Does your dog get too excited when you are preparing their food? Do they dive into their bowl and protect it from intruders? Are you able to pick up their bowl, mid-meal, and take it from them? For that matter can you even get near their bowl? A dog who trusts and respects their person should be calm when you approach their bowl and they should willingly back away from it as you go to pick it up. Ahh, the good life.
The best way to teach a dog about food manners is to set them up for success in the first place. While preparing their food you need to claim the space around you. You wouldn’t want your dinner guests crowding you as you try to prepare their meal so you shouldn’t let your dog do it either. They should not jump up, bark at you or press into your legs. You can ‘shoo’ them out of the room or just out of your way, and give it a word like “out” to reinforce it. This is a subtle way to claim your space, and if the dog respects your request then they should back away. Now that your dog is calm and out of your way you can prepare their food. If they creep back in then ‘out’ they go again. Dogs will typically only challenge you 3-5 times if you are clear and consistent.
Prepare his food in a calm manner; do not succumb to his whining or intense energy. He should not get rewarded for demanding his meal from you. You will share it with him when he is calm and has good manners. But if his energy says “FEED ME NOW!” just be patient until he calms down and he will quickly learn that calmness wins.
When the meal is ready, and he is behaving calmly you can feed him. Invite your dog in to “sit/stay” and step away from the dog by a few feet. When your dog is sitting calmly and looks into your eyes, you can release him to the food with an invitation like “let’s eat” and you can lower the food just low enough so he can eat –keeping your hands on the bowl. In 5-10 seconds, or if he gets too excited, pick the bowl up without delay and add a word of association like “enough” or “done”. Repeat the same routine until the dog can calmly eat for longer periods of time without getting too excited.
You could also set him up for a pleasant surprise by walking by and tossing a tasty morsel into his bowl. This creates a positive association with you approaching his bowl.
Slow feeders (which you can buy at any dog store) are great to help your dog pace himself. Some dogs eat too quickly and seem to inhale their food. Slow feeders make them work for their food and slows the meal down a bit.
A great game is to toss the kibble across the floor or yard and have them hunt for every morsel. This makes the meal more interesting and fun for your dog.
If you feed raw diet, then stuff the meat into an empty marrowbone and freeze it. This will keep your dog busy for a long time while he empties his meal from the bone.
If a dog claims his food, space or things it is usually a lack of trust or respect for you. It is always the person’s responsibility to ensure their dog has good manners, and that only comes with time well spent training, socializing and setting clear boundaries. A healthy relationship is a balance of love, trust and respect.
Love them & Lead them,
~ Doug & Elizabeth