Managing feeding time at the Zoo (with your kids and dog)!

Anyone with young kids will know that feeding time can be quite messy, hectic and stressful at the best of times, then add a dog in the mix and it can really turn to chaos. From your dog stalking your kids, to stealing their food, licking them clean, your children not eating because they think it’s funny to feed the dog, food being thrown across the room, the list goes on. We’ve gone through it all in my household and with a very food obsessed Goldie, it is all still a work in progress. Along with all these challenges however, comes the BEST vacuum cleaner ever!! At home, I never have to clean those tiny scraps off the floor; I have Cooper and I thank him for that every day! And yes, that is a photo of Cooper licking every piece of rice off our floor boards (sorry for those germaphobes out there, but I think it’s great for the kids’ immune system).

In today’s post, I will outline three tips we use in our house to try and manage some of this chaos. After all, your dog needs to learn that if your child drops a cooked chicken bone on the floor, that it is not theirs to eat!! Cooked chicken bones can be quite dangerous for dogs. And yes, again, unfortunately, this is something that has happened to us!! I might be a dog trainer, but my dog certainly isn’t perfect.


  • Create boundaries

Invisible or physical. This can be as simple as a baby gate to block them out of the kitchen/dining area. Putting your dog in another room. Or for us, we have created an invisible boundary.

In our house, we have a rule that Cooper (and his friends) need to lie down about 2-3 meters back from where the kids are eating. Cooper now knows that he will be allowed to clean up at the end of the meal, but only on my command. I have trained him to stay there until the kids are finished eating, and then I say, “Ok Cooper, clean up!” For those of you who would love to try this, start out by putting your dog on a lead so you have full control. Set your boundary, ours is the line where the floor boards and the carpet meet and make them stick to it. If you have them on the lead, every time they get up or try creeping forward, put them back. Be strict and persistent. You can use treats to help reward the good behaviour when they are lying behind the invisible line and relaxed. But not too many, as they will get to clean up at the end and that’s a bloody good reward. Cooper was never allowed “human food” or food from the table until we had kids.

  • Train your kids

Teach your kids to always sit down and eat. No running around the house with food.

Teach them not to feed the dog. This can be a hard one depending on the age of your child. At around 6 months of age, both of my kids thought this was just hilarious. It’s the moment when the friendship between dog and baby really begins because the dog quickly learns your baby now equals food. But now that Harper is three, she understands that dogs can’t eat certain foods, it will upset their tummy or can be quite dangerous for them. So just explaining that to your kids can really help. Harper loves Cooper to pieces, so she would never do something if she knew it could hurt him. Paxton on the other hand (20 months) is still too young to understand this.


  • And if all else fails, put your dog outside

Sometimes it’s just not worth the risk.

Our biggest challenge with Cooper and our ‘invisible boundary’ is when we have people over. Cooper will sometimes take advantage of the fact that my attention is elsewhere and will test the boundaries and try to clean up before the kids are finished. And this is exactly the situation when he ate the chicken bone. I was busy cleaning up in the kitchen when we had family over for dinner, Paxton dropped a cooked chicken bone and Cooper literally pounced and inhaled it as it hit the floor. We were lucky, he was fine, he managed to pass it through. But always call your vet to check if something like that happens, cooked chicken bones can splinter on the way through and get stuck. I’ve learnt my lesson now and will often just put Cooper outside if we have a busy house.

You might be able to train your own kids, but you can’t train someone else’s, especially if they don’t live with dogs. So, if you’re hosting a mothers group or have a house full of kids eating, the temptation is too high, put your dog outside!

Even if it’s just you guys at home and your dog is being disobedient and not listening, put him outside. Set some rules and boundaries! It’s so important to help manage the madness.


There are lots of foods your kids may eat, that are dangerous or toxic for dogs! So as amazing as it is that they are the best hoovers, please always make sure to pick up the dangerous foods and put them in the bin before letting your dog clean-up for you!

Not one of my images – found on the internet

Not one of my images – found on the internet

And lastly, please do your best to keep your dog a nice lean weight, it is so important for their health. Especially as they get older and especially for bigger dogs who are prone to arthritis, etc. So, if they do eat lots of the kids scraps during the day, please make sure to slightly reduce the quantity of food you give them for dinner.


Mel xox



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