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Guide Dog Class Lecture: Feeding, Watering, and Relieving

There are practical considerations when you enter into a relationship with a guide dog.  Your dog relies on you to provide the basic necessities for their health and welfare. You will be responsible for feeding, watering, relieving, grooming, exercising, and sheltering your dog.  It will also be your role to attend to your dog’s emotional well-being. 

This material outlines how you can effectively attend to your dog’s feeding, watering, and relieving needs while here in class and gets you thinking about how you can maintain a high standard of care when you return to your own home.


Your dog’s daily ration is currently split into two feedings.  The first is given in the morning upon waking. The second follows the afternoon workout. Because food rewards are a part of working with your Guide Dog, an easy routine to follow is to put aside some of your dog’s daily ration in your food pouch for use during the day. For your dog’s evening meal, empty any unused kibble from the pouch into your dog’s bowl along with the evening ration. That way you know that your dog is not eating too much or too little.


The dogs are on a water schedule to help establish a reliable relieving pattern.  This practice ensures that a dog does not drink excess amounts of water at any one time. You will be offering approximately 3 cups of water at each scheduled interval.  In the summer months, you may need to offer slightly more to adjust for the warmer weather.  Empty any unused water after the offering and rinse the pan. Your dog may only lap at the water a few times a day, or the dog might drink with gusto. Only offer the allotted amount, no more. Please alert the instructional staff if your dog drinks all the water at every scheduled watering time.  We may need to adjust the amount, depending on your dog’s needs.

Class Watering Schedule

You will offer water at the following times:

  1. Upon rising, after first meal
  2. Upon return from the morning lesson
  3. After your dog’s second meal
  4. Mid-evening

Feeding and water schedules correlate with leash relieving and relate to the dog’s daily activities in class.  Once home, you will set up a comparable schedule that works best for your lifestyle.


Naturally, it is preferable when a guide dog maintains clean habits indoors and while working in harness. Common sense and close attention will ensure that a young, active dog maintains good relieving habits. A dog may need as many as six relieving opportunities each day. Eating, drinking and physical movement stimulate the bowel, which in turn creates an urge in the dog to relieve. The intestines of a dog are relatively short, which means that a dog will likely need to eliminate soon after eating. 

Dogs commonly need to relieve:

  • First thing in the morning  
  • After each feeding
  • Following exercise or excitement
  • After a long period of rest or sleep

Class Relieving Schedule

You will be relieving your dog at the following times:

  1. Soon after rising
  2. Before the morning lesson 
  3. After morning lesson
  4. Before afternoon lesson 
  5. After afternoon lesson and feeding
  6. Before bedtime

When you receive your dog, we will describe the leash relief procedure in detail, and you will begin practicing the technique right away at specific times during class.  By graduation, you will have a good idea of how to adapt the class schedule to one that is suitable for your home lifestyle and routine.

Common Leash Relieving Behavior

Knowing whether or not your dog has actually emptied can sometimes be a challenge.  Here are some general signs of relieving behavior:

  • Moving about, circling and sniffing are precursors to relieving. 
  • Many dogs will move to the end of the leash to get some distance from you before doing their business. 
  • A dog hunches its back while defecating and slants its back downwards during urination. Some males may lift a leg during urination.
  • Oftentimes, dogs relieve more than once during a session.
  • A dog that is still moving around and doing a lot of sniffing is probably not yet finished and needs more time.
  • You will learn that smell and sound can also be clues.

Picking Up After Your Dog

Many states, counties, and cities have clean-up laws that pertain to pet owners.  Although some of those laws exempt guide dogs, we hope that our alumni are responsible dog handlers and pick up after their dogs in public places. Instructional staff will explain how to pick up after your dog.

Unscheduled Relieving

When first leash relieving in class, it is normal for some dogs to refuse to relieve during the scheduled time. Therefore, they may need to relieve between the scheduled relief times. If your dog is uneasy, pants heavily, whines or seems to want to go out, it is a good indication that he needs to relieve. If this happens during the day, immediately take your dog on leash to the relieving area. A dog that really needs to be relieved will do so quickly. Keep your dog moving and do not talk or play with the dog. Remain businesslike. You don’t want your dog to think that 3:00 in the morning is a good time to be up.


It is not unusual for dogs to have accidents, especially when in the process of learning to leash relieve for a new handler. Accident clean-up is a part of having a dog. You can clean soiled spots with a clean, wet cloth and cleaning products made for this purpose (Nature’s Miracle®, Simple Solution™, Mother’s Little Helper®, etc.).  These products effectively remove the scent so the dog will not relate to that spot as a relieving area.

GDB Class Feed, Water, and Relief Schedule 

These times are rough guidelines and may vary depending on the class daily schedule.

7:00 AM Feed, Water, Relieve

8:15 AM Relieve

11:45 AM Water & Relieve

12:45 PM Relieve

4:30 PM Feed, Water, Relieve

7:00 PM Water

8:30 PM Relieve

Audio Streaming

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