How to Teach a Dog to Eat From the Bowl

They make weird noises and smell a little strange, so bowls -- at least in the minds of some dogs -- are objects their food should never go in. But a brand new bowl or even a bit of tasty chicken broth can make bowl-feedings a lot less scary.

Change the type of bowl your pup eats out of. Puppies and extremely scared or sensitive dogs may not like certain types of bowls because of the way they move or sound. If your pup has a metal bowl, switch him to a ceramic one. If his bowl constantly slips and slides on the floor when he tries to grab a bite, try a non-skid bowl.

Move his bowl to a clean and quiet location. The last thing dogs want to hear or see when they're scarfing down a meal is an unexpected noise or lots of foot traffic. And some aren't too fond of smelly trashcans and litter boxes. A little personal space while eating can go a long way.

Start off with a small bowl, barely big enough for your pup to eat out of. The aim here is to desensitize him of the big, scary bowls. By using tiny dishes at first, you limit the chance of your pup slapping his collar againt the bowl, seeing his reflection in the bowl and encountering other scary sounds and sights. If he isn't enthusiastic about the smaller dish, try something flat, like a plate, and work your way up.

Use positive reinforcement. Start off by pouring a tiny amount of salt-free chicken broth in his bowl. Since he's likely to view the broth as a tasty treat he rarely gets, he'll probably slurp it up. Give him lots of praise the moment he starts drinking it. Wait for about 20 minutes or so and pour a bit more broth in his bowl. After he laps that up, place a solid high-reward treat, such as cheese, in his bowl. The trick is to make the reward so good that he doesn't even think about taking it elsewhere or flipping over the bowl to eat it from the floor. The positive reinforcement sends a message to him that eating at his food bowl means good things happen. Slowly transition into placing a kibble in his bowl, then a few more and so on.

Make his food available for 20 minutes at a time, and then dump the food back in the bag until his next meal time. No healthy dog will starve himself. He'll eventually get the point that he needs to eat out of his bowl when he sees his food. This won't work well for dogs who are afraid of their bowl, but it does help those tricky pups who think they can get whatever they want by repeating the same behavior over and over again. If he wants to eat from the floor, and you oblige by dumping his food on the floor each time he doesn’t eat from the bowl, you're basically telling him it's OK to wait, because he'll eventually get what he wants.

Items you will need

  • Salt-free chicken broth

Tips

  • If you do the 20-minute feeding method, make sure you dump his leftover food back in his food bag. Stale food will make matters worse.
  • Although your pup might lick his chops after eating a bite of salty food, salt isn't good for dogs, so always choose salt-free chicken broth if you go that route.

Warnings

  • If your dog doesn't eat after 24 hours, contact your vet. He may be suffering from a medical condition.
  • Never force your dog to eat out of his bowl. Grabbing him by the collar, putting his face in the bowl or anything similar will worsen the problem.