Teaching Your Puppy Proper Feeding Etiquette

Your puppy needs to learn proper “table manners” if he is to become a good house dog. He must learn to give up his food to you without a struggle. He must also learn not to take food that does not belong to him. Puppy training that teaches manners early on will prevent food aggression or stolen food later on.  These are necessary skills for any dog.

Every time you feed your puppy, tell him “Free” as you place his dish in front of him. Nothing conscious will get through for the first few weeks, but something is definitely getting absorbed. Your puppy is beginning to learn that you will give permission when he is to eat.

After a few weeks of this automatic training, put the bowl down and do not say “Free.” In fact, do not say anything. If he waits for you, in about 2 seconds say “Free” followed by “Good dog” and let him enjoy his meal.

If, on the other hand, he goes for his food, gently pull him back with your hands on his collar and say “Wait.” You may have to repeat this if necessary. When he looks up at you or waits for about two seconds, say “Free!” followed by “Good dog.”

Continue with the “Free” command every time you feed your puppy. In about two weeks, your puppy should have no problem waiting for the “Free” command. While you are teaching him restraint, occasionally add food to his bowl while he is eating using your bare hand. If he growls when your hand comes near his bowl, say “NO!” and take away the food. Feed him again at his next scheduled meal time.  At this point, it would be wise to begin using a “Nothing In Life Is Free” approach, as you’ve got the beginning of dominance issues rearing it’s ugly head, and this needs to be nipped in the bud immediately.