Mastering the simple activity of feeding your dog will change your life. Honestly, it will, trust me.

Mealtimes can be pretty stressful. It’s a hectic time of day. Maybe your dog barks, whines or jumps at you for their dinner. Maybe you can barely get the bowl down to the floor before your dog is pushing you out the way and diving in. Or maybe you have a dog that growls when anyone goes near their bowl or a new puppy and want to get it right from the start. Not to mention if you have two or more dogs the chaos is even worse.

You might have behavioural issues unrelated to mealtimes or even a perfect mealtime routine already. Whatever your situation, creating or improving the mealtime routine offers a number of benefits that can impact other areas of your life.

Learn to earn

A dog quickly learns how to get what they want. This is partly survival instinct as they need to eat, drink and find shelter. But they also seek affection, play and comfort too.

Our job is to make sure our dogs learn appropriate behaviours to get what they want.

We need to teach our dogs that their actions have consequences. That certain behaviour will lead to them getting what they want while other behaviours will not. In fact, some behaviours will cause the removal of what they want.

The mealtime routine will teach your dog that their actions have consequences and if they want their meal, they need to offer appropriate behaviour to get it.

Impulse control

Wouldn’t it be nice if your dog could be calm around food? Or other dogs, people, cats etc? Well, they can if you work on their impulse control.

Impulse control teaches the dog to manage its emotions and behaviours. Even when faced with situations or stimuli that increase their energy, excitement or anxiety levels.

Help your dog return to a calm state every time they get excited or anxious and promote calm behaviour in all daily activities. The mealtime routine is a great place to start.

Leadership

Demonstrating leadership to your dog sets the foundation that your relationship and training are built on. Without a strong bond of trust and respect, everything is a million times more difficult.

To me, leadership means setting rules and sticking to them, communicating effectively, being consistent, patient and compassionate. Managing my own expectations in line with the capability of the dog while challenging them to do better and grow.

The mealtime routine is a wonderful way to demonstrate appropriate leadership to your dog on a daily basis.

Prevention

They say prevention is often better than the cure and I have to agree.

Specifically, I’m talking about the prevention of common unwanted behaviours like jumping up, barking and whining as well as resource guarding.

When we take ownership of all the resources in the home we can prevent unwanted behaviours from developing or getting worse.

Our dogs learn that we will provide for them and they must look to us for permission before using our resources. A dog will not act inappropriately or attempt to guard food if you are the one in control and demonstrating leadership.

Process

While it may seem as though we are simply setting up a mealtime routine, it is actually far more than that. Both you and your dog are learning a process that can be replicated in other areas of your life.

Do you have trouble getting the lead on your dog? Does your dog drag you over to meet other dogs? Does your dog snatch the toy out of your hands when you try to grab it? The mealtime routine process can be used to manage these other common situations too.

Next week I will take you step by step through the process of establishing a mealtime routine so you can start changing your life.

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