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.
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!
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!