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!

69 Comments

  1. When I was a girl, my mom did this with our dogs and I carried on the practice with all my dogs. Both Maya and Pierson are very good about not guarding their food. I started with Maya when she was a pup, and began right away when I got Pierson. He was already a year old, so it took a little more practice.

    • I’m glad you convinced Pierson he has nothing to worry about. It is easier if the puppy has good expectations from the very beginning before the idea of guarding even occurs to them.

  2. Excellent advice and maybe even, some ways to help a food guarder relax. I would have loved to have filled your bowl with a big treat last night! My husband and I went out for a special meal because of our anniversary. We ordered prime rib = yummy. but each prime rib was probably a pound. I’ve never seen such a huge portion! We took a lot home with us. You would have enjoyed a few bits of that snackie being placed in your bowl and it would have been great to see you enjoy it.

  3. Despite their backgrounds you can take anything from our lot, though you might have tio ask nicely for a bone to be rendered up. No snaps,no snarls…but a deeply injured look which ensures that the bowl or bone is returned or replaced with something better…..

  4. Cat is the best way to take away a dog’s food bowl!!! Cat is very scary and has very sharp claws to sink into sensitive dog noses…usually stuffed inside the food bowl…Cat striding up with a look of hungry determination is an amazingly good way to ensure dog removes offending snout from tasty bowl of food and obligingly backs off without so much as a whimper!! Dog will certainly not come near Cat whilst determined hungry cat pointedly devours contents of bowl!! Therefore this is also the perfect time for a biped to stick a hand in and steal away the dog bowl :) Of course it is not without risks…Cat is not put off the idea of biting hand off biped whilst sinking a well-honed set of razor sharp claws offendedly into biped arm, just for good measure! But a cat bite is far preferable to a dog bite…isn’t it??? lol ;)

    • Oh dear! My cats do get in my food sometimes. I stand back and let them. I know the bipeds will shoo them away for me when they notice. I’m glad my cats don’t bite and scratch like that! An angry cat is quite scary for their size. They have so many sharp parts! And they’re so flexible!

  5. What a great idea for humans to ‘drop’ a few extra treats in the bow to get dogs used to people coming near their food bowls. Neither Heather or Mr. K seem bothered by any humans near their bowls and even if we pick them up, they suddenly learn to walk like bipeds (and give you begging eyes)! They will, however, try to play tug if you try to take away a bully stick…As usual, great post! Much love, The Scottie Mom.

  6. Excellent advice, Clowie, that might help save the lives of some of your canine companions. My old terrier was never possessive about his food, and we could actually leave the dish out all day. For some reason, he was more of a grazer than a typical quick-eating carnivore. He would take a few bites and then leave the rest for later. I’ve never seen another dog like that!

    • Thank you. Sometimes I hear that my talking about my experiences has helped another dog – and that makes me happy.
      Dogs do have a reputation for wolfing food down – and lots live up to the reputation!

  7. Hi Clowie… Cute post as per usual… I bet it may be easier to teach a puppy to be relaxed about people being near his food than to do the same thing with bipeds… :)
    Thank you very mcuh for sharing. Best wishes and happy week to you,
    Aquileana :D

  8. This is another great teaching lesson about how to treat dogs!! I have to say, I do admire your bipeds for a long time already, how they teach you and educate you! (Of course I do admire you too! After all you had to learn all that stuff!!)

    • Thank you. My bipeds say that it’s better for people and puppies if you teach a puppy what you want him to do before he starts doing the things you don’t want him to do.

  9. Hi Clowie
    I wanted to like this post but cannot find the button. Can you tell me where it is please?

    • Hi, I’ve closed the likes on most of the blog – that’s why you can’t see the button. I have the likes open on the most recent posts at present.

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