Mealtimes with your pet can be chaotic. It can be likened to feeding a pack of wild animals even if you only have two dogs. It is the time when your normally docile, calm and well-trained house dog starts going berserk. Suddenly, you have a frenzied dog, barking, jumping and even biting. It’s as if they have not eaten for a decade and they knock the food from your hand. They can’t even wait for you to put the bowl on the ground. They jump around their food and they can’t contain themselves. The good news is it does not have to be that way. Mealtime is a very good time to work on your dog’s self-control and manners.
The Root of the Behavior
Most of our canine friends know when it is supposed to be mealtime. They are aware of this because of what are you doing and the time of day. It is one of the best times to work on your dog’s behavior and self-control. Jumping up may be seen by many as playful behavior or a greeting so enthusiastic that it makes your heart melt, but such is not the case. It is actually your dog attempting his dominance over you. If you encourage jumping around by giving your dog affection, you will only reinforce the behavior and your dog will continue to see his behavior as desirable. Dogs are looking for their humans to be the leaders of the pack. Although they almost always never accept leadership form children, they want to understand their place in the pack. It works the same way for humans. Children look to their parents as leaders and just like any human family, dogs will test a few boundaries when their place in the pack is not clear.
Jumping around food can also be one of the many behaviors exhibited by canines that are guarding their food. These dogs do more than just jump around, they also exhibit hostile behavior such as growling, snapping, and maybe even biting people who go near their food. What you need to do is to teach your dog that your presence does not threaten her or her food. You are not there for the purpose of taking away her food. What you want her to think is that when you show, delightful treats also show up. He should not be alarmed by your presence, rather, he should be happy with it. She cannot understand it when you say the words so you have to modify her behavior by training him.
Encouraging the Behavior
It is important to start young if you want to discourage the behavior of jumping around food. Right from the outset, you must reward your puppy when they sit still around food. It is more effective to reward them for their good behavior instead of trying to extinguish their bad traits by punishment. One of the things you can do is to use counterconditioning procedures and train your dog to have acceptable behavior instead. Set aside time to train your dog because you will find it to do so after a long and hard day at work. Find a convenient time to teach your puppy what is expected of him during meal times. If you are going to expect your dog to sit when his food is served, you must at least ensure that the dog knows how to “sit-stay” in similar and less distracting situations. With repeated exposure to the exact stimulus (food at meal time), your dog will become less and less excited and will eventually be easier to control. It will be easier to get him to stay still when food is served. He will learn to settle down even when he sees you approaching with his food bowl.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If your dog’s behavior is mild enough, you might just be able to change it on your own. However, if he is the type that becomes aggressive with his food and exhibits other behaviors such as growling and doesn’t like it when you are nearby during mealtime, you might want to seek professional help. They can help plan your program and coach you through the entire process. Jumping around food and other food guarding behavior can be complicated. Most owners also do not recognize subtle canine signals. Qualified dog behavior specialists will be able to help you spot them and educate you about them.
Jumping around food can be seen as playful and cute but it could also be an indication that your pup is guarding his food. Address the issue right away through positive reinforcement by showing your dog that he will be rewarded greatly if he stays still. If you are having a hard time getting your pup to stop doing so, get help from the professionals so your pup will have a happy mealtime.