Prevention

Lost Opportunities…
Look Familiar?

Puppy eats alone, in the kitchen, out of a food bowl. Not only is this a wasted opportunity in which you could use the food in a fun and productive way, it is potentially setting up your pup to grow up guarding his food dish. It is possible that this dog will grow up to snarl, growl, or bite at anyone who approaches too closely while he is eating. This can be very dangerous.

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Educate, Motivate and Stimulate!
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Socializing with a toddler

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Food bowl exercise

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Working on a “down”

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Playing Hide and Go Seek

Maximize every morsel! Use Your Puppy’s daily food intake for rewards during training

Every dog needs to eat a certain amount of food each day. Use your puppy’s daily intake of food to socialize him, do preventative styled exercises, play games, and ensure junior obedience are done. It can be helpful to divide and pre-measure your pup’s daily food in advance so that you do not over or under feed your dog. Also, if you are using a high grade treat (such as dried liver or cheese) be sure to compensate by reducing your puppy’s daily feed.


Food Bowl and Hand Feeding Exercises

These exercises teach the dog that it is unnecessary to guard his food bowl.

It is natural for a dog to guard something that he perceives as important to him. If we do not teach the dog that this is unnecessary, it is very possible that we will have a dog who snarls, growls, or bites at anyone who approaches too closely while he is eating. This can be very frustrating and extremely dangerous. A child innocently passing by as the dog is eating can suffer the brunt of the dog’s possessiveness. Translate: the child can be bitten and harmed. Remember natural dog behavior. We must do our work to guard against it, hence, preventative exercises.

Do this work wherever you feed the pup on a regular basis. This will most likely be in the kitchen.

Do these exercises often during the first year of your dog’s life. Make a point to do these exercises 4 or 5 times a week during the first 18 weeks of the pup’s life. Continue on with the exercises once a week, then every couple of weeks and then periodically until the dog is sexually mature (see Your Puppy’s Development).

It takes very little effort to ensure that a young puppy will not grow up to guard his food bowl. It is much harder to curb even a seven month old dog of the habit. Even after sexual maturity, every now and again it is important to lay some of these exercises on your grown-up dog. Just like people, dogs can get rusty.

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Everyone in the family should be involved in these exercises. If you do not have any young children, go and find some solely for the purpose of them being able to take part. Children must be supervised constantly by an adult. If there is already some inkling of guarding beginning to occur, do not enlist the aid of a child until you have successfully rid the puppy of the habit. Even then, proceed with caution!


Food Bowl Exercise
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As the puppy is eating out of his dish, sit on the floor beside him, offer him a treat, drop your hands down into the food bowl and mix the food around. Get up, walk away, come back, sit down and repeat. Offer the pup a treat out of your hand as you sit down. Repeat this exercise five times in a row.

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Approach the puppy while he is eating. Reach down and pick up his food bowl and put a tasty treat inside. Give the food bowl back to the pup with the bonus prize inside. Walk away. Repeat the exercise ten times in a row.
Approach the puppy while he is eating and drop some tasty treats on the floor beside the bowl once you get there. Repeat this exercise ten times in a row.

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Be sure to stay in the proximity of the puppy whenever he is eating, do not get in the habit of giving the dog his food and then leaving the room. It is important that the dog becomes accustomed to having people and activity around him while he eats.

Objectives
  1. Get the puppy comfortable with people on the floor beside him while he is eating. Comfortable enough so that he can be touched, bumped into, have someone walk close by, or step over him, and have someone’s hands right in the food bowl while he is eating out of it.
  2. Be able to take the pup’s food bowl away from him without any resistance. These exercises will teach the dog that it is actually a good thing when the food bowl is taken away since once he gets it back, there is always something really yummy inside.

Hand Feeding

This stage of the food bowl exercise should be practiced on its own periodically for the purpose of building the pup’s focus and attention on you. All the pup’s food for one straight week comes from your hand, not the bowl.

You can do this exercise in the kitchen, or on the floor in the family room while watching TV. You can do this exercise on a walk, take a portion of the pup’s kibble with you, stop, have a seat on a park bench or where ever you are comfortable, and proceed to feed kibble to the pup.

Ration the pup’s kibble for each day and feed the pup at different times and in different places.

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Start by getting rid of the puppy’s food bowl all together. Sit down with the pup where you normally feed him and offer kibble directly out of your hand.

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You may get the kibble out of a bowl yourself, but be sure that the bowl is out of reach of the pup.
Use relatively small handfuls to ensure that the kibble does not scatter all over the floor allowing the pup to get it from there.

Objectives

The objective is for the puppy to eat directly out of your hand, making you important and good to have around.