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7 Methods on How to Keep Older Dogs from Eating Puppy Food

If you’re living in a household with an older dog and new puppy, a common question may arise: How to keep older dogs from eating puppy food?

How to Keep Older Dogs from Eating Puppy Food

Having a younger companion to your senior dog is an excellent form of socialization and emotional support for both sides. However, it also comes with some downsides.

One of the main problems you may encounter is eating from the wrong bowl. In most cases, puppies would be the ones sneaking into the older dog’s bowl, but what if the opposite happens?

That’s where this guide comes in handy! I’ll show you how to keep older dogs from eating puppy food in simple steps and methods.

Key Takeaways

There are various ways on how to keep older dogs from eating puppy food. The most popular method is teaching them the “offcommand

However, you can also go for other methods like the “claim and control” method for added efficiency.

Reasons Why Your Adult Dog Shouldn’t Eat Puppy Food

Welsh Corgi Dog and Puppy Eating Dog Food

Older dogs can get attracted to puppies’ bowls for many reasons. For instance, they might prefer the taste of puppy food or they simply don’t understand it’s not theirs.

Dominance can also play a role here, especially among male dogs. In that case, older dogs might go for the submissive dog’s food on purpose.

While there are some reasons an adult might go for a puppy’s bowl, there are more reasons to not let them do it. Here’s a quick look at some of them:

Puppy Food May Have Extra Calories

As a general rule, most puppy diets contain much higher calorie counts than adult dog food, which is mainly due to the higher fat content in these formulas.

Puppies have a higher activity level than senior dogs, so they can burn these calories and maintain a healthy weight.

Consuming such a calorie-dense diet (higher calories per cup) can result in various health concerns in your older dog, ranging from weight gain to heart disease. 

It Can Cause Stomach Upsets

If you’ve been around dogs for a while, you probably know that abrupt changes in dogs’ diet (even from wet to dry food, or vice versa) can cause digestive issues.

This happens because changing the usual type of food triggers an inflammatory response in the stomach lining, resulting in digestive upsets, cramps, and diarrhea. 

Puppy Formula May Have a Lot of Minerals

Since puppies are in a growth phase, their food often contains more minerals than adult food, which is necessary to build a healthy bone structure.

Adult dog food has fewer minerals to avoid side effects, as high calcium and phosphorus intake are among the leading causes of kidney problems in older dogs.

Different Kibble/Breed Sizes 

Different dog breed sizes can also be a major reason to avoid mixing food between dogs, as it affects the size of the kibble pieces and how easy it is to chew them.

For example, if a senior toy breed eats from a huge breed puppy’s food, the large kibbles can be hard to swallow and might suffocate them.

7 Methods on How to Keep Older Dogs from Eating Puppy Food

Golden Retriever Dog and a Puppy

Now that you know more about the reasons to keep senior dogs from going for puppy food, here are some methods to help you learn how to feed two dogs so that they both get a healthy meal:

1. Teach Your Dog the “Off” Command

This is one of the most effective techniques for learning how to keep older dogs from eating puppy food, and it’s a generally useful behavioral control command as well. Here’s how to teach it:

  1. Put your dog’s favorite treat in your hand and tighten your fist around it.
  2. Approach your dog and let it sniff around it, but keep your hand closed.
  3. Start commanding your dog with a consistent phrase, such as “off” or “leave it”.
  4. Once your dog stops checking your hand out, open your hand and let them get the treat
  5. Repeat the previous steps until your dog obeys the command.
  6. Next, put a kibble in a bowl and use the command whenever your dog approaches it
  7. Once your dog retreats on command, reward your dog with a better treat, and repeat as necessary.

