Dog eating with cat watching

Creating A Feeding Ritual For Your Dog

Establishing new rituals to either create an acceptable behavior or replace an unacceptable behavior is crucial to giving your pup ways to make good choices. The more acceptable behaviors that are taught, the more likely they are to offer them. Another way to look at this is to have your pup complete a ritual when you complete a ritual—such as brushing your teeth, getting a glass of water, and others.

When you are going to complete a task, such as emptying the dishwasher, give your dog commands to complete while you do that—beginning with rewarding every few seconds for sit or stay or being on a mat, then working up to more time between rewards. You can use treats, games, bones, or toys for rewards.

Feeding Rituals

Feeding time is always a great time to work on respect, impulse control and bonding. Creating a feeding ritual, along with respect of space, will help further the relationship.
Begin with the Out of the Kitchen command. The Out of the Kitchen command is similar to door etiquette, but can be used for rooms such as the kitchen, when you determine you need the dog out of the kitchen. Facing the dog, back them up to edge of kitchen, preferably at a distinguishing line on the floor. Correct them by backing them up each time they cross the threshold. Release them when you are finished in the kitchen.

Then you can develop or expand the Feeding Ritual with your dog. Suggestions are:

  • To prepare your dog’s food on the counter, not just pour the food into the bowl on the floor;
  • Scent the food by touching it with your hands;
  • Begin by having your dog sit/stay to prepare the food;
  • Add sit/stay while you put food on the floor;
  • Add a release word;
  • Add time and distance before you release dog to eat; and,
  • Use body blocking if necessary to stop your dog from eating before being released.

You can also add hand feeding. Hand feeding can be used to bond with your dog, calm excited behavior, earn respect, teach impulse control, slow eating down, improve control, and more. Add hand feeding when a life event has happened, when you are in a tough developmental stage, or as a new puppy or rescue is added.

Begin by preparing food on the counter and touching/mixing food to scent the food with your smell. Sit in a chair facing your dog and hold the bowl tightly with one hand against your body. Scoop out a handful and reward the dog with offering food as the dog gives respect. A dog can show respect by backing up, sitting, or laying down. When the behavior is offered, as opposed to you asking for a command, this develops the wonderful ritual of your dog thinking for himself and offering behavior that will earn him rewards. Open your hand to allow the pup to eat out of your open hand. Continue with each scoop of food. Hand feeding can be done for the whole meal, part of a meal, or at certain meals. You can revisit hand feeding as needed throughout their lives.

For Lower Level Resource Guarding Potential/Prevention: while feeding your pup calmly, approach your pup and throw a yummy, smelly treat close to their bowl or in their bowl, depending on your comfort level. Do this several times a meal. Speak gently to them and praise them when they eat it. As the days progresses, add difficulty by putting the treat all the way into the bowl with your hand going into the bowl. Only progress as quickly as your dog is comfortable. Eventually, teach your dog to step back and “wait” while you put the treat in.

This article was written by Jennifer Kyzer. Jennifer Kyzer has been training dogs and their humans for almost 20 years. She now lives in Hanover with her family. They have four kids – two with fur and two of the teenage human variety. She enjoys helping dogs and their families through our Homeschool program. When she’s not covered in dog hair, she’s cooking, mountain biking, and hiking with friends.

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