Calming Your Dogs at Mealtime

Sometimes all it takes is opening the pantry door or getting out the dog bowl to alert your dog that food is on the way. If you have more than one dog, mealtimes could erupt into growling and pushing matches. This might result in the dog gorging down the food too fast and having an upset tummy.

There are ways to keep your dog(s) calm at mealtime and the drama minimal. Dog behaviourists have conducted recent studies and found that the following methods can keep the peace and aid in the digestion and the camaraderie of your dogs:

  • Notice how your dog reacts in anticipation of mealtime. Does he sit and wait patiently for you to get the food and place it in front of him, or does he prance and bark in excited eagerness? If you have multiple excited dogs, keep them in an area where they can’t smell or see the food being prepared. If the dogs are calm, you can space the bowls apart.
  • Controlled portions. A good feeding schedule that includes two or three carefully portioned meals daily is an excellent way to prevent your dog from thinking he might have to do without food.
  • Set a specific time limit on meal consumption. Give your dogs a few minutes to finish eating, and then take up the bowls and put them out of sight. The dog will get the idea that the bowl is gone until it returns full of food again and won’t have a tendency to guard the bowl.
  • Don’t use mealtime to train your dog. Training sessions should be exciting for your dog, but mealtime should be calm. Adding the stress of training for your dog could cause digestive problems and other issues, such as guarding his food.
  • Feed in separate rooms. If you have more than one dog, one eats slowly, and the other gobbles it up. Consider feeding them in different rooms. The dog that eats slowly may be threatened by the other dog that finishes quickly and then comes to his dish for more.
  • Crate your dog if he’s aggressive. If your dog growls when presented with his food, consider crating him during mealtimes. Such a dog may consider other dogs – or even humans – a threat, and you should avoid any altercation by crating him as long as the behaviour lasts.

Calm and order during your dogs’ mealtime create a setting conducive to calm emotions and less apt to cause digestive and behaviour problems. Always remember that dogs originally hunted and protected their food. They may develop aggressive habits and behaviour patterns if deprived of food.

You may also be interested in our article on Ditch the Bowl at Mealtimes.

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