Food Bowl Desensitization | Winnipeg Humane Society
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Food Bowl Desensitization

Dogs that guard food from people are not acting out of dominance.

Food guarding is a defensive behaviour, the dog is defending his food. If no one approaches and/or attempts to take his food you will not see aggression as he does not need to defend it.

  • We recommend that a dog be left alone with his food.
  • Feed in a low traffic area, and feed on two scheduled feedings daily.
  • Do not free feed (leave food down all of the time).  If the dog doesn’t finish his portion, pick it up and save it for the next feeding.
  • If there are young children in the home that might approach the dog while eating, we recommend the dog be fed behind a closed door so that the child does not disturb the dog.

Punishment procedures make guarding behaviour worse. It could be suppressed temporarily but the dog is likely to respond with a higher level of aggression after the temporary suppression. By punishing the dog you convince him that your approach is a very bad thing.

If you do want to work on making the dog more comfortable with people being around his food bowl, you can work on changing the defensive state of mind to one that happily anticipates your approach. Please be aware that guarding behaviour cannot be cured. At any time the dog could become defensive if he anticipates someone will take his food. The following suggestions should only be implemented by an adult. If at any time the dog demonstrates aggression (including stiffening, growling, or snapping), discontinue and contact a professional.

In order to change the dog’s attitude about approaches to his food dish give him a reason to welcome your approach. Walk by and toss a special treat his way – toward the bowl or into the bowl – and walk away. Over time you should see the dog is relaxed and will lift his head in anticipation of getting the special tidbit.