When it comes to food, our dogs can get really gross!
Not only in terms of their preferred tastes, such as the taste of decay, garbage and spoiled food leftovers, but also the way many a four-legged friend shows in relation to his feed.
Does your dog growl while eating or defend its food? You’re right not in the mood for him to threaten you?
This is good, because your dog can and should learn to control his appetite for food.
In this article, we explain what food envy is all about and how you can turn your dog into a relaxed connoisseur.
In a nutshell: limit your dog’s food envy
The good news first: food envy is easy to get under control if you work on it continuously and in small steps.
Maybe your dog has had to fight for his food in the past, whether it was due to many siblings and feeding mistakes from the owners or because he had to fend for himself on the street.
Defending resources is part of the normal behavior of our dogs. But it goes without saying that you don’t have to be growled at. Your dog can understand that, too, when he learns that he doesn’t have to fight for his food, that you don’t take anything away from him, and that he gets something regularly.
Why do dogs defend their food?
It is in the dog’s nature to be self-sufficient and to defend its resources. A dog’s most important resource is its food.
The fight for the most coveted teats on mum’s breast begins as early as puppies. The little ones struggle and push each other around to get the most of it. This is where you can see who has great fighting spirit.
However, food envy per sé is mainly caused by human intervention (feeding errors) or bad conditions for the dog (hunger).
How does food envy arise?
Most dogs are reluctant to share their food. Foreign dogs have lost nothing of this valuable resource – one can understand that, but:
If your dog starts to growl, freeze, or even snap at you while you’re eating, that’s where the fun ends!
But how is it that a dog feels the need to defend its food so strongly?
This is often due to feeding errors caused by humans.
Feeding mistake no. 1: Hectic atmosphere when eating
Many breeders find that puppies learn to share their food by eating from a large shared bowl.
However, that is not true. The little ones have to assert themselves against their siblings in order to get something. They devour and develop a hunger for food.
Feeding mistake #2: Taking away food
Yes, your dog should always accept if you take away his bowl or chew bone. He shouldn’t have to worry about you doing this all the time, though.
This creates insecurity, his trust in you will suffer, and he may start defending his food.
Can food envy arise from bad experiences?
In addition to the feeding mistakes just mentioned, it can also be the case that your dog brings back food envy from the past.
Have you adopted a dog from an animal shelter? (We think that’s great!)
Don’t forget that many animal protection dogs and former street dogs have already had to fight to survive! Many of them suffered great hunger and constantly had to assert themselves against stronger ones.
Maybe that’s the reason for your dog grumbling at the food bowl?
Train food envy away? It works with these 5 tricks!
It doesn’t matter too much why your dog is defending his bowl. The approach to making him a relaxed connoisseur is the same.
Tip 1: Create a relaxed atmosphere
First, you should make sure that your dog can eat in a relaxed and calm atmosphere. Instruct other family members to leave him alone during this time.
Tip 2: Establish a routine
Establish a routine so your dog knows when food is available and that he is getting food on a regular basis.
Tip 3: Portion the food
Proceed in small steps: divide the feed ration into several portions. Once the bowl is empty, you can carefully refill it. In this way, your dog will learn that your hand on the bowl is welcome because it provides delicious supplies.
Tip 4: Feed from your hand
If your dog is a fearful eater and tends to inhale his food in a short amount of time, try hand-feeding him for a while. This creates trust and strengthens your bond.
Tip 5: Create distance between multiple dogs
Is your second dog jealous of your first dog? Make enough space between the two so everyone is left alone at their bowl. Make it clear to the dog that is defending its food in a clear voice that it is not allowed to do so.
Regardless of the reason your dog defends its food, thanks to you it can now learn that it can save itself this negative energy.
Create a relaxed atmosphere for your excited feeder and let him watch quietly as you prepare his food.
As you gradually add small portions to the bowl, your dog will learn that your hand is delivering great things and not taking anything away from him.
As always, the most important tools are patience, serenity, understanding, trust, respect, and love, among others.
Would you like to learn more about the behavior of our dogs? Then take a look at our dog training bible. Here you will find valuable tips and tricks for dealing with your dog properly.