You may have heard the saying about letting sleeping dogs lie. To this, we'd also like to add: "let eating dogs eat." Unless absolutely necessary, it's best to let your pup eat in peace with little to no interruptions from you or anyone else in your home. Doing so not only upsets your pup but also makes him much more likely to act aggressively.
Avoiding a Bite
One of the most likely ways to get bitten by a dog is to disturb her while she's eating, sleeping or guarding her puppies, warns the Humane Society of the United States. Once you set down your pup's food, it's best to back off and let her eat without interruption. Not only does this help you to avoid being bitten by an upset pooch, but it's also good for her peace of mind and digestion. Making your furry friend nervous by threatening to take away her food, petting her while she's eating or even just creating a noisy ruckus around her only serves to annoy and frighten her as she dines. This could result in behavioral issues for her or even a failure to eat normally due to the stressful environment you're creating.
While it's somewhat rare, some dogs will guard their food while they're eating, sometimes growling and snarling during meals, even if you're just in the vicinity of the dining pup, according to Vetstreet. If this behavior is relatively recent and your previously calm pooch has suddenly turned into a snarling monster around her food, you need to see the vet. Your pup may be suffering from an illness, like dental disease, that's making her feel vulnerable and more protective of her food. This aggressive behavior is something that can potentially be dangerous to you or other pets in your home. Treating such an illness should clear up this issue so mealtime doesn't have to be a harrowing experience for either your or your pup.
A perfectly healthy pup who fiercely guards her food dish may be suffering from food aggression. This type of behavior may require you to take a different approach when feeding your dog, while not necessarily disturbing her while she eats. Start by sitting quietly near your pooch during meals, getting closer and closer in each subsequent feeding. Add food to her dish while she eats in a calm and unobtrusive manner. This way, she'll begin to associate your presence with something nice -- more food. You can also place a treat or two in her food while she eats to achieve the same reaction, recommends Petfinder. Over time, your pup will begin to trust you and realize you aren't there to harm her or take her food during meals.
Starting in puppyhood, get your pup used to having people and other pets around while she eats, but don't try to take away her food during meals -- this only teaches her that people aren't to be trusted. Having guests over? Feed your pooch in a quiet room away from those new faces and let visitors to your home, especially young children, know they shouldn't approach or disturb your pup while she's eating. Ideally, only disturb an eating dog when an emergency situation comes up, and do so with a verbal command, such as "come," to call her to you. Reward such interruptions with treats and praise.
Separate multiple pets while they eat and feed each of them in different dishes. This way, a greedy pooch or kitty doesn't try to muscle her four-legged housemate out of the way to partake of his supper, potentially leading to a fight between them. If you see such behavior, don't get in the middle of a squabble over food. Instead, simply distract your pets with some tasty treats or verbal commands and then feed them in different rooms.
By Susan Paretts
The Humane Society of the United States: How to Avoid a Dog Bite
Vetstreet: Why Does My Dog...Guard His Food Bowl?
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Food Guarding
Petfinder: Food Aggression
The Humane Society of the United States: Dog Aggression
About the Author
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, crafts, television, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared in "The Southern California Anthology" and on Epinions. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.