How to Teach a Puppy or Dog to Wait for His Food

Note: I wrote this post shortly after we got our puppy Remy.

One of the challenges we’ve had with our puppy is how crazy he gets when we feed him.

He’s so excited he barks and jumps and basically panics in anticipation.

Like, “Oh my God, I’m going to die if I don’t eat all this food right now in 3 seconds!”

I hear this is normal puppy behavior, but it’s annoying to say the least.

I was getting really frustrated with my puppy Remy during his mealtimes. I knew I should teach him to wait for his food but he wouldn’t even sit still for 1 second!

Then … it clicked.

I read on the blog Puppy in Training the important piece I was missing!

Remy the puppy waiting for his food

From Puppy in Training:

Hold your puppy by his collar by slipping your thumb in his collar and set his food about two feet away. As soon as he stops wiggling, say the words “O.K.” and release your puppy.

Read the whole post here. (Scroll down to “Puppy’s First Feeding.”) Also, here is a video of puppy in training “Dublin” working on waiting for his food.

I seriously never would’ve thought of making it that simple. Release the puppy as soon as he stops wiggling.

It’s too much to expect them to wait for even 1 second at first!

Now … if only my food crazed cat Beamer could get the memo!

Do you think this would work with a 13-year-old nutty cat?

How to teach a dog to wait for his food

How to teach your puppy to wait for his food

Note: Unless your other pets are well behaved, I would keep them in a separate room while you work on this with your puppy.

Days 1-2: Hold his collar and release the moment he relaxes.

Days 3-4: Add some cues. I told Remy “sit, “wait” and “OK!” At this point he only waited for a split second.

Days 5-6: Use a leash. Have him sit, and then step on the leash to hold him back while you set the food down. If he tries to jump up the leash will remind him to sit. When he stays relaxed for 1 second, release with “OK!”

Days 7+: Increase the “wait” time to 2-3 seconds, then 5, 10, etc. We’re currently at about 15 seconds.

Ongoing: Increase the wait time to 30 seconds, 45 seconds, etc., and try without a leash.

That’s my plan anyway, and this can work with adult dogs too. They might just be a little noisier and stubborn since they’re set in their ways.

Teach your dog to wait for his food

How to teach a dog to wait quietly while you prepare the food

I could use some help on this.

How do I keep Remy calm while I’m getting the food ready? He barks in his kennel as I’m filling his bowl. So should I just ignore him until he’s quiet? That could take forever.

Am I expecting too much at this point?

Probably. Let me know what you think!

Does your dog or puppy know to wait for his food?

How to teach a puppy to wait for his food

Related posts:

How to stop a dog from begging for his own meals

Puppy’s first night home (from Puppy in Training)

What rules to teach a puppy first?

What to do if your dog is a picky eater

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21 thoughts on “How to Teach a Puppy or Dog to Wait for His Food”

  1. All the pups at our house wait for their food which is something we learned to do as puppy raisers. Poor Stetson will usually leave us a nice puddle of drool. I did not teach Archer this, but what he does is when I walk over to start filling the dog bowls with food he runs over to his eating spot which is on the opposite side of the dining room. He’ll sit there and wait until after I put down his bowl and release him. He does bounce around a little bit as I’m putting his bowl down, but in general he’s very well-behaved for meals. Do you think teaching Remy something like “go to mat” would work for pre-meal routine?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yes, I think that’s a good idea to teach Remy. Seems so obvious now that you say it! Ace obviously knows down/stay or go to your bed. I will teach Remy the same. We just have a long way to go!

  2. I wish I remember how I taught “wait.” I know she didn’t come knowing it but she’s been doing it reliably for so long that I forget how I did that. I must have held her or placed a hand in front to keep her from getting to her food until she settled. I do know it was one of the first things I started with her when she came home from the breeder.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I was worried Remy’s food craziness would turn into aggression! But it sounds like most puppies hog their food. At least he’s learning some patience and self-control now.

  3. Oh and with the noise – I have used “cry it out” with this dog. Noise was not rewarded when she was being noisy just to demand something or just because she didn’t like something (a real need was different and we learned how to read her). So I did just ignore her during prep. But that may not work well in an apartment.

  4. I have fed puppies in the crate to achieve the same thing.

    Food prepped in bowl. Bowl is placed in crate, but puppy is outside of crate with door closed. When puppy can be remotely mannered (for some, it may mean sitting for a full 1-2 seconds, for some it might mean just not running around and smacking at the crate door), I will open door and start cueing the word I will use that it is ok to eat.

    After a few meals of food in crate (which has benefit of reinforcing awesomeness of crate), I flip the situation on the puppy. Puppy will now RACE to crate as soon as you prep bowl because that is where food will be (he is smart!). I leave door open to crate to allow this. Puppy usually is capable of sitting/waiting in crate for me to put the bowl down in a way that they can’t handle in open space or I may cue the “sit.” Puppy gets to eat bowl in crate.

    I slowly increase time of the sit/wait while working in the crate, building up to the bowl being down and in front of pup while they wait. Then once the pup is a little older and more practiced on the wait, we move feeding to outside of the crate.

