important to them at this time, and what we as owners need to be doing to ensure that our dogs grow up understanding their place and how to behave appropriately around food. The first thing we need to remember is that dogs are pack animals, so they have an innate understanding when it comes to feeding time. We need to respect this when feeding dogs.
Your dog’s instinctive understanding
Your dog understands that the provision of the food would come from the Alpha. They would eat first and then the rest of the pack would eat in hierarchy order. Not only that! They also understand that when they have their opportunity to eat they use it or lose it. They should eat as much as they need and then move on. While they are eating it is their “turn” and they shouldn’t be challenged. Anyone who challenges hasn’t eaten yet, so they must be below them in the pack. If they are challenged by a ‘lesser’ rank, then they are entitled to tell off that lesser being.
With this in mind – what shouldn’t we do when feeding dogs…?
- Let your dog tell you when you should feed them (meal or treats)
- Be hurried along by them when preparing their food.
- Feed them immediately before we eat ourselves
- Try to take their food off them
- Allow them to leave their food for later
- Also, never give in to begging, or let them train you to give them treats!
What SHOULD you do then…?
- Feed them when you decide – not when they tell you.
- Get their food ready, put it down in a matter of fact way
- If they don’t start eating it, pick it back up WITHIN A FEW SECONDS
- Give them space when they are eating
- You can eat a little snack immediately before putting their food down too. Known as “gesture eating”.
- When feeding dogs treats, they need to understand why they deserve it. Ask them to do something first.
Other important considerations for feeding dogs
Sadly there are numerous ‘experts’ out there who will tell you that you should be able to take food from you dog. This isn’t fair on the dogs. Think how you would feel if you were eating your own meal and someone tried to take it off you? At least you’d be able to reasonably explain to that person that it’s yours and you haven’t finished yet. A dog cannot speak, so their only options are, growl, bite or suffer going without…
Dogs are good at self regulating. If your dog isn’t eating, hand feeding, or leaving food down isn’t the answer. Pick the food straight back up instead. They will have built up and appetite by the next meal time.