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Mastering Dog Food Manners: Tips for Teaching Canine Etiquette

With patience and consistency, you can teach your dog good food manners. This will make mealtimes more enjoyable for both of you.

Learn how to teach your dog good food manners with expert tips. Train your canine companion to behave at mealtimes and avoid begging behaviour.

Food is an essential resource to most dogs, and apart from primary, there are often many edible temptations that are hard for them to resist. Teaching dog food manners makes life easier at home and ensures your dog is a welcome visitor at dog-friendly cafés and other people’s homes.

Counter Surfing

Dogs can display great ingenuity and a fantastic reach when there’s something desirable on a work surface! For example, teach your dog that food on tables or counters is out of bounds.

1. Have some yummy treats in your treat bag and pop your dog on a lead. Place a plate with low-value food on the floor and prevent your dog from getting to it. Mark the dog by saying a short, happy word like “YES!” so that he looks away from the food and pays more attention to you. Do not give a ‘Leave’ signal because you will not always be there to reinforce it.

2. With your dog still on the lead, move the plate onto a low table so food is appealing to the plate, or place some on the table. Mark and treat him for not approaching it.

3. When you’re sure your dog won’t touch the food, try him off-lead; stay nearby to gently step in and prevent stealing if he shows too much interest.

Never let your dog get the food on the table, and to start with make sure your reward treats are nicer than what’s there. Practise this in different places around the house and kitchen.

Grub’s UP!

Teach your dog to settle on a mat or in his bed at mealtimes
If your dog begs, do not give in. Ignore the behaviour and do not make eye contact. If your dog continues to appeal, remove them from the area.

Whining, barking, crying, giving you ‘a look’, pawing – don’t create a rod for your own back by slipping morsels from your plate to your dog, or you’ll never get any peace to enjoy your meals. And he won’t just bug you, but all your visitors too.

Teach your dog to settle on a mat or in his bed at mealtimes, with a long-lasting treat if you find it hard to enjoy your meal while every mouthful you eat is being watched intently!

Dog Food and Children

Children and dogs are not a good mix of food, whether babies or older; children may tease, or dogs may grab what they want and will be germ and food sharing. Again, management is the key; training a settle on a mat or separating them is wise.

Prevent children from wandering around with food in their hands or encourage the dog to scavenge by dropping food from the table.

Bin Diving

Scavenging comes naturally to most dogs -even the pickiest feeder may not resist a smelly kitchen bin or dustbin. But, besides the mess created, most of what he’ll find there may be dangerous. Teaching him to leave bins alone may work fine while you’re around, but it may be too much for you to expect of him when you aren’t on the scene.

Keep all bins (including kitchen waste caddies) out of his way and shut them securely in cupboards or a garage or shed where he cannot access them. You can also buy bins with child locks, although check reviews as some are better than others.

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Multiple Dogs

If you have more than one dog, feed them both simultaneously, but not necessarily in the same room! Feeding in separate rooms will prevent conflicts if you have a resource guarder and will mean neither dog will feel pressured into bolting their food.

Resource guarding is normal – I do it myself, with chips and chocolate!

It also means that one won’t be getting more than his fair share if there are any leftovers to clear up, as you can pick up the bowl first.

This is also important if one of your dogs has medication or a special diet. If you have no choice but to feed both in the same room, ensure plenty of space between them that you supervise at all times, and don’t allow them to swap bowls. If one finishes first, ask that dog to sit and wait. Then, pick all the bowls up before giving a release cue to tell each dog he can move around again.

Food Guarding

We can often cause guarding behaviours if the dog perceives a highly valued item, such as meals, bones, or long-lasting treats, is about to be taken from him.

He may also protect them from other dogs, so be vigilant and prevent incidents by separating dogs into different rooms or popping them in crates if you use them.

With dogs who guard their food, it’s important not to get into conflict; if you took a chip off my plate, we would argue about it! Instead, please seek professional advice on managing this behaviour as it can be complicated and dangerous to deal with yourself.

