When you are beginning to set boundaries for your new puppy, food and the controlled ritual of the feast can have a very significant impact on your puppy’s attitude and perception of his sense of place in the pack. Even if your puppy is a picky eater, the fact that you offered your puppy his food after you have eaten yours, can, along with working for food,(sit, down etc) help to have a calming effect, because it reinforces a confidence in consistent and repetitive structure (the same thing happens the same way). In addition to providing structure and expectations with the activity of eating, following are some good reasons to frequent feed (twice a day meals) instead of free feeding your puppy.

Frequent feeding is better. This is very helpful in house training a new puppy. Frequent feeding allows you to monitor intake and better house train your puppy. Knowing when and how much he ate can more easily be achieved with frequent feeding. Always feed a measured amount of food. With continuous feeding you never know when your pup has eaten and it’s harder to know when he has to go potty.

Easier to monitor if he is not feeling well. One possible red flag that your pup may not be feeling well is if he stops eating. With free feeding you cannot monitor his food intake.

Keep food guarding to a minimum. Picking up his bowl after each meal helps to eliminate the possibilities of food guarding. Continuous feeding allows your puppy to develop guarding instincts of his food bowl and the surrounding space. Don’t forget to pick up the bowl after 15 minutes.

Feeding time = training time. Take the opportunity to work on his earn-to-learn program by having him do sits and downs for his food. Puppies used to work for their food so keep up the ritual. With puppies, rituals endow security and, security builds confidence.

Kibbles as training treats. Use his food for training treats. Training him before he eats when his motivation is at its highest is best. He will begin to know you are important in his life because all good things are made available to him by you.

Reinforce your leadership. Take twice a day feeding schedules to show strong leadership. Eat first then feed your puppy. This is further reinforced by requiring your puppy to earn its food. By the way, an added benefit is that puppies that used to act frantically at mealtime begin to settle down and wait patiently for their food.

Here is another helpful tip for feeding puppies: Dry kibble can stay in your puppies system for up to 16 hours. Soaking the food for up to 10 – 15 minutes in hot tap water breaks down the binders softening the food. You puppies’ digestive track won’t have to work nearly as hard to digest the food to absorb more nutrients for better growth. It is very important for your puppy to get as much nutrients out of the food as possible. Another bonus is you will have less output to clean up. This soaked kibble will pass through his system in 5-6 hours improving your house training efforts.

Use mealtimes as an opportunity to work on leadership, training and appropriate behavior at a time that can be fraught with excitement, arousal and stress. Do not release him to eat until he is calm. Take advantage of this, be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as your are the teacher of your children- and remember . . . . “Opportunity Barks!”

(C) Jim Burwell 2010