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Dog Looking at and Listening to a Phonograph, ...

Dog Looking at and Listening to a Phonograph, “His Master’s Voice”, The Original RCA Music Puppy Dog Logo Symbol for Advertising (Photo credit: Beverly & Pack)

I think it is safe to assume that you want to stop hand feeding your dog at some point.  You should try to wait at least a week before you move back to bowl feeding.  You don’t want to just set the bowl down filled with food and assume that your problem is solved.  It isn’t.  So far, all you’ve done is begin changing the way your dog thinks about his relationship with you and food.  Now, you need to change your dog’s association between the food bowl and you.

Behavior problems like food guarding can take time to solve.  Part of the reason is that your dog is used to getting his way on things.  He growls, you leave him alone.  I’m not saying that you should begin trying to take the food bowl with a growling dog.  Don’t do that, just be prepared to put in some more time changing the way your dog  views things.

Here are our steps for the next two weeks to solve this problem:

  • Measure out the amount of food your dog should eat per meal and take it with you.
  • Get your dog’s food bowl and set it beside the chair or couch.
  • Put one or two pieces in the bowl (yes, individual pieces of food.  You want your dog to associate you with being the food provider.  Repeat this for every meal.  Enjoy some television or a book while you do this.  There is no reason to be formal.
  • Continue with one or two pieces at a time until your dog has finished his meal.
  • Wait until your dog has lost interest and pick up the food bowl.  You want to be the one who provides both the bowl and the food.  Some trainers will call this showing dominance.  I think of it more as showing them where the good things come from.
  • After around a week begin putting small amounts of food in the bowl at a time.  Still, relax in your chair, enjoy your tv, and let your dog wait a little before you add more food.
  • Begin to reach for the bowl before your dog has lost interest.  Any signs of aggression such as raising of the lip, fur standing up, staring at your hand intently, or growling, stop reaching for the bowl and wait for your dog to loose interest before removing it.  Continue this for four or five days.  You are showing your dog that you control when the bowl is removed as well as when it comes back.
  • If at any point in this exercise you see signs of aggression, go back to the previous step for at least three days before moving forward.

After your dog performs well for you in any particular step you should have other members of your family do it.  If you do not, your dog may only associate you being the person he doesn’t need to guard against, but may exhibit the behavior with other members of your family.

To keep your dog from reverting to his previous behavior, on occasion hand feed your dog, or put a few pieces in the bowl at a time and then pick up the bowl.  I don’t recommend free feeding this dog.  They should be fed on a schedule.

Since your dog has a tendency towards food guarding, after you can both put the food down and pick the empty bowl back up you can move back to putting the food in the bowl and letting your dog eat normally while you go about your daily activities.Related articles