You’ve probably heard it a hundred times: “Don’t bother the dog while he’s eating.” This is probably good advice for small children who shouldn’t be trying to play with the dog at mealtime. However, a dog that’s always by himself when he eats may be learning a lesson about food aggression in dogs that you’d rather he didn’t.
In the wild, the leader of the dog pack is always the first one to eat, usually by himself. It’s easy for your dog to get the wrong idea if you always leave him alone at mealtime. This can lead to aggressive dog behavior in the form of him snapping or growling at anyone who ventures too close while he’s eating.
Don’t Let Dog Food Aggression Get Started
When your dog is still a puppy, always feed him after you and your family have already eaten. This reinforces the idea for him that you and your family members all rank above him in the pack.
When you do feed your puppy, anyone should be able to approach him while he’s eating. It’s best to add a little morsel like a piece of cheese or turkey hot dog to his dish once in a while. Giving him a little treat like this teaches him that having people come close while he’s eating is OK.
Four Steps To Control Food Aggression In Dogs
An older dog who is already using aggressive dog behavior to protect his food will require different training.
Spend about ten to fourteen days on each of these steps. You’ll need to do these things every time you feed your dog. If your dog is extremely aggressive around food, you may need to keep him on a leash for your own protection.
The first thing you’ll do is to put his food dish away for a couple of weeks. Your dog will be eating out of your hand for a while. Feed him just a few pieces of dog food at a time, until his meal is finished. This teaches him that you are the one in charge of the food, not him.
After a couple of weeks, you can progress to the next stop. Get out your dog’s food bowl again, but don’t put anything in it. After a while, walk by and drop a couple of pieces of kibble in it. When he eats it, keep adding small handfuls of food every couple of minutes until his meal is finished. At this point, he’ll probably be begging you to walk up to his bowl.
In about ten days, you’ll progress to putting a half-filled bowl of dog food on the floor. Walk up to him as he’s eating, and as you go by, drop in a couple of treats. The walk up again and add the rest of his food.
The last step is to put a full bowl of food down for him while he’s obeying the sit-stay command. He does not eat until you release him. This is where the leash comes in handy, as you have control over him for this step, but hopefully you won’t need to use it. Once or twice a week, call him over to you while he’s eating and reward him with a treat he really likes.
Always use the sit-stay, wait, and take-it commands when you feed him so that your dog understands that you’re in charge of the food. This reinforces your status as the alpha dog for him.
If your dog reverts to his old dog food aggression, start again at the first step.