Great Expectations

I’ve been thinking about the dog’s dinner. I touched on the topic in “A (more than) fair exchange is no robbery”, but I have more to say. (Thanks to Savannah for reminding me of this important topic recently.)

I’ve seen a number of people on social media saying that it isn’t fair to expect a dog to allow a person to take his dinner, as it isn’t natural. While I think it’s nice that people are considering the dog’s feelings, I believe it’s in the dog’s best interests to learn to be relaxed about his food.

Pet food bowl

If a dog is possessive about his dinner, he may snap at someone who goes too close to him while he’s eating. The people who share his household may normally give him the necessary space while eating, but this is difficult to control if there are visitors. Things can happen very quickly. My bipeds are careful, but there have been occasions when a visitor has come right up to me when I’m eating. If a dog bites someone in that sort of situation, the dog will often have to be destroyed.

If a family’s situation changes and the dog needs a new home then his chances of getting a new family are reduced if he guards his food. Many rescue centres test a dog to see his suitability for rehoming. One of the tests they will perform is to see if the dog guards his food – if he does, he is not considered suitable to put on the list to find a home. What happens next depends upon the resources of the rescue centre, but resources are generally stretched – the dog’s chances of surviving are not good.

It’s easy to teach a puppy to be relaxed about people being near his food. It’s all about expectations – the puppy’s expectations. My bipeds started teaching me to expect good things to happen when they were near my food as soon as I went to live with them. They knew that Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, or Great Pyrenees, can get quite possessive about things even as young puppies, but it’s good to teach any breed of puppy to expect good things as soon as he comes to live with you.

Sometimes when they fed me, my bipeds picked the bowl up after a moment or two to put something nice in it and gave the meal straight back to me. At other times they just came by and popped a treat on the top while I was eating. Sometimes they moved the food aside to show me that there was something tastier hidden at the bottom. When we had visitors at mealtime, one of them would often drop a treat into my bowl.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t long before I was thrilled each time someone approached my food bowl – I had great expectations!

Grilled sausages

I hope they’re bringing sausages!

A few times a week, my bipeds still pop tasty things they’ve been saving for me into my bowl after I’ve started eating. Sometimes they take my bowl to mix the new item in. I’m always pleased because I know something better is coming my way!

More care needs to be taken with an adult dog that is nervous about people approaching his food. If it is safe to approach the dog then you can start with dropping an extra treat in the bowl. If in any doubt about the dog snapping at you then get the advice of a good trainer to remedy the situation. This can still be done by changing the expectations of the dog using positive reinforcement, without making the dog feel threatened.

I’m feeling a bit hungry now with all this talk of food – I hope they’ve saved something tasty to go on my dinner!

See you next Wednesday!

67 thoughts on “Great Expectations

  1. Good sound advice Clowie!!! Since my baby Jeep would prefer to eat all the time….. feeding time was never a challange…I have socialized him with his fellow pack members and they respect each other’s feed. He is very good and patient and waits his turn if there are treats to be had…cannot imagine a child or person being bitten over food but I know it happens everyday! Thanks for keeping us on track Clowie very important!!!!

    • Thank you! It sounds as though you’re doing really well with Jeep. There’s only one thing I would like to say – attitudes can change very quickly during adolescence, so keep up the good work!

  2. Shiner will try to guard her food around certain people, so I usually feed her alone. She doesn’t want anyone else to eat it, although I don’t think anyone here would.

  3. This was such a great post and I’m glad you brought attention to it! When we first adopted Mika, she was food protective, but I worked with her using the techniques you mention in this post, and now she is absolutely pawfect with someone touching her bowl. I have kids, one of which is a toddler and even though I don’t let my daughter near the dogs while they eat, I still can never be to careful, so knowing that Mika is fine with her food now makes me feel safer about my kids. (If that made sense)
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

    • Thank you. What you’ve said makes perfect sense to me. However careful you are, things can happen so quickly in a split-second while you’re attention is elsewhere – knowing your dog won’t react gives you time to get things back under control.

  4. Clowie – consider your bowl well and truly topped up with treats. What a great post – food guarding can be a huge issue and your simple tips are spot on! Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you very much. It is an important issue and it’s so easily avoided with young dogs. I’m looking forward to my dinner now!

  5. Very wise words and great advice as always Clowie!!! Those sausages looked yummy too – now I’m hungry for my breakfast…….tee hee

    Hugs, Sammy

  6. this is true, momwithoutpaws makes us wait before we start eatting till she says yes, then sometimes she puts her fingers in the bowl and we are to sit and wait again. You are a good biped. woof!

    • I have to wait to start eating as well. They started that when I was a puppy – they said I have to have good manners at my size.

  7. Well said, C. I am not possessive about anything, but Mom will do this anyway, in case I grow old and crabby. I’m looking forward to having a few extra bites of goodies while I “learn.”

    Love and licks sausages – yay,

    • Thank you, Cupcake. That sounds like really good news – extra treats to learn what you know! But it never does any harm to be reminded with the help of treats!

  8. It’s something we taught Mity from an early age and when I took on BD I also made sure to check he was fine with me taking his bowl. It doesn’t happen very often, but it is nice to know that there would be no issues if I ever did need to take it for any reason or if someone got to close to them when they were eating!
    A brilliant post (as always!)

