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Dogs have a natural tendency to guard their possessions from other animals or humans. It is a part of their survival mechanism from their days in the wild. However, it is an undesirable trait in domestic pets, especially when it is directed towards people. Oftentimes, it is benign, but there are cases where it turns into full-blown aggression. Here are a few exercises you can try to prevent aggressive food guarding behavior in dogs:
- Stand a few feet from your dog as he eats food from his bowl. Ask him in a conversational tone “what do we have here?”, and toss a treat into his bowl at the same time. Continue to do this till he finishes eating. Repeat this each time you feed him till he begins to eat in a relaxed way.
- Once you are past the first step, but this time take a step towards his bowl each time you toss him a treat. Once you throw in the treat, step back. Repeat this till he has finished eating. Each day, go one step closer to him before you toss in the treat. Do this till you are at least two feet from his bowl. If he continues to remain relaxed for ten continuous meals, you can move on to the next stage.
- Repeat the first step till you toss your dog his treat. Then, turn around and walk away immediately. Repeat it every few seconds till he has finished eating. Do this for ten meals.
- Once you are past the third stage, do not toss him the treat. Stand next to him and hold the treat in your hand. Bend down a bit and hold it out just an inch toward his direction. If he eats it from your hand, turn around immediately and walk away. Repeat it every few seconds till he has completely finished eating. Each day, make sure you bend down a little more towards him, moving your hand closer to the bowl. Once you are near it, hold the treat right next to his bowl. Repeat this for ten meals till you are ready to move on to the next stage.
- Once you have crossed the previous stage, approach him and ask him “what have we got here?” in a conversational tone. Stand next to him and touch the bowl with one hand while you offer him food with the other. Repeat this for ten meals in a row.
- Once you are past stage five, repeat the conversational cue and lift the bowl just six inches off the ground and drop a special treat in it. Then return the bowl to him immediately so that he can eat peacefully. When you repeat it the next time, raise the bowl a little higher, till you take it all the way to the counter or the table before you drop a treat in it and return it to him.
If everything goes well, have all the other members of your family go through the same steps and make sure that your dog remains comfortable through the exercises. With enough practice, you will have trained him to be more trusting of his fellow humans without him realizing it.
While gaining this trust is a key part of this exercise, another aspect that you should not miss is the pet's stealing food. Scroll down to learn more about the same.
Top 3 Tips To Stop A Dog Stealing Food
When you consider dogs started out as scavengers, it's not surprising some dogs find it hard to resist sneaking a nibble from an unoccupied dinner plate or raiding a tray of appetizers left out for guests. So it's only natural then that people would see a dog stealing food. However, it is annoying, and it can also be hazardous to your dog’s health if they steal food that is poisonous to dogs. Fortunately, there are ways to teach your dog to keep their paws -- and tongue -- off the table. Let’s take a look.
Here are our top 3 tips to stop a dog from stealing food.
1. Don’t Let Your Dog Learn a Bad Habit
From the first time your dog successfully steals food from the table, they probably won’t hesitate to try it again. To prevent easy access to food, put away all leftovers, keep bread and baked goods in bins and jars, and keep foods that need to be left on the table or countertop in Tupperware containers. In addition, don’t feed your dog scraps from the table while you’re at the table. If you do, your dog may learn that it’s okay to take food from the table. If you wish to reward your dog with a bite of dog-friendly human food, take it to their bowl instead.
RELATED STORY: Your Dog Food Questions Answered
2. Teach the “No” and “Off” Commands
The “no” command will come in handy if you catch your dog in the act of stealing. However, you shouldn’t use the “no” command or otherwise punish your dog if they’ve already eaten the stolen food; they won’t understand why you’re upset. The “off” command is another useful command you can use if you have a small dog who jumps on tables or a large dog who counter surfs with its paws. Just remember never to “shoo” or push your dog off a table; they could get scared, fall, or injure themselves. Pick your dog up and put them down or let them jump off if it’s safe to do so.
3. Teach Your Dog to “Lie Down” When Food is Around
When you want to teach your dog to stop stealing or begging, the “lie down” command can be a real lifesaver. When food comes out, give your dog the command, wait for them to lie down, and then offer a treat. Keep offering treats every 15-20 seconds or so, even as you eat. After some practice, start spacing out the time between treats. In a matter of weeks, your dog should learn that they are more likely to get a snack if they lie down nicely than if they poke their nose around and beg. You can also integrate your dog’s bed or favorite blanket into this training. Ask them to lie down on their bed instead of the kitchen floor, then offer a treat. Your dog will learn that being on their bed earns them a jackpot, and over time you should be able to move their bed to an out-of-the-way location while you’re eating dinner or entertaining. Just be sure to keep rewarding your dog for its good behavior.
RELATED STORY: How to Calm Down a Dog
A Note About Deterrents
Some trainers recommend using deterrents such as tin can pyramids, booby traps, and cookie sheets that will make loud noises or scare your dog off when they attempt to steal food. However, these methods can sometimes do more harm than good as they may set your dog up to become anxious in the kitchen or afraid of everyday items like cans. If you find that your dog is stubborn and doesn’t respond to the other methods suggested above, talk to a trainer and see if deterrent training is a good technique for your particular dog. Does your dog steal food? Leave us a comment and let us know, and consider signing up for PetPlus, a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, vet visits, boarding, and more.