Possessiveness Over Food

Posted by | August 08, 2009 | Unwanted Behaviours | 18 Comments

Prior Knowledge

First things first you need to change how your dog feels about you being around food.  You need to teach your dog to leave it. It is good to understand your dogs behaviour by reading their body language. As soon as you are more familiar with your dog’s body language, you can move on to feeding.  When dogs freeze this is an indication they are about to nip or bite. You need to be completely ready for this and pre-empt your dog getting to this level.  Learning how to feed your dog properly is useful knowledge to have at this stage.

Feeding in small quantities

When feeding your puppy or dog put the food into three different portions and three different bowls.  Ask your dog to sit before you give the food. Then put one bowl down, wait for your dog to finish then the next and so on until the dog has eaten all three bowls. This teaches the dog that you provide the food and that you being around when they are eating is actually a positive thing. Repeat this for a few days.

Next you can begin putting a quarter of the dog’s food in the bowl, once your dog has finished it you can then add another quarter and so on until you have fed the dog.  Do not touch your dog when you are doing this, it will teach your dog their space will not be invaded yet, when you do approach you will giving them more food, allowing them to make a positive association between you being near them and food being constantly put in the bowl.  Feeding the dogs treats whilst praising your dog is good to build up a sense of trust between you both.  Once you notice your dog is becoming more relaxed around their food you can teach them to lift their head up whilst eating to give them an extra tasty treat. This will help break the cycle of obsession of the food in their bowl.

Things to avoid when feeding your dog

Try to avoid feeding your dog in noisy busy environments, put aside an area where they will not be pestered.  Feeding in a crate can be a good option, especially if you have children running about.  Do not take the dogs food away from them whilst they are eating, this can cause the dog to be protective over their food.

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  • Linda says:

    My puppy used to gobble up her dog roll mixed kibbles really quickly, which I taught because she liked the dog roll a LOT!! One day, she suddenly growled and tried biting my hand when I reached for her food, even though I practise adding food in her bowl and talking to her while she eats. After a few days of hand feeding and others, I was able to reduce it to only growling. Now, I can put my finger in her bowl, and she’ll stop eating and look at me to give her food back!!! I think she’s starting to look at me as the pack leader!!!

  • Louise says:

    Good stuff! Glad you are doing well :) Love to get the feedback.

  • Chris Lynch says:

    Do you have any tips on just aggression in general, my fella is fine with food, I can take it away, give him more and he will not growl etc… But at night and ONLY at night, after his walk and food and poop/pee. We will let him come into the Sitting room and sit on the couch with us. We have a kong for him to play with when on the couch, but he gets bored with it and then starts to try and chew on us, when we correct him, move him away, say no etc.. he starts to growl.. If he keeps it up we put him out into his den and when he stops crying and relaxes we will bring him back in but then the monster comes out again…..
    We are going to stop bringing him into the sitting room soon if we cannot clam him down. We can’t rub him or even touch him without him growling..

    Any Tips that can be applied in this situation..

    • Louise says:

      You need to make sure you follow through when you tell him off. So when he does begin this behaviour you lead him straight off the couch. If he persists then put him out, like you have been doing. If he is not responding to this think about your tone of voice when you tell him off…is it firm enough? You do not have to be physical, but you do have to have authority. Keep calm but be firm. Use the ‘no’ in a low tone and calmly lead him by the collar off the sofa. If you are not consistent with this and even once allow him to growl and stay it will persist. Watch him for signs when you can tell he is about to growl and tell him ‘no’ before the cycle begins. Through careful monitoring you can learn at which point he is about to go down that road and look out for triggers.

  • Chris Lynch says:

    Hi Thanks for the advise, but I think I got to the bottom of it. We have the chewing under control by now, he will still mouth us but in a playful way and not bite, if he does bite and growl a simple low but firm No or Hey (he respond to the hey, mush more so then the No), but both work….. as he knows the next thing that will follow is that he will be put out of the room,

    Also after his walk to play time in the garden, we do not bring him in until he has completely relaxed, to the point that he will lie down on the patio step until he is called in, works a treat also…


    • Louise says:

      I am so glad things are going well for you! You will have to send me a link to a pic. I am considering putting some kind of gallery of dogs in training on here when i get an update!

  • Rachael says:

    hi i totally agree with not taking your dogs bowl away from it when it is feeding its not yours to take away from them its theirs i add cheese to my puppy rottweilers food bowl as shes eating with out touching her and shes fine with me standing beside her at her bowl and approaching her. in gaurding breeds and most oyther breeds taking the bowl away does encourage food agression in the wild wolves are the same the alpha pair will have their fill first then when they finished the lower ranking pack members are allowed to eat but not once do the aplha pair go back and dominate the kill and take the food away from the lower mrmbers they know they have had the best parts and dont go back for scraps the only time the aplha pair will interfere with a lower rank member at feeding time is if a lower ranking member tries to interfere with them at their fill. the little pats of understanding behaviour in animals goes a long way into their ancestry and works wonders if you do your research well .

