Teaching Your Dog Positive Food Behaviors

Have him wait patiently while you prepare his meal. There’s nothing more annoying than a dog who jumps and barks while you’re trying to prepare his meal. Instead, use the “wait” command he learned in doorway training to have him wait outside the threshold of the room where he’s fed.

  • When you’re ready, have your dog work for his food by commanding the dog “sit” and “stay” while you place the food on the ground.[8]
  • Stand up and wait a few breaths before giving your release word. You can use “free” or you can create a new command for feeding time like “get your food” or “yummy.” Try to choose something you wouldn’t accidentally say to other people, such as “time to eat,” or, “let’s eat,” as this might falsely cue your dog that it’s time for his dinner.
  • Eventually, he will sit on his own as soon as he sees his feeding bowl.
Hand feed your dog. At meal time, start feeding your dog out of your hand. Then use your hands to put the rest of the food in the bowl. This will put your scent on your dog’s bowl and also normalize having your hands around their bowl and food. This should help fix or prevent any food aggression tendencies.[9]

Teach your dog to “leave it.” Teaching your dog to move his nose away from food and other items can be beneficial in a number of situations, including when food is accidentally dropped on the floor during family dinner or when your dog seems interested in picking up something potentially harmful during a walk. To teach this command, do the following:

  • Stage one: Hold a treat in your closed hand. The dog will probably lick, sniff, and paw at your hand in an attempt to get to the treat. Eventually, when the dog moves his nose away, praise him and give him the treat.
  • Stage two: Add in the words “leave it.” Say these words when your dog decides to move his nose away.
  • Stage three: Hold one treat in your palm in front of the dog and one behind you in the other hand. Instruct your dog to “leave it.” If the dog gets too close to the treat, make a fist to hide the treat and say “no” or “uh-oh” to show the dog that he won’t be rewarded or noncompliance. When he obeys the “leave it” command, give him the treat that’s behind your back.
  • Stage four: Place the treat on the floor. Move the treat from your palm to the floor. Continue to reward your dog with the treat you have behind your back.
  • Stage five: Put your dog’s leash on and walk past the treat on the floor. Command him to “leave it” without jerking the leash. If he eats the treat, go back to an earlier stage.
  • Stage six: Start using the “leave it” command outside of your home.[10]