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Articles - Food Guarding

by Caroline Kjall at DogBasics

Does your dog growl and/or snarl over his food bowl? Have you been adviced to take the bowl away from them to show that you are in control? PLEASE read this article before you do anything!

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Excerting dominance in a situation where an animal, be it a dog, guinea pig or human, is in a protective mindset, will only aggrevate the situation.

You need to fix the fear issue before you try to teach your dog how to behave around the food. You can only fix the fear of loosing their food by making it clear to them, by way of action, that

Human + Food bowl = Keep food AND Get Better food!
(without any messy handling of bowls, which will make them nervous)

This is what you should do:
Put the food bowl down with a small portion of their regular food and back away from the dog.

No matter what the dog is doing - snarling, growling, snapping, or just eating fast - you throw him a handfull of extra yummy treats over his head or right next to him, so he can't miss it. These treats have to be extra good, not just Smachoes, you are better off with ham, chicken, meatballs, sausages, etc. As soon as you've given the treats, walk away.

Avoid conflict at all cost
There is no point in telling them NO or removing the food bowl, it would only aggrevate the conflict between you.

Wait until they've left the bowl well alone (walked out of the room), fill it up with another little portion of their regular food and start the whole process again.

When your dog rather looks at you and your treats than eating their boring, regular food, or eat their food but lift their heads from the bowl at just a gentle whisper off their name, you are getting somewhere.

When you have a dog that wags his tail with ears pricked forward and expectantly looks at you when you approach the food bowl, then you've reached your goal!

This exercise has NOTHING to do with dominance. It is about fixing a relationship that is broken. The only reason the dog is using aggression towards you is because he/she doesn't trust you, in that particular situation.

Agression is used in all species to control distance to the items/individuals that we are upset about, so why can't we accept a dogs request for distance and give them a chance to eat in peace?

Make them love having humans near their food bowl by loading them with positive experiences around the food bowl, rather than punishing them and trying to dominate them, when the situation is already filled with conflict. It can backfire so very badly and you can never guarantee that that dog that has been trained to fear you won't have a back flash to their old ways in a specific situation (if they are in pain, a specifically annoying human is hovering around their food, or on a really stressful day).

Feel the need to show your power?
If you feel you have to use dominance to train your pet, you should only use it when you are both in a stable and calm mood, not when you and/or the dog are upset, stressed or frightened!

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