Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Food Guarding By Puppies

What is food guarding?

It can be brought on by any situation in which a puppy feels like he must compete for his food, or if the dog thinks there is not enough food. There by, causing him to "guard" or "protect" his food bowl.  Some experts suggest that feeding only once a day, may trigger this behavior. I tend to agree with that, that is my opinion and not everyone agrees.


This usually doesn't happen in a litter until the puppies are older or even in their new permanent homes after the age of 7 or 8 weeks old, if it happens at all. When the dog is eating and someone, or another dog, gets too close, he may growl or even bite. This is food guarding.

If you have a new puppy and you'd like to test him, or "condition" him, here's how to do it safely.

There are hundreds of little things you can do to "condition" your puppy for good responses. This is one. When you feed you puppy, "give" him the food.  Make him sit then present him with it. Making him work for his food will earn you his respect.  Then give him a few minutes to get into eating.

  Do not put your face close to the bowl!
Do not lean over your dog.


Use one of those fake hands with a stick attached, or one of those back scratchers, and gently grab your dogs bowl and slide it out from under him. Note his reaction. Was it good or bad? If he growled, or bit the hand, that's not good. He's guarding his food. Seek a solution now. If he just followed the bowl and didn't get upset, he's probably not a problem. Try it several times, to be sure.  And at different ages. And of course, because he behaves with you, doesn't mean he will if a stranger or a child tries to do the same thing.

Never leave a child alone around a feeding dog.

Food guarding can be a serious problem if allowed to progress.  Remember, YOU are the leader and should be respected as such. You should not be growled at by your own dog...for any reason. And you should never have to fear your dog. And if you do, they will know and take advantage of it, ultimately making the situation worse. Someone will get hurt.

I have decided to incorporate this into the daily routine of taking care of puppies when we have a litter on the ground. We do a lot of things to "condition" good responses and this will be a good one to add. Amazing how one little thing can make such a big difference, but we are always looking for new ways to help us produce healthy, happy puppies.


  1. so true. when we adopted our 2 8 or 9 mo. old pups from the shelter, BB tried to growl at me if i came up to her when she was chewing on a bone or eating. i quickly told her who was boss and she's never been a problem since. she knows i'm alpha. and kids with eating dogs... don't get me started. makes me cringe...

  2. Good advice, Karen! I agree!

    Cute wad of puppies!

  3. Great post!!
    I always urge friends to get professional help if their dog shows serious resource guarding... especially with children in the household!