Grabbing at Treats

For dog food manners, there are many reasons a dog may be unable to take a treat gently from your hand, including poor mouth/eye coordination, greed, impatience, arousal, or even tension in the jaw inhibiting fine motor control.

Firstly, investigate why he might be grabbing and deal with any underlying causes; a trainer or behaviourist can help you.

Dog Food Manners. You can also try the following:

  • Delivering the treat from an open hand
  • Dropping treats on the ground.
  • Use more boring treats or small pieces of carrot or apple to encourage him to take them gently and slowly; capture the more gentle taking of the joy by adding a ‘Gently’ cue and praising him.

Dog food manners, tell him to leave it!

A dog staring longingly at a plate of human food on a table. When teaching your dog not to beg or counter surf for food, be sure to reward them for looking away from tempting items. Use treats your dog finds highly rewarding to reinforce leaving human food alone until given permission. With time and consistency, your dog will learn good food manners.
Use a food bowl that is the right size for your dog. The bowl should be large enough for your dog to eat comfortably but not so large that they can gulp down their food quickly.

Teaching your dog a strong ‘Leave‘ cue is essential if you accidentally drop a piece of food or come across discarded food on a walk; it can even be a lifesaver.

1. Hold a nibble in your closed hand while you have a bag or jar of bites in your other hand. Please wait until your dog takes his nose away from it, then immediately mark and reward from your treat bag or pot. Once he is consistently not going for the food, add a cue of ‘Leave.

2. Repeat until your dog is good at this; then try the same exercise with your palm open so he can see the food. If he tries to grab it, don’t pull your hand back; close your fingers so he can’t get it; if he doesn’t grab at the food, mark and reward from the other hand. Once showing good self-control, gradually increase the time before offering a treat.

3. Start to lower your hand until you can place food on the floor, and use your foot to cover the food should he move towards it. The next stage of leave training has food on the floor. Here, Smooch ignores the carrot, a favourite treat, until she is released to take it.

4. Make it harder; stand further away from the food, then progress to dropping or flicking it across the floor. Train this in lots of places, including out on walks.

How do I teach my dog basic manners? Final Thoughts

Here are some tips on how to teach your dog good food manners:

  • Start by establishing a regular feeding schedule. Feed your dog simultaneously daily, and ensure they have plenty of time to eat without being rushed.
  • Use a calm and consistent voice when giving your dog commands. Don’t yell or get angry; this will only make your dog anxious and less likely to listen to you.
  • Be patient and consistent with your training. It may take some time for your dog to learn what you’re asking of them, but they will eventually get it with patience and consistency.
  • Reward your dog for good behaviour. When your dog sits or stays while you’re eating, please give them a treat or praise them. This will help them associate good behaviour with positive consequences.
  • Don’t give in to begging. If your dog starts begging for food while you’re eating, ignore them. Don’t give them any attention, even if it’s negative attention.
  • Keep your dog’s food and treats out of reach. If your dog can’t see or smell food, they’re less likely to beg for it.
  • If your dog starts exhibiting bad food manners, such as jumping up on you or begging, calmly but firmly correct them. Say “no” firmly and redirect their attention to something else, such as a toy or a treat.
  • If you’re having trouble teaching your dog good food manners, consider hiring a professional dog trainer. A trainer can help you develop a training plan tailored to your dog’s needs.

With patience and consistency, you can teach your dog good food manners. This will make mealtimes more enjoyable for both of you.

Here are some additional tips:

  • If your dog is a fast eater, use a slow feeder bowl. This will help them eat more slowly and avoid choking.
  • If your dog is aggressive towards other dogs or people when they’re eating, consult with a veterinarian or animal behaviourist. This behaviour may indicate a medical condition or a behavioural problem.
  • Remember, every dog is different. Some dogs will learn good food manners more quickly than others. Be patient and understanding, and don’t give up.

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The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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Written by Frenchie Breed

The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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