2. Claim the Puppy’s Bowl

This one is also quite effective; you can use it along with the previous method, especially if your older dog and new puppy must eat at the same time. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Fill both the older dog and new puppy’s food bowls equally, and allow your dogs to eat from their bowls
  2. Before your older dog starts going for the pup’s food, remove the puppy from the room and take his place as if you’re claiming their bowl.
  3. Push your dog away gently every time he/she tries to come near the puppy bowl while using the “off” command.
  4. Once your dog goes back to eating the adult food, reward your dog with a high-value treat and give them plenty of verbal praise.
  5. Repeat this technique several times during feeding sessions, and slowly stand away from the claimed bowl every time.
  6. Once your older dog never approaches the puppy’s bowl, reintroduce your puppy to the feeding session so that your senior dog understands it’s not theirs.

3. Create a Consistent Feeding Schedule

If the claim and control method doesn’t work, you may need to establish a consistent feeding schedule for your older dog and new puppy.

This could be a good alternative if you don’t have enough rooms to apply the separate room method. 

Simply create a daily routine where each dog gets to eat separately from their bowl. In that case, you’ll need to restrict the other dog’s access to the bowl.

Feed your older dog first, and give him/her enough time to finish their bowl. If they’re distracted give a “time” warning, then remove the bowl and the dog after one minute

Once you’re done, allow your puppy to get to the room and eat their bowl, repeating the same method. 

With time, your older dog and new puppy will get used to their feeding schedule so that they will finish their bowls in a reasonable time.

4. Enforce the Separation During Feeding Time

While the previous method is highly effective, it can take a long time to work. This can be a problem if you’re always in a hurry and can’t commit to consistent training or feeding schedules.

In that case, one of the simplest solutions to go for would be learning how to feed two dogs at the same time, but limiting each dog to a separate room.

To do this, you’ll simply have each bowl placed in a certain room and make sure that only the bowl’s owner enters the room.

If you’re really short on time, you can also train your dog to finish eating as quickly as possible by setting a cue (a certain sound or phrase) and then removing the food one or two minutes after it goes off.

This will create an association between the cue and the removal of food, so your dog will finish the bowl without being too distracted.

5. Keep Your Older Dog Well Fed Right Before Feeding Puppies

Learn how to feed two dogs effectively by providing a nutritious meal to your older dog just before giving food to the puppies. This helps your older dog get the right nutrition without needing to compete with the puppies for food. 

By keeping your older dog well-fed before feeding the puppies, you make mealtime positive and stress-free, creating a good relationship among all your furry family members.

6. Use a Slow Feeder

Puzzle feeders are among the best ways to help your dog eat their food more patiently, and therefore, have enough time to feel full. 

They can also be quite stimulating and entertaining if you throw in some hidden treats. By using these feeders, your dog will be quite distracted and may not go after the puppy’s food.

7. Provide Your Older Dog with a Distracting Toy While Puppies Are Eating

Speaking of distraction, some older dogs might go for a puppy’s food because they’re bored and are looking for mental stimulation.

In that case, having your older dogs play with their favorite toys would keep them occupied while your puppies finish their meals.

If your senior four-legged companion has recently lost its teeth, you can read our post about the best toys for toothless dogs to help you adapt and keep playtime fun for your favourite furry friend.

Important Tips While Learning How to Keep Older Dogs from Eating Puppy Food

Here are some extra tips to consider while learning how to feed two dogs:

  • Eating puppies’ food once is rarely a cause for concern, so you won’t have to worry about it if your dog doesn’t display signs of discomfort.
  • Avoid punishing or scolding your dog for eating the puppy’s food, and use positive reinforcement and rewards instead.
  • Puppies are quite curious, so expect them to go for old dogs’ food as well. Luckily, many of the previous training techniques will apply to them too.

Final Thoughts

There you have it! A simple guide that shows you how to keep older dogs from eating puppy food.

As you can see, there are various methods on how to feed two dogs—older dog and new puppy—that you can use to keep older dogs away.

Remember to always consult your vet about the safety of the puppy’s food for your senior dog in case they manage to eat some, and keep it out of reach when it’s not in use.

If you’re wondering how to keep older dogs from eating puppy food, follow these proven tips and tricks to put an end to the problem once and for all.

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