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English: Canadian White Shepherd, 9 months Deu...

English: Canadian White Shepherd, 9 months Deutsch: Schweizer Schäferhund, 9 Monate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Food guarding is a serious problem in multiple dog or dog/children households.  If your dog is guarding his food he will growl or snap if someone gets too close to their food.

The first large dog my family had that I remembered was a white german shepherd stray we named Lady.  She became a wonderful dog, but when we first started caring for her she was horrible and guarding her food.  She wouldn’t allow anyone to be in the same area as her when she was eating.  Her area was very large.  It usually encompassed the entire two car garage.  My father was very cautious that all entrances to the garage were blocked so that we wouldn’t get bitten.  Lady even guarded against my mother.

This can be a very simple problem to cure, but it is also time consuming. You want to start with the person that your dog trusts most around his or her food bowl.

  • Remove the food bowl entirely.  Do not allow your dog to eat from it.
  • Measure the amount of food your dog should recieve each meal.
  • With an inside dog, get comfortable.  Find a good recliner or sofa and settle in.  Feel free to watch tv or listen to music.  With an outside dog, dress for the weather and find a comfortable chair.
  • Take one piece of food at a time and give it to your dog.  Keep your hand flat (like a pancake, if you need to explain to a child) and put the food in the center.  This will discourage finger nipping.
  • If there is any growling, attempting to steal food, or finger nipping, remove the food and ignore your dog entirely for one or two minutes.  Any longer and they will have no clue what happened.
  • Repeat as necessary for all your dog’s meals.
  • After a few days, have someone else feed your dog a piece of food only if that person isn’t afraid of your dog.  You need to have other adults help you until you are confident in your dog’s ability to take food patiently and gently.

Our next section will cover how to get your dog’s food back in their bowl and out of  your hands without your dog returning to old habits.