Best Ways to Feed Your Puppy

April 24, 2022

Puppy sitting in grass

Bringing your puppy home can be both exciting and overwhelming. Between potty training, socializing, and more, we have you covered! Today, we are going to talk about ways that we can maximize mealtimes to incorporate appropriate behaviors and sneak in some training. As much as your puppy may seem like a “bottomless pit” of food intake, we want to make the most out of our feeding times and reduce the number of treats needed for training.

Hand feeding your puppy

Hand Feeding

Handing feeding your new puppy can have a lot of benefits to relationship building and kick-starting training. First, it can build rapport between you and your dog by creating positive associations between you and primary reinforcers, food. Have everyone in the family take turns to hand feed your puppy. In addition, hand feeding teaches your puppy (in a very low effort way) that they can work for their food. To start hand feeding, grab a small handful of kibble, lure your puppy into a seated position, and feed them! It is that simple! If things are going smoothly indoors, feel free to take your puppy outside to feed them. This creates positive associations with any number of stimuli outside like cars, people walking by, or other dogs. This can also jump start training by getting your puppy used to eating while distractions are happening.

Out of Crate

The second way we like to feed puppies is directly out of their crate. We put food on the floor of the crate (not in a bowl) to promote a positive association with the crate itself and to help with potty training. If a puppy knows that food is coming from the crate floor, they are less likely to have accidents on that floor. I know I wouldn’t want to go potty where I eat either!

For puppies that need a little “extra” to keep them busy, you can always put kibble in a Kong toy and place that in the crate (in addition to directly on the floor). This can wear out your puppy by making them work a little bit for their food and give you a little bit of a break for their nap time.


The last way we like to use food to our advantage is with preventative resource guarding exercises that we like to call exchanges. While your puppy is eating out of its bowl, walk up to them, pick up the bowl, give a tasty treat, place the food bowl back down for the puppy, and walk away. This teaches your puppy that good things happen when you need to take things and that sometimes the items come right back. This can and should also be done with toys and inedible bones. We want puppies to be excited when we approach them while they have items of value, not feel like they need to hide them or guard them from us.