The last post outlined the many reasons why you should create a mealtime routine for your dog. Now, I will take you through the step by step process to establish this mealtime routine for yourself.

This activity always reminds me of the “Hot/Cold” game we used to play at school. Do you remember this game? It’s where the class would hide something and one of the kids had to try and find it. The class could only give hints like “warm” or “cold, cold, cold”.

We will be using a similar method to teach this activity to our dogs. We are going to use our body language to teach our dog what to do instead of a verbal command. When our dogs are in the correct position we will start to put their bowl down. If the dog moves, the bowl will return to the starting point. Sounds fun right?!

Step by step process

When you start this process, only a small amount of food in the bowl. Practice this activity at least twice in a row at each mealtime with a portion of food for each repetition.

Be prepared for this activity to take some time. Set aside at least 10 minutes for this mealtime routine. This time will be used to teach your dog what to do to get their food and then the activity will shift to building up a stay under distractions.

Avoid using the “sit” command the first few times you try this activity. Instead, let your dog work out what to do in order for you to lower the food bowl to the ground. During this activity, you will adjust your actions in response to your dog or puppies behaviour. By approaching the activity in this manner we are showing our dogs that their behaviour has consequences and if they want their dinner then they need to offer and remain in a sit.

  • Put a small amount of food in your dogs bowl. Stand tall and hold the bowl about stomach height.
  • Wait for your dog to offer a sit.
  • Ignore any barking, pacing or jumping up behaviour.
  • As soon as your dog sits, say your marker word “yes” or “good” then start to slowly lower the food bowl towards the ground.
  • If your dog gets up from the sit, bring the bowl back up immediately.
  • Wait until your dog sits then resume lowering the food bowl.
  • As you get closer to the ground, if you need to pull the bowl back up in response to your dog breaking position, just bring it up a little bit not all the way back to standing.
  • Repeat as many times as you need to until you can place the bowl on the ground while the dog is still in a sit.
  • Immediately give the command to eat then stand up and move away from the bowl.
  • Once your dog has finished this small portion of food, repeat the process over again.
  • This second time will be faster than the previous time but your dog (and especially a puppy) is likely to still break out of the sit a few times.
  • Have patience though and keep going.

Use the same process with food toys as well. Just swap out the food bowl for the food toy in the example above.

Keep going!

But don’t stop there! This is only the beginning of the activity.

This next section is where the magic happens. We are now going to up the ante and keep challenging our dogs. This works especially well with puppies too.

Not only are our dogs and puppies going to stay seated until we put the bowl down but they are going to look at us and ask for permission before eating. And they will learn to wait until they are given permission to eat, even if we walk away. Sounds good right?!

All we are going to do is add a small amount of challenge to each repetition of the food bowl game. First, it will be having your dog look at you before giving the eat command. Next, add a 1-2 second pause between when your dog looks at you and you give the eat command. Then start to step away from your dog to begin the process of being able to walk away and leave them unsupervised while they wait for permission to eat.

  • From now on, only ever give the eat command once your dog is looking at you.
  • Your dog will look back at the food but always wait until they look back at you before giving your permission for them to eat.
  • Start small and slowly add time between when the bowl hits the ground and you give the eat command.
  • Now add movement. Take a small step away before giving the eat command and build up distance.
  • The ultimate goal is to be able to walk out of your dogs sight and they still remain in the sit position until you come back so they can look at you and hear the eat command.

This may seem like a lot of work, and honestly, the first time you try it, it might seem impossible. But I promise you if you keep at it and slowly increase the level of challenge at the pace of your dog or puppy, it won’t be long until you have mastered this activity and likely many others as well.

I hope you give this a try and I would LOVE to see how you go. Feel free to send me a short video of your progress to or message me via Facebook or Instagram.

Join our newsletter

Subscribe to receive weekly dog training and behaviour techniques, tips and tricks!