Who is in Charge at Dinnertime?

You are your dogs’ leader. They are watching you for clues to how they should behave. So, as their leader, when it comes to feeding time, it’s up to you to set the tone and the rules.

Make this time together a pleasant and positive experience. If the dogs become excitable, feeding time could get out of control quickly. A daily routine is the key to maintaining order. They will begin to anticipate each step of the procedure and do their part willingly once they become accustomed to it. It’s important to help them understand that feeding time is a specific activity. Leaving the kibble bowl out all day is not an option in a multi-dog household. 

If possible, feed your pets off to the side of the kitchen in a breakfast area or mudroom so that they won’t be underfoot as you prepare their bowls, and they won’t develop a habit of coming into the kitchen when you cook.

Keep dogs about two feet apart so they won’t bump into each other accidentally.  Set a routine of feeding them in the same place, in the same seating order, every time. It helps to place small rugs on the floor to make a separate space for each one. Teach them to sit there and wait for their bowl. 

Use a command that will not be associated with human dining. Once each dog has been given a bowl,  use a forward hand gesture, commanding, “ take!” They eat in unison.

Stay with your dogs throughout mealtime as their leader, to prevent any problems and to take charge immediately if there is a problem. If you are attuned to your pets, you will even feel the tension increase before the problem happens.

If any of the dogs require medication in their food or they are on a special diet, they should be put in a closed room to make sure they swallow the medication, and another dog doesn’t. If the wrong pet does get the medication, call the ASPCA poison hotline at 888-426-4435.

If you have a picky or nervous eater, they will also need to be put in a separate room to give them time to relax and eat at their leisure. Give them about 20-30 minutes to dine before coming back for them. 

Guest dogs also should be fed in a different room to avoid causing tensions. 

Dogs that are large or energetic may need to have their leashes put on them first, so you can get control quickly if an incident flares up.

For large breeds,  get a platform feeder or something to set the bowl higher, like a stepstool, so the dog will eat more calmly and comfortably. 

Once everyone has finished, your dogs can resume playing as a happy pack.