Dogs & Cats

How to Avoid Chaos at Multiple-dog Feedings

You can bring sanity to mealtimes for your multi-dog pack, says our veterinarian. Here''s how.

If feeding time at your house is anything like mine, you find yourself lost in the windmill of dancing legs and wagging tails, trying to remember who gets the light meal and who gets the growth formula. Then, you watch closely and monitor to make sure the appropriate nose is in the correct bowl.

Bringing civility to the commotion of group dog feeding takes time and effort and often leaves owners throwing their hands up and declaring, “Who cares, eat what you wish.” But it is important to keep your dog on track nutritionally. Don’t give up, even if you feel outnumbered.

Follow These Guidelines for Your Dog Feeding
Here are a few things to remember for feeding time at a multi-dog household:

  • Don’t free-feed. Meal feeding is a must. Don’t keep the bowl full of dry food or use feeders that automatically dispense food. Obesity and other health issues are directly linked to overeating when food is constantly available. Meals should be offered and your dog given 15-20 minutes to eat. Pick up any remaining kibble. Feeding dogs meals helps curb snacking and prevents greedy eaters and overweight dogs from getting more than they nutritionally need. Also, in the case of illness, meal feeding will identify a pet that’s not eating and the number of meals missed.

  • Teach good manners. Train your dogs to sit and remain sitting while you place the bowls down. Once bowls are prepared, give them the “OK” command to eat. You might be chuckling at this idea and convincing yourself it cannot be done, but it can. Your dog will need to know and perform these basic commands first, so a short period of training may be necessary. All dogs can learn this -- even older dogs. I recently added a third dog to our family, and it became obvious after a week that the “Sit” command would be necessary to avoid tussles and to give my geriatric dog a clear path to her dish. I must report they are all behaving marvelously now!

  • Do your prep work. Prepare the bowls before serving them. Dogs that are hungry or anxious want the food the minute it hits the ground, and asking them to sit while you fumble around with a bag might be too much for them to tolerate.

  • Divide and conquer. Separate greedy eaters and those that are on special diets. The separation could be in another room or just 15-20 feet away. Distance between the bowls helps you watch the dog feeding activity with ease and keeps the food aggressors away from the bowl of the more deliberate eater. Another option is to attach a tether or leash to the greedy eater; this allows you to manage him without getting near his face during feeding. It also might help to remove the aggressive eater once he is finished. This prevents him from having to watch the others eating.

If you can’t referee mealtime, then design a way to have separated dog feeding areas. This can be done by door or gate. Some owners put their dogs in crates or dog runs at feeding time. Dogs happily enter the crate for food and can be released when they finish.

I promise mealtime can be peaceful with a thoughtful plan and a little training!




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