  5. Our was incredibly impatient for food when he was a pup and used to start barking and jumping up and down if we weren’t quick enough by his standards. Teaching him to wait and be quiet took some time but it has been absolutely worth it. Quiet he figured out pretty soon as we would simply walk away from preparing his food for a couple minutes (look out the window, take the laundry out, rearrange some flowers). Sit and stay until released took a little more time, initially just a sit before putting the bowl down, working up to a 30 second stay. One thing I found useful was to not only build up the time he had to stay but also to vary it and to vary my position (between him and the food, behind him, to the side, sitting on the sofa…). Was a great basis for stays later (I was rather surprised when my agility trainer said “if you can get him to stay”. What do you mean? Surely all dogs should have a solid stay by the time they are ready to start agility classes). Also sometimes put a “down” or “watch me” in before release.

  6. Katie and I were never interested much in food, but Bailie was out of her fur. She tried to get up on the counter, it was crazy. Mom laid food tracks around the house for her to eat and follow, we also used a food ball for her to eat her meals from. It took a month or two, but she mellowed down. Being from a litter of 14, she had a tough time not fighting for food.

  7. My boxer will wait for his food until I release with “ok”, and I know he would wait forever because I once got distracted talking to my kids and didn’t release him (oops!!). I went to feed the cats (on a different floor of the house) and when I came back to the kitchen 5 minutes later, he was still sitting in the kitchen, by himself waiting patiently to be released!! That’s the day I knew I did a good job with his wait command! But I did feel terrible for the poor guy…

  8. well Okami figured out the whole sit and wait for food thing really fast. Now granted she was ~18 months old when I rescued her so its a bit of a different situation.
    She also has a tendency to chew her food rather than just inhale her kibble. As a matter of fact I think the main way I have been feeding her recently (as in most of the time for months) reinforces that behavior actually. I have one of the larger hard plastic Kong toys that twists open for “loading” I have been putting 2 3/4 cup scoops of food (~1.5 cups total) in the toy and then set it on the floor for her to play with. if (when) she is hungry she starts nosing and pawing it around the room, and a few pieces of kibble fall out whenever the opening is down. she usually has “most” of the food out within 15-30 min, which tells me as far as the “puzzle” aspects are concerned that part has long since been solved by her, its more of a “gimmie my food… toy” at this point.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I should probably get a toy like that for Remy. I do have one of the normal Kongs that would at least slow him down a little.

  9. Gloria Mahoney

    Hi Lindsay, new to your site and blog, really enjoy and learning. Thank you.
    As for this blog, you mentioned feeding in their crate. What about placing his crate in an area where he is unable to see what you are doing.? Don’t latch his crate because he may think he’s being punished for something. That’s HIS safe house; to sleep, relax, play with toys, protection and to eat in ( just in the training phase. If he cries, barks, howls, etc. just ignore him. If Remy leaves his crate, tell him NO and lead him back to his crate and tell him STAY. This might take a few trips back to his crate and some loving patience. Once he is quiet and has stayed even for just a few seconds then quickly reward with his bowl of food and tell him he’s a Good Boy. Walk away and allow him to eat. Only allow HIM to eat HIS food in HIS crate.
    With my experience, you’re not only teaching him to remain calm and wait patiently and quietly for his food, you’re also teaching him that it’s on your terms and not his; that just because he’s being vocal and basically telling you he wants his food right now. You are the ALPHA. He cannot be allowed to remain or become the ALPHA DOG. Through the whole process you are also reiterating to him that his crate is his safe haven. It’s REMY’s CASTLE!
    As soon as he’s done eating remove his bowl from the crate. Place his water dish in a localized neutralized area, whether it’s just for him or other dogs as well if you have more than 1 dog.
    Depending on how temperamental your dog is, you should only have to crate feed your dog like this for a few days. Dogs are very smart and he will pick up on what you expect of him and then you can put his feed dish wherever you want. He’s learning to remain calm and quiet and also to not beg while you are making time to and preparing his food. If you have a dog that is skittish, has separation anxiety or if other dogs bully yours, you can even continue to feed him in his crate, just make sure to remove his bowl as soon as he is done eating. Remember, never lock him in his crate. This has done very well for me and has worked with several breeds and many different temperaments. Also, never make your dog feel like he’s a BAD DOG. You’re just re-enforcing habitual behavior to acceptable good behavior. Dogs want to make us happy. I hope some of this helped.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yes very helpful. He is able to hear me getting the food no matter where his crate is. His crate is in a spare bedroom now. I really don’t think he is capable of staying in there on his own while I prepare his food at this point. I think he would keep barging out 100 times. But maybe I’m not giving him enough credit. Currently I latch the crate to keep him in and bring the food when he stops yapping. Usually takes him 5 to 10 mins to quiet.

  10. Have you tried susan garretts “it’s your choice” game or mary ellen barrys “rule outs” game? Both these work on the same principle of teaching the dog self control. You can use this principle to teach manners for any number of things, such as going through doors, crate training, staying on a mat, and staying calm around meal time. Its also such a great game because a sit becomes the default behaviour the dog or puppy will present any time he/she wants something. it stops people over using commands so that when they are needed they are meaningful. it also becomes the dogs response that controls the situation and you then don’t have to worry about what your dog will get into as he will naturally start to “ask” if he wants the food or to get out/in. It’s also really fun to watch the dogs response when it clicks that they are in control of the reward! this game is also really amazing because even the most “stubborn” of dogs works out the rules within the first session and it becomes a quicker and quicker responses every time if the handlers are consistent.

  11. Pingback: How to teach a puppy to wait for food | PetPace

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