Dog Problems: Food Guarding

Part of: The Most Common Dog Problems.

The idea of taking away food or toys as you please by using a gruff voice, smacking or other physical measures designed to suggest ‘dominance’ is not  good advice.  It may work for the head of the family, or even for other adults – but what about children?  What about visiting children?  What if you are not around to supervise?  If food possession becomes a question of dominance, the dog is likely to play the same game – aggression – to keep his prize.  It is far better therefore to teach the dog ‘the approach of a human is always a good thing’.

Practise lots of swaps – including things puppy is allowed to have, such as toys and chew bones.  Take the object away, look at it, and then give it back or swap it for something of higher value.  This will teach the dog that the approach of a human (no matter how big or small) is a good thing.

  • Either take away the food bowl altogether and feed the dog by hand for a week or two (he now has nothing to possess) OR
  • Put dry food only in the bowl.  Next, approach and toss in some cheese or other yummy treats – you’ve got the good stuff, he’s got the boring stuff, so its worth letting you come close.  Repeat until the dog wags his tail at your approach.
  • Divide the food into 3 or 4 several bowls, spaced well apart.  While he is eating from one, go and pick up one of the others and drop a few bits of food in.  Repeat.  The less ‘limited’ resources are, the less need to ‘guard’ them.
  • Throw four small chew bones to the dog – rather than one – and make a habit of picking them up and putting them down.
  • Although dogs deserve peace when they eat, they must also learn to tolerate the presence of people including children as this could occur at any time in a family situation. 
  • Initially put all plans of action into effect with adults only, then under supervision with the kids, and then (if old enough) kids alone.

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