Food Bowl and Hand Feeding Exercises

These exercises can help prevent the dog from feeling uncomfortable when you are around or approach while he is eating.

It is natural for a dog to guard something that he perceives as important to him. If we do not teach the dog that this is unnecessary, it is very possible that we will have a dog who snarls, growls, or bites at anyone who approaches too closely while he is eating. This can be very frustrating and extremely dangerous. A child passing by as the dog is eating can suffer the brunt of the dog’s possessiveness. Translate: the child can be bitten and harmed. Remember natural dog behavior. We must do our work to guard against it, hence, preventative exercises.

Do these exercises often during the first year of your dog’s life. Make a point to do these exercises 4 or 5 times a week during the first 18 weeks of the pup’s life. Continue on with the exercises once a week, then every couple of weeks and then periodically until the dog is sexually mature (see Your Puppy’s Development).

It takes very little effort to ensure that a young puppy will not grow up to guard his food bowl. It is much harder to curb even a seven month dog of the habit. Even after maturity, every now and again it is important to lay some of these exercises on your grown-up dog. Just like people, dogs can get rusty.

pup in kitchen w: people

If your puppy is already showing signs (freezing, growling, eating fast) of being uncomfortable as you approach when he is eating please seek the help of a certified coach.

Food Bowl Exercise

As the puppy is eating out of his dish, approach and say hello. If he appears relaxed sit on the floor beside him, offer him a high-value treat. Get up, walk away, come back, sit down, and repeat. Repeat this exercise five times in a row.


Approach the puppy while he is eating and drop some tasty treats on the floor beside the bowl, then turn and walk away. Repeat this exercise five times in a row.
Be sure to stay in the proximity of the puppy whenever he is eating, do not get in the habit of giving the dog his food, and then leaving the room. It is important that the dog becomes accustomed to having people and activity around him while he eats.


The puppy feels comfortable with people around while he is eating. Comfortable with being touched, bumped into, or while someone walks close by.

Hand Feeding

Hand-feeding is a great way to spend some time together. All the pup’s food for one straight week comes from your hand, not the bowl.

You can do this exercise in the kitchen, or on the floor in the family room while watching TV. You can do this exercise on a walk, take a portion of the pup’s food with you, stop, have a seat on a park bench or where ever you are comfortable, and proceed to feed the pup.

Measure the pup’s food for the day and use it for training sessions, games, or just hanging out together. The main point is the food comes from you, not a bowl.


Start by getting rid of the puppy’s food bowl altogether. Sit down with the pup where you normally feed him and offer the food directly out of your hand. 


If you feed a wet or raw food you may use a spatula to deliver the food or hold a toy you stuff for the puppy to access the food from. 

The objective is to create a positive association with you instead of a bowl.