Dogs are opportunistic eaters and will happily scavenge for food even when they don’t need it. That’s why you’re in charge of creating a feeding schedule that supports your dog’s health and well-being. What if you’re having a hard time getting your stubborn dog on a feeding schedule? We’ve got some tips and tricks that can help.

Do Pick Feeding Times with Care

Puppies should eat three square meals a day, but once they reach maturity, you can drop down to two meals a day as long as they’re no more than twelve hours apart. If those two meals don’t arrive on a consistent schedule, your dog won’t have a chance to get used to the new routine. Make sure that when you’re setting a feeding schedule, you’re picking hours of the day when you’ll be home and available to feed your dog.

Don’t Give in To Begging

If you’re changing your dog’s feeding schedule or putting one in place for a dog who’s used to grazing, you may find that they start demanding food well before it’s time to eat. For particularly stubborn dogs, this can turn into barking, howling, shadowing, and throwing an all-out temper tantrum. As much as you might want that behavior to stop, don’t break down and feed your dog ahead of time. When owners give in to begging, dogs learn that this type of behavior gets rewarded.

Do Prioritize Nutritional Balance

You may worry that your dog’s begging is a sign that she’s getting hungry well before her next meal. Unless your dog is underweight or suffering from malabsorption, chances are high that she just doesn’t like to be told when she can eat. That said, dog food that has a high air content (think of those “puffed” kibble varieties) or a high water content can lead to faster hunger signals. To keep your dog full between feedings, prioritize high-fiber foods (often marketed as “light” foods) and offer raw veggies like carrots and green beans as snacks.

Don’t Underestimate Distraction

It’s one thing to tell yourself that you won’t give in to begging, but it’s another to actually do it, especially when your dog is relentless. Start to take notice of when your dog initiates this frustrating behavior and try to beat her to the punch with an acceptable distraction. For example, if she starts demanding food around 6 PM, get her geared up for a walk at 5:45. If you don’t have time for hands-on activities, set out a special chew toy or lick mat, both of which can alleviate some of that restless anxiety.

Do Work with a Trainer

Trainers may not get hands-on with your dog’s feeding schedule, but we do help owners establish trust with their dogs. By embracing active training, you show your dog that you’re in charge and that they can count on you to keep them safe, happy, and healthy. Learn more about ADU’s training programs and turn your stubborn grazer into an on-schedule eater.