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 is important to him if he feels like you are going to take it. Teach your puppy that your hand brings good things to him versus takes them away. If we don’t it is possible that we will have a dog who growls or bites if approached too closely while eating. This can be very frustrating and dangerous.

Do these exercises  4 or 5 times a week during the first 18 weeks of the pup’s life. Continue on with once a week, then every couple of weeks, and then periodically until the dog is 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 behavior. Even after maturity, every now and again it is important to practice some of these exercises with your adult 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. Drop a tasty piece of meat or cheese by the bowl. Walk away, repeat 5 times.  


Approach the puppy while he is eating and offer him a piece of meat or cheese from your hand, right 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 in close proximity while he is eating.

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.