How to Keep a Toddler From Playing in the Dog Food Bowls

Let your dog eat when your toddler does.
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Just like everything else in the house, your toddler has probably gotten into the dog’s food and water bowls. Nothing seems to be safe with a little one running around. You’re not defeated yet -- implement your own tricks to keep the doggie’s things safe from future kid invasions.

Step 1

Let your child help you get things ready for the dog’s feeding time. Allow her to fill the water bowl or give her the scoop and allow her to pour the food into the bowl. Keep the dog away from the bowl until the two of you are done getting things ready. Talk about what you’re doing. Explain that this is the only food the dog gets to eat and her food is just for her tummy. Your child may have been playing in the bowls because she saw you doing something with them and she’s trying to copy what she saw.

Step 2

Feed the dog when you feed your toddler in the morning and evening. This way it signals it’s mealtime for both of you. It also offers a distraction for your toddler as your pooch is chowing down. This will also help prevent food aggression from the dog when a little hand reaches for the dish while he’s eating.

Step 3

Distract your toddler with toys in another room or ask a sibling to play with her so the dog can drink his water or finish his meal in peace.

Step 4

Say “no” whenever you catch your little one red-handed in the food bowl. Use a stern voice, but don’t yell at her. Explain that the dish is for the doggie and show her what her own bowls look like. Say something like, “Remember, these are yours silly.” You could buy her a special dish set just for her so she is happy to use hers and not others. If the dog sniffs her bowl, you can say “no” to him, too.

Step 5

Remove the dishes when mealtime is done and put them up somewhere your toddler can’t reach. This should only be implemented if the previous suggestions didn’t work, as learning to co-habitate is better than having to hide the items. Since adult dogs usually only eat twice a day, this shouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience. If your toddler is getting into the water dish, too, either buy a spill-proof water bowl or put the water dish up and offer water several times a day while supervising the dog and your child.


  • Wash the dog bowls daily with warm, soapy water and sanitize them at least once a week by running them through the dishwasher. Not only is this good for your pooch, it also cuts down on the germ exchange when your little one is occasionally quicker or sneakier than you are.

Items You Will Need

  • Food and water bowls
  • Dog food
  • Scooper
  • Kid’s dish set
  • Mild soap
  • Water