It's no wonder your toddler is obsessed with the dog food bowl -- it's shiny, makes a fun noise when thrown on the floor and is filled with little bits of food. Of course, you might be slightly less enchanted by the sight of your child sifting through kibble or sampling dog food herself. While this might be a short phase for your little one, it's important to be vigilant about your child playing with the dog food. Not only can it pose a choking hazard, but dog food has been known to cause salmonella in toddlers who swapped out Cheerios for kibble.
1 Feed your dog at regular times, where your toddler isn't present or is otherwise occupied. Once your dog has been fed, you can then move the food bowl up and out of reach until the next time. If your dog is a slow nosher or prefers to snack, he'll quickly learn that he has a set amount of time to eat before you take the bowl away.
2 Discard leftover wet food or poor leftover kibble back into the dog food bag and then wash your hands. There's no reason to leave a full dog food bowl out when your dog isn't eating and wet dog food can begin to grow bacteria once it's out of the can.
3 Allow your toddler to help you feed the dog so she understands how and what dogs eat. When some of the mystery is removed from what's in the shiny bowl, she might find the food bowl less interesting and even begin to understand that the dog eats different foods than humans.
4 Redirect your child's attention to something else when you find her rifling through the dog bowl. Wash her hands and then help her find another toy to play with. If you constantly redirect her attention as soon as her eyes lock on the bowl, she'll learn that it's out-of-bounds for her to play with.
5 Offer toddler snacks if you notice your little one seems interested in actually eating the dog food. Kibble can be a serious choking hazard so make sure her mouth is all clear before offering safe chunks of soft foods, like pieces of banana, dry cereal or yogurt. Talk about the difference between the dog's food and your child's snacks: "Puppy has to eat dog food, but baby gets to eat bananas!"
6 Place the bowl outside if the behavior continues. Your toddler probably just needs time to grow out of her curiosity for the dog food and your dog likely won't mind chowing down outdoors for a little while. The important thing is to keep the bowl away from your child to avoid choking or ingesting food that isn't meant for human consumption.
- If your child does ingest dog food, contact your doctor's office. In some cases, it's fine (just gross!), but if your child exhibits signs of salmonella, she'll need medical attention.
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