How to Train Your Dog to Not Accept Food from Strangers

Hard
1-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

So, you've spent countless hours training your dog and are pretty proud of their success with learning and following important commands. Commands that will keep them safe in all instances - such as "come," which is important if they run into the street and "down," a handy command to keep them from chasing after a skunk. But what about when a stranger decides to give your dog food? Is this something you should be wary of? Training your dog to not accept food from strangers is another skill essential to their well-being. Read on to see how it's done!

Defining Tasks

It can be pretty difficult to convince your furbaby not to eat a scrumptious treat. But to keep them safe (in the rare instances a stranger has bad intentions) and to prevent your pooch from becoming a beggar to everyone they encounter, learning this skill is a good thing. For the most part, dog poisoning is rare, but it does happen. Having a dog who becomes a smooch is more common though, and quite annoying to all those involved.

To start training a dog to not accept food from strangers, it's best to wait until the pup is an adolescent. A young puppy needs to learn basic commands and understand that you are leader and then they can move on to more complicated training like this. The training can take weeks of daily sessions to perfect. This lesson can also be taught to mature dogs; just remember to have patience as you and your dog work together. You also have to take into consideration how broad of a spectrum of avoidance you're looking for. Do you want the dog only to take food from you? Should they eat only inside the house? Would you like to use a special bowl for eating? All of these factors will be at play during training.

Getting Started

Some things to help you along the way are:

  • Use a variety of tasty goods in your sessions. Get both common dog treats and people-food favorites (think cheese and hot dogs).

  • If you're going to teach your dog only to eat from one bowl, get one that stands out a bit. It's also important to make sure that it can be easily replaced.

  • It's much easier to teach a dog this behavior if you have a "stranger" on hand to test out how things are going. Try to get someone that your pup has never met to help you.

  • To complete food avoidance training, you're going to need to devote time for at least one session a day. And don't expect this to happen overnight. It may take weeks before your pooch understands what's going on.

You can practice these avoidance techniques in various settings to give your dog a chance to test their skills in any environment. Start off at home though, so that your furry companion is not distracted by other dogs. Use an encouraging voice when training and offer lots of praise for effort and compliance. Remember, dogs are often very food-oriented so the task may take several sessions of instruction before they catch on.

The Code Word Method

Most Recommended
5 Votes
Code Word method for Not Accept Food from Strangers
Step
1
Choose the code word
Select a code word that doesn't sound like "sit." In other words, don't use the term, eat. Let's try "enjoy."
Step
2
Have your pooch sit
Ask your dog to sit. If their bum begins to rise and they are going for the food bowl, make them sit again and wait. Remove the food and attempt to give it again on the next sit.
Step
3
Use the code
Use the word "enjoy" every time you feed your dog and have them sit and wait first.
Step
4
Increase the intervals
Once your dog knows and understands the "enjoy" command, increase the intervals in between the sit and the placing down of the food.
Step
5
Practice makes perfect
Practice on other occasions, using a treat instead of a bowl of food. Use the same procedure: sit, wait, and enjoy.
Step
6
Use praise
Remember to use praise as a reward and keep your voice upbeat. Be patient as well.
Step
7
Try other words
Use other words to test your dog's skill. They should not take any food or treats until you say "enjoy."
Recommend training method?

The Eye Contact Reward Method

Effective
6 Votes
Eye Contact Reward method for Not Accept Food from Strangers
Step
1
Teach your dog sit
If your dog is not proficient at the sit command, practice consistently until the command is easily recognized and performed.
Step
2
Sit and wait
Have your dog sit and wait beside the food bowl. Make sure you feed your pup in the same location every day.
Step
3
Make eye contact
Make eye contact with your dog. Hold a smile, too. You want the eye contact to be a positive experience.
Step
4
Eye contact and release
Once your pooch has learned that they have to keep eye contact with you, it will become natural. Only release your dog with a hand gesture or chosen word such as "okay" when the expected eye contact at each meal is established.
Step
5
No eye contact with strangers
Because a stranger will not know the routine, they will not be aware of the sit, wait, and eye contact expectation. Practice the routine with someone your dog does not know to ensure that your dog understands the session.
Recommend training method?

