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Food Guarding in Dogs

Stage One

  • Stand a few feet away from your dog while he eats dry kibble from a bowl on the floor. Do not move toward your dog.
  • Say something like, “What have you got there?” in a conversational tone and, at the same time, toss a special treat toward the bowl. Continue to do this every few seconds until your dog finishes eating his kibble.
  • Repeat this exercise each time you feed your dog until he eats in a relaxed way for 10 meals in a row. Then you can move on to Stage Two.
  • During your exercises, if your dog leaves the bowl and moves toward you to ask for more treats, just ignore him. Wait until he goes back to his bowl and starts eating again before tossing more tasty treats.

Stage Two

  • While your dog eats dry kibble from a bowl on the floor, say “What have you got there?” in a conversational tone. At the same time, take one step toward him and toss a special treat toward the bowl. Then immediately step back. Repeat this sequence every few seconds until your dog has finished eating.
  • Each day, take one step closer to your dog before tossing him the special treat. Continue at this stage until you come within two feet of the bowl. When your dog eats in a relaxed way for 10 meals in a row as you repeatedly approach and stand two feet away and give him a treat, you’re ready to move to the next stage.

Stage Three

  • While your dog eats dry kibble from a bowl on the floor, approach him saying “What have you got there?” in a conversational tone. Stand next to your dog’s bowl and drop a special treat into it. Then immediately turn around and walk away.
  • Repeat this sequence every few seconds until your dog has finished eating. When he eats in a relaxed way for 10 meals in a row, you’re ready for the next stage.

Stage Four

  • While your dog eats dry kibble from a bowl on the floor, approach him saying “What have you got there?” in a conversational tone. Stand next to your dog, holding a special treat in your hand. Bend down slightly, holding the treat out just an inch or two in your dog’s direction. Encourage him to stop eating the food in the bowl to take the treat. After he eats the treat from your hand, immediately turn around and walk away. Repeat this sequence every few seconds until your dog has finished eating.
  • Each day, bend down a little more when you offer your dog the special treat so that your hand moves an inch or two closer to his bowl. Stay at this stage until you can bend down and hold your hand with the treat right next to your dog’s bowl. When your dog eats relaxed for 10 meals in a row as you repeatedly approach to bend down and offer him a treat next to his bowl, you’re ready for the next stage.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

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