When dogs guard stuff (e.g., their food, bones, toys, crates, sticks, their humans, trash and other items they steal, etc.), the term professionals use is “Resource Guarding.” They are guarding what THEY think is a valuable, prized resource and they don’t want anyone to even try to take it away from them. Resource Guarding is actually a “normal” canine behavior. It is a survival technique! However, when it happens in the home against his or her human family, or it happens with his or her housemates, it can become a dangerous behavior.
Did you ever see cute pictures of puppies eating their kibble out of a very large food bowl with the rest of their litter? The cuteness that we all laugh at is when one puppy pushes another puppy out of the way, and then that puppy has to find a way back to the bowl to get his food. That puppy may then push another puppy out of its way, and so on down the line. But it’s not cute! I sincerely wish breeders would not feed their puppies like this. People then purchase these adorable pups and one or more, or all of them may wind up being food guarders; now they have their own bowl and do not want anyone to approach when there’s food in it.
If you have a puppy that is between 8 and 12 weeks old, I am offering you the following protocol to follow NOW to prevent the behavior from becoming habitual. Follow my directions to the letter, whether your pup is guarding his food or not. This will teach your pup that there is no reason to have to guard food, toys, bones, etc.
PUPPY FOOD BOWL EXERCISES
Never isolate your dog outside for meals, or make him or her eat away from people:
Practice the following exercises randomly and NOT all at once! Do not make a habit of taking things away from your puppy because he should just give it up, or annoying your puppy at mealtimes. However, it is vitally important that puppy knows “good things happen to me when people and kids are around me when I’m eating my meals or chewing on bones.”
While puppy is eating, approach him, call his name, and stroke him ONCE, then walk away.
While puppy is eating, approach him, call his name, and reach toward the food dish and place a treat in the bowl. Then walk away.
While puppy is eating, sit on the floor a little away from him and keep puppy company while he’s eating. Don’t bother him though! Just let him eat in peace.
While puppy is eating, call his name, then show him a special treat and toss it away from the bowl. Quickly pick his bowl up before he comes back to you. When he returns to you, immediately place the bowl back on the floor.
NEVER JUST TAKE YOUR DOG’S FOOD AWAY FROM HIM OR HER FOR NO REASON
REMOVING BONES, EDIBLE CHEWIES & TOYS FROM YOUR DOG
- While puppy is chewing on his bone or other chew toy, place a treat over his nose. When he opens his mouth to get the treat, say, “drop it.” Give him the treat AND give him his chew toy back immediately. Practice teaching your pup a Drop It cue, and avoid using a food lure for than 2-3 times.
- While puppy is chewing on something, call his name, then toss a treat away from where he’s eating his chewy. When he goes to retrieve the treat, pick up the bone or chew toy he’s been chewing on and place it behind your back. When he comes back for it, give it back to him immediately.
- Anytime you have to take something of his away (bones, kongs, favorite toys, something he stole) from him or out of his mouth, make a food exchange for it. This will teach puppy that whenever you take his stuff, he can get something even better back and he might just get his bone or toy back too.
- A NOTE ABOUT CHILDREN: Teach your children never to pester your dog while he’s eating! However, they can sit on the floor away from the dog to keep him company. Please supervise everyone whenever the children are with your puppy!
Copyright: Renee Premaza 2020