  • Deirdre says:

    Hi. I have two dogs one is a year old the other is just 4 months. The older dog is female and has always been the alpha in her pack. We originally had her and another puppy adopted at the same time, unfortuanately her brother died about 2 months ago and now we have a new puppy that we have introduced to her. She is fine with him in all aspects with the exception of when we give them each their own chew. She is always trying to get his as well as her own and then she does not let him have his back. We tell her no firmly and give it back to the puppy, but she always goes back to get his. Then he stands there and barks at her to give it back. She then becomes aggressive towards him and tries to keep both, even if she doesn’t eat them right away. One final point, when they eat their Kibble there is no food aggression what so ever she plays well with him and even lets him tug on her ears. I would just like to tackle this problem of aggression with the chews before it gets out of hand. Do you think I should contain her in her sleeping area (bathroom) when she misbehaves this way and doesn’t listen to our “firm” no’s? Any suggestions are surely welcome.

    • Louise says:

      I would start working with really low level and treats they can both eat quickly like a large biscuit. Praise her for eating her own treat and as soon as she has finished remove her from the room with the puppy. You can even attach a lead whilst she eats her chew and then engage her in a game whilst your puppy eats his.

  • Angela says:

    How can I stop my gsd pup (10 wks old-bitch) from taking her bisuits out of her bowl to eat them,
    Plus we take her out in the garden after waking, eating and play and she will do a wee, but after a few minutes of been in she with wee anywhere……
    I understand its early days with many teething promblems of which im sure will correct themselves with training.

  • Denise says:

    I have two puppies, one is a bitch at 8.5 months and the other is a dog 5.5 months. They both get on so well except when it comes to food. If I leave them alone with the food she keeps protection over the two bowls and snaps at the dog if he goes near the food and they end up fighting.
    Lately,I monitor their eating and after a short period I take away the food once they have stopped eating which is usually around 10-15 minutes and during this time they come up to me to be petted also. This is because I cannot trust them alone with the food.
    What do I do to stop this behaviour in her???

    • Louise says:

      Unfortunately this is not a quick fix situation and you are also dealing with the hormones of adolescent dogs. If she has not yet had her first season it will undoubtedly be around the corner, so her hormones will be raging, which can make matters like these worse. Check with you vet that she is physically okay before you begin habituating her to the other dog eating in her company.

      I would then begin simply by giving them treats when they can see each other and reward her for focussing on you rather than the other dog. You can build up to feeding them at a distance, such as opposite ends of the garden, whilst supervised, slowly decreasing the gap. It is never recommended that you feed both of your dogs too closely together as competition will arise.

  • Taylor says:

    Hi, I’m having trouble with my pup also. We just got him. He is 5 months old and I also have a cat. The problem were having is the dog likes to attack the cat! When he does this I tell him NO! Sometimes, he walks away but, most of the time he stops for a second and then goes right back at it! I’m not sure what to do anymore. I don’t want the cat to feel like he has been abandoned because we got the puppy. Any advice?

  • becky waterhouse says:

    hi there,i have a puppy 9 weeks old he is a cavachon he was very playful but the last couple of days he not as much.I took him the vets last week as he had a very sore belly so he had an injection which solved it,the vet set put him on a bland diet so he is having that,but in the last 2 days he is becoming obsessed with food and just waits to be fed again,it looks like he is sulking as he enjoying his food finally,he will play for a little at a time but thats it can puppies sulk?

    • it is likely to be that he is happy with enjoying his food again! Make the most of it and use some of his dinner as treats and get him to do some tricks (see our quick tricks guide) and you can bond with him that way. Pup’s like babies sleep a lot! breed dependant a 15 min play can lead to a 2hr snooze, so don’t worry, keep in touch with your vet and enjoy him as much as he is enjoying his new food!

  • Allison G. says:

    We have a 13 week old Border Collie, German Shepard, Husky Mix female. When we feed her in her bowl she growls at us when we get to close or when we try to pet her. If we hold the bowl or feed her by hand she is fine. We have been making her sit and stay before eatting and taking the bowl away if she growls but nothing has changed. She eats her food so quick regardless how small we break out the food portions. We also just noticed that if we are trying to make her stay before we feed her and pet her on the head or ears she tries to nip at us. Any suggestions? She also likes to jump and nip at our clothes and back of our legs. What should we do for this?

  • H says:

    I have an american bulldog and he used to be the same a lot of people on here will give you mixed advise some people are saying YOU the alpha (pack leader) should make him sit then eat out of the bowl first then give your pup a command to come join you but have your hand in the bowl but don’t move your hand if your pup growls push them back and make them sit do not take the food bowl away move them away that way keep this up on all feed and withing 2 months you will be able to stroke your pup put your hand in the bowl and even pick the bowl up while they are eating

  • rebecca davies says:

    hiya guys i have a one year old JRT he is a lovely boy who likes evry one exept my brother! he only seen him twice and the twice he is very nervouse and growls at him and tries to nip him..but he will let my brother stroke him sometimes! also my dog had a bone last nite my huband tried to tell him to go out the kitchen because it was time for bed..whilts having his bone in his mouth my partner tried to stop him running bain the livingroon my dog turned round and tried to bite his foot im really worried…is this becaues he is protective of his food?? i couldnt bare for him to start bighting any advice please xxx

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