  9. Great post. Luckily no problems with food here apart from drooling when the peeps eats LOL. Have a wonderful Wednesday.
    Best wishes Molly

  10. A post about food! Great! I’m only a pain in the ass when my staff eats, but we have no problems with the food in my bowl. Except that I always gulped it down within seconds. Therefore I’ve got a bowl with obstructions inside…. that’s a torture… but at least the obstructions are heart-shaped :o)

  11. We had a doxie when I was young that guarded her food and it was way back when we knew nothing about how dangerous it could be. My Dad thought it was funny and he teased her. She was all growly and teeth showing but no bite.. but that could have changed quickly. Fortunately my Dad stopped with his bad behavior and the doxie eventually stopped her behavior. I have seen this on TV and usually it isn’t a good outcome for the dog. Amazing how we learn how misinformed or ignorant we were years ago. Thankfully we learn new things and hopefully do better for the animals that share our homes and deserve respect and love. Clowie you are so lucky to have your bipeds.. all dogs and cats should be so lucky.

    • I’m glad your dog calmed down and nothing bad happened to anyone. I’m glad to say that there have been improvements in the way dogs are trained – not for all, but for many.
      I know I’m lucky, I wish all animals could have good homes.

  12. Our little (did I say little? 100 lb black lab mix) was never possessive of his food ‘bowl’, always welcomed a tasty tidbit being thrown in the mix…however, if he had a bone that was a whole ‘nother situation. He’d growl and sometimes snap if I tried to take the bone away when it became too small and I feared he’d choke on it. So…I stopped giving bones, which was unfortunate because he loved them so. He’s gone now, we lost him a year ago to cancer, but I always wondered if it was something I was doing wrong that made him so different when it came to bones. For future reference dear Clowie, is there something I could do better?

    • Bones and some long-lasting chews are valued very highly and it’s harder to be sensible about them. My bipeds always kept two on the go when I was young. They would regularly ask me to swap. The one they were offering was always larger than the one I had. I had to hand my chew or bone over each mealtime before I was fed – sometimes I had to think hard about that! When I had the idea they frequently asked me for the chew, gave me a treat and then gave the chew back.
      Once or twice as an adult, if I haven’t had one for a while, I’ve hunched over a bone to protect it. The bipeds have then stood near me with a treat and offered it to me. After a couple of times I’ve relaxed again and will hand the bone or chew over if they want it.

      • That makes such sense! I wish I’d have thought of it with my special boy…but will absolutely remember it when my house is again a home where the pitter pat of toenails make music! Thank you. 🙂

        • You’re welcome, I’m glad I could give you some suggestions. It does take some time and patience with something as prized as a bone.

  13. We drooled so much when we saw that photo of the sausages that we could hardly see the rest of the page. Very important post because we know that some of our furry family out in the world have landed in shelters because of food aggression when they could have been trained as puppies to relax, as you bark. Clowie, you’re the best and we love you! Max, Bella, and Lady Luck ❤

    • I thought the sausages would get your attention! Like a lot of things, it’s much better to prevent the issue than have to cure the problem. Enjoy your weekend!

  14. Those sausages do look good Clowie! I do agree though. I have always handled my dogs bowls, toys and food while they have had them to make sure they don’t guard. They love the excitement of what little ‘treat’ they might get. Both my brother’s dogs have issues and it is frightening to deal with. Now both of them regret not working with their dogs and have to warn everyone who is around during feeding time or when playing with certain toys.
    Marty’s Mom

    • It’s lovely to know that there’s an extra treat on its way!
      It must be very worrying to deal with dogs that are unpredictable around food and toys. It must be quite stressful for the dogs as well. It’s worth the time taken to avoid these issues.

      • I know, I wish my brothers would have listened when I tried to educate them when their dogs were young 😦

        • Yes, it’s difficult. You can’t make people listen. We know a dog who grew up frightened of almost everything because he was encouraged to be as a puppy – his bipeds wouldn’t listen. It makes my bipeds sad to see him.

  15. That is excellent advice Clowie!

  16. Great post, Clowie!… DID anybody ever drop you a sausage in?? You know, I hadn’t really thought about the implications of a dog that is possessive over his food and his bowl like that before.
    I’m just lucky I guess, we have always been able to pick the bowl up and move it around without fear of the pups snapping.
    Hugs, Carrie and pups x

    • Thank you. I have occasionally had a sausage dropped in my bowl. But they tell me I mustn’t have too many sausages – I don’t see how it’s possible to have too many!
      Some breeds are more prone to guarding things than others, it can be quite worrying. I’m glad yours are all relaxed about their food.

  17. You are absolutely correct, and that goes for treats and bones as well. We all had to learn to give up a bone when we were really into it without growling or snapping. It may seem rude, but it is something us doggies need to learn.

    • Yes, it’s in our own interests to be relaxed about people near our food, treats and toys. I found it a lot harder to learn to part with a bone than my dinner!

  18. Clowie, This is one of the best lessons you have taught me. I am beginning to think I would be a very good Biped for a doggie puppy, and if I had more time I would seriously consider it. Thank you for these wonderful lessons. Take care, Biped Bill

    • Thank you, I’m glad you liked it. I’m sure any puppy would be very lucky to have you as his biped – he’d have a smiling face and a wagging tail!

  19. Such excellent advice … of course, coming from you. 🙂

    Years ago (1994) we had a golden retriever who, as a puppy, growled when we approached her and her food. I wasn’t a very good pack biped and didn’t realize what I needed to do. Luckily she never hurt anyone in her (regrettably) short seven years. When MacKenzie joined our family, I made sure to do some of the things your bipeds did with you. It’s made all the difference, as you so wisely know.

    (I also got MacKenzie used to me “playing” with her paws and toenails when she was a puppy, but that’s a whole other story.)

    Have a beautiful week, Clowie and family!

    • Thank you. I’m glad you knew what to do to give MacKenzie good expectations when you’re near her food.
      They played with my paws as a puppy as well – I keep still, but it does tickle sometimes!

  20. We can take either of the boys’ food from them. Bentley will grump if you take his bone, because well…it’s a BONE! He will still begrudgingly surrender it though.

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