Food is a precious resource for dogs so they will do whatever it takes to protect their meal. It is called food guarding.
If adult dogs are food guarding, it is possibly due to the behaviour being reinforced by its owners or by the shelter if it’s a rescue dog. Those dogs may have had to compete for food which allowed them to rehearse these behaviours to protect this scarce resource. Therefore, they will use the same strategy again and again to protect their food.
Some people confuse this behaviour with dominance, stubbornness or naughtiness. That is FALSE! Show your dog that it can use another strategy when it’s lunch or dinner time and it will change its behaviour.
- Drop the food from your hand into your dog’s bowl. It will associate your hand with food and will be less stressed as time goes by.
- Use two bowls during feeding time. While your dog is eating from one, lay the other one down with more food. Start doing this exchange game. When the dog moves to bowl A, add a treat to bowl B and so on. Your dog will see the reward as the bowl being returned with something tasty in it.
- After a few repetitions of step number 2, use one bowl and add food/ treats to it while your dog is eating. This sends the message to your dog that you are not a threat.
Each step should be practised slowly and carefully until the dog’s behaviour changes. The goal is to open a new idea in your dog’s mind that you are not a threat and it can trust you.