The Impulse Control Method

Least Recommended
8 Votes
Impulse Control method for Not Accept Food from Strangers
Step
1
Gather the treats
Gather a handful of treats and set up in your practice area. This can be inside or out, depending on your dog's mastery of basic commands.
Step
2
Place the food
Have your pooch in the sit position. Put the food/treats on the ground or in your hand.
Step
3
Hold the sit
Your dog must hold the sit position. If they go for the food, cover it or close your hand.
Step
4
Choose a word to relate to the task
With your pup in the sit position, give them the command, "food" which will be the signal that they can now take the food or treat. If your dog attempts to take the item without the cue "food," cover the food and try again.
Step
5
Repeat and practice
Practice over and over until your dog never attempts to take any morsel of food unless given the cue, "food".
Step
6
Set up a scenario
Take your pup on a walk in the yard where a pre-set food item, different than what is usually given, is placed. Have your dog on-leash and walk by the food. Don't allow your furry buddy to take the food.
Step
7
It's up to you
Don't allow your dog to eat the food outside; get them used to eating only inside and curb the desire to eat unfamiliar food in an unfamiliar setting. Your dog should now not take food given outside or without the cue.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Amy Caldwell

Published: 10/06/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Ceazar
American Staffordshire Terrier
9 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Ceazar
American Staffordshire Terrier
9 Months

What is the easiest way to get my dog to bot take food from strangers and to eat only from his bawl

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
913 Dog owners recommended

Hello Bianca, I suggest using the code word method. https://wagwalking.com/training/not-accept-food-from-strangers I also suggest teaching a firm Leave It command using the Leave It method from the article linked below. Once pup can Leave It, work up to pup being able to leave other types of food on the ground and on plates set out - be ready to block pup's access to that food if they disobey. When pup can do that, set the food out, but don't give the leave it or the code word command, simply block pup/access to the food when they go for the food and tell them "Ah ah" calmly. Practice leaving food out silently and being ready to stop pup anytime they try to get it without being given the code word. Reward pup with a separate treat and anytime you give pup food you do want them to take - including meals placed down, always use the code word to signal to them that they can eat. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Once pup is reliable with food around you, have others practice the leave it exercise with pup, but you always be the one to reward them while giving the code word when they refuse the other person's food. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Cookie
Mixed breed
8 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Cookie
Mixed breed
8 Years

How do I train my dog to only eat when I say a particular word to her? I want her to be able to refuse the food if someone else tries to feed her and they don't know the secret command word.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
913 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kate, I recommend teaching pup your version of the Take It command (just use another secret word while teaching take it instead) and Leave It commands. Work on Leave It until pup can eventually leave plates of food on the floor alone and treats dropped, and even treats held out to her and told leave it. Once pup can do that practice all of the same scenarios but don't give them leave it command, simply cover up the food and tell pup "Ah Ah" if she tries to go for it without being told take it. When she is not taking the food, then release her with a take it (your secret word) command and offer different food. Practice often, then recruit friends and family to practice with her too so she generalizes it to other people too. You will also need to always release pup to eat meals with the secret word. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Genesus
Border Collie
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
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Genesus
Border Collie
1 Year

Gen is an extreme attention seeker. She will take love and attention from anybody and it's a real problem taking her in public. She is trained well and comes but really struggles listening if there is anyone else around. When there are guests around, she will not leave them alone and insists on them petting her even if they are trying to ignore her and don't necessarily like dogs.!unfortunately I let too many people pet her early on during training and now can't break the habit. We have a new puppy that follows her lead and today they were down the street inside a neighbors house which scared me, they are so friendly that anyone could take them and we'd be devastated. Please help!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
913 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jamie, I recommend teaching pup the following commands. Once pup knows those commands and can obey them consistently inside and outside when people aren't around, purchase a 30' foot leash and recruit friends to practice the commands with pup on a long leash while the friends are around - calmly insisting pup do things like move away from people, Stay on Place, Heel past someone without leaving your side, or Leave It alone....Using the long leash to enforce those commands, and repeat the scenarios over a number of sessions, until pup can obey consistently without you having to enforce commands by doing things like walking pup back over to Place with the leash or reeling pup in on the leash when they start to wander toward a person you have told them to leave alone. Once pup is consistent around being calm and obedient around people, you can transition to a super light weight or even longer leash, to mimic being truly off-leash and practice on that until pup is 100% on that and ready for fully off leash again. In the meantime, you will need to keep pup in a fence or leashed until trained, so that their ability to ignore your commands and wander doesn't undermind your training efforts, until pup is reliable off leash. Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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