So your new puppy goes psychotic whenever a bowl of food is placed in front of them… They have no patience and devour the food quickly, like a maniac—sometimes so quickly the food ends up back on your floor in a non-pleasant form.
This scenario sounds familiar because I experienced it with my Karelian Bear Dog, Kintla, when she was a puppy. She had no manners and was entirely food-driven. Food-drive is an incredible characteristic, but it led to her pitching massive fits when I’d make her ‘wait’ to eat her food. Now, I can place food in front of her and she won’t touch it until I give her the command “break”. Although she still has a voracious food-drive, she maintains eye contact with me and patiently waits for further direction. Helping her develop these manners and obedience through training was difficult, but so worth it! Teaching my puppy to wait for my command to eat also allowed me to easily teach other commands like “Leave it” and “Drop it.” Let me show you how to train your dog to wait to eat!
Start when they are a puppy, but still train them if they are older—it may just take more time. Kintla came from a farm where she could free feed all day from a massive bowl of dog food. She was quite the pork chop when I got her, the heaviest pup in the litter—she LOVED her food. I knew I wanted to teach her obedience and manners, so I began the first day we got home. I placed a harness on Kintla before eating so I could restrain her. Now, with knowledge I have acquired after a year of living with my Karelian, I’d recommend instead using no-slip Martingale collar and a 6 foot rope leash to restrain (harnesses are not as efficient unless your dog is working). As soon as I filled Kintla’s bowl with food, she went nuts! She circled me, barking, and jumping up on me—she wanted to chow down!
Because I was crate training, I fed her in her crate. You can read more about how to crate train your puppy here: blog – After I placed her food in the crate, I held onto Kintla outside of her crate. She squirmed, crying, yelping, and running towards her food. This was difficult for me because I didn’t want to hear this sweet puppy cry, but remember: it’s for their own good and they need to learn manners! I’d wait until Kintla cooled down—sometimes a few minutes. Once she was calm and not crying, I’d say her name. As soon as she looked at me and held eye contact, I’d say “Break!” and release her. She was then free to chow down!
After a week or two of consistently doing this for every single meal, she got the hang of the wait command. She wanted to eat and learned she could eat sooner by relaxing and listening to me. Now, she doesn’t touch her treats or food unless I give her the “okay” to do so. Here are the best tips on how to teach your puppy to wait to eat:
1) Implement a schedule
Having set times each day for a puppy to eat makes the process easier. My puppy quickly learned when her breakfast, lunch, and dinner were ready to be served and she let me know she was ready to eat—usually with rambunctious barking. By using a schedule and feeding her myself, I conditioned her to receive the food from me and she soon realized I was a necessary item for her getting to eat. A schedule provides a routine for the day, and it makes a huge difference for a new puppy. She eats at 6am, 12pm, and 6pm.
2) Placement consistency
Feed your new puppy or dog in the same location every time until they learn to wait to eat. I placed Kintla’s food in her crate for every meal and held her outside the crate until she calmed down. Once she was calm, I released her to eat. If fed in a different location for every meal, it’s difficult for your puppy to learn what is expected. Help them succeed by starting easy. Once they understand the command, you can move the food around to new areas for the extra challenge of remaining consistent.
3) Use a collar and leash
A collar and leash are the most effective communication tools you have with your new puppy or dog—so use them! Place a well-fitted no-slip Martingale collar around their neck and attach a 6 foot rope leash to the collar. When you set the food down and they begin to go crazy, do not allow it. Firmly grip the leash near the collar and issue quick corrections when they begin to pull with a firm “Uh-uh!” Watch YouTube videos on how to issue a proper correction, as it’s a simple snap on the leash to redirect them. When they relax and there is no tension on the leash, praise them, and release them with “Break!” or whatever command you wish to utilize. Food will be their reward.
4) Slow feeder bowls
If your puppy or dog is scarfing down meals in seconds, then you definitely need a slow-feeding dog bowl. Eating quickly can upset their digestive system and lead to long-term difficulties. One time Kintla scarfed down her food so fast that it immediately came right back up. I knew right then I had to find a solution to this problem, and I did—slow-feeder dog bowls! I would 100% recommend this Outward Hound Fun Feeder Slow Bowl – It comes in different sizes and fun shapes, so your dog can grow with it and be challenged by different obstacles. This was a lifesaver for Kintla, and she learned to eat slow! Slow-feeder dog bowls are easy to use—just simply place their food scattered through the different grooves and watch them work to eat!
5) Have patience
Teaching your new puppy or dog to WAIT to eat is difficult, especially if they are food driven like Kintla was! Be patient and continue working with them; they will eventually learn, and it is worth the time and effort! You won’t have to deal with a puppy going bonkers every time food is placed out, and learning this command will help you teach “Leave it” and “Drop it” in the future. Your dog will realize you are necessary for them to eat, and it helps strengthen your relationship with your dog. Don’t give up on them!
I hope these tips on how to train your dog to “Wait” to eat are helpful! A year after teaching Kintla this, I’m still happy I put the time and effort into doing so!