How to Train Your Dog to Not Eat Other Dogs' Food

Medium
2-4 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

If you have more than one dog, you may have come across the problem of one dog eating the other’s food. This can occur because one dog has less of an appetite than the other and leaves his food for your other dog to clean up, or one of your dogs may be dominant over the other and takes the more submissive dog's food. This results in one dog getting too much food and one dog not getting enough. Not only is this unfair, but it can have long-term health consequences, with one dog becoming overweight, while the other may not get all the nutrients he or she needs.

Defining Tasks

Dogs have hierarchical social structures, with some dogs being leaders and other followers. In a pack situation in the wild, lead dogs would eat first, followed by more subordinate dogs. This would be natural and would protect the integrity of the pack, which would need its leaders to be well fed to lead the pack. So if you have multiple dogs, it is not uncommon for a more dominant dog to exert that dominance by eating the other dog’s food. Another issue can occur when you have a dog that is particularly food motivated, and one that is not, and your food motivated dog gets the lion's share of the food due to the apathy or inattention on the part of the other. If this problem develops, you will need to intervene to teach your dogs to respect each other's food and only take the food that is portioned for them individually. This is not a pack of wolves, after all!

Getting Started

You will need treats to teach a 'leave it' command. Also, you will need to commit your time to supervise feeding and implement commands, to ensure both dogs get to eat their food. You may need a way of separating dogs from each other's food area while training is ongoing. A separate room, large crate, pen, or area cordoned off with baby gates or other barriers may suffice.

The Claim and Control Method

Most Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Fill both bowls
Ensure that you are present to supervise when your dogs are eating. Fill both dog food bowls, but remove the dog that is getting his food stolen from the room temporarily.
Step
2
Claim submissive dog's bowl
Let your food-stealing dog eat from his own bowl. When he approaches the other dog's bowl, push him away, by placing your body between the dog and the extra bowl.
Step
3
Be verbal
Firmly say “leave it” or “off".
Step
4
Reinforce surrender
When your dominant dog backs off, you can reward him with attention. Remove him from the situation and allow your other dog to eat from his bowl. Repeat at each feeding over a period of weeks.
Step
5
Introduce eating together
Now allow both dogs to eat together. If your dominant dog attempts to push the other dog away from her bowl, insert yourself, and give the 'leave it' or 'off' command. Allow your other dog to complete his meal. Repeat over several days as required. Your dog will eventually learn that while your submissive dog may not claim his food, you will claim it on his behalf.
Recommend training method?

The Leave It Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Present closed hand
Hold a treat in your closed fist and present it to your dog. When he sniffs your hand, say “leave it”.
Step
2
Reward 'leave it'
Wait until your dog stops investigating your hand and trying to reach the treat. When he retreats from your closed hand, say “yes” and open your hand to offer the treat. Sometimes give the treat without saying “leave it”, to establish that your dog only needs to leave the treat alone when you instruct him to.
Step
3
Challenge
Place a low value treat, such as dry kibble, on the floor and give the 'leave it' command. When your dog obeys, reward him with a high-value treat, like a piece of meat or cheese.
Step
4
Provide distractions
Move the game to new locations and try leaving a treat in a chosen spot. Command your dog to 'leave it' when he finds the planted treat and reward him when he obeys.
Step
5
Apply to other dog's food
Once well established over a period of weeks, use the 'leave it' command when your dog approaches your other dog's food dish.
Recommend training method?

The Take Turns Method

Least Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
Create schedule
Your dogs do not have to eat at the same time, or even the same time of day. You can train your dogs to each take their turn, eating at separate times, either one after another or with a time interval. Have a designated area for eating, setup with bowls for food and water. Your dogs should always have water available. You may need a way of keeping the other dog separated, such as using gates a door or a pen.
Step
2
Create seperation of time and space
Starting with the more dominant dog, or the dog who is taking more food, feed that dog the appropriate amount in the designated area, while keeping your other dog or dogs from the area.
Step
3
Feed dominant dog
Give the dog several minutes to finish his food, then remove him from the area and bring in the next dog. Fill their dish with the appropriate amount and give him an adequate amount of time to finish eating.
Step
4
Feed other dog
If the dog is not finished after a certain amount of time, say 5 minutes, take the dish away and move on to the next dog.
Step
5
Establish schedule and time
Eventually, your dogs will learn to eat their food in the time allotted, and because the other dogs are separated, the dog that is eating will not experience distractions or the other dog stealing their food. While the other dog is waiting for their turn, give them a chew toy or have them wait, performing a 'sit-stay' or 'down-stay' activity.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Cookie and Nina
Cocker spaniels
12 Years
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Question
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Cookie and Nina
Cocker spaniels
12 Years

Cookie and Nina have a sad story. In October animal control seized them from their owner who was suffering dementia and wasn’t caring for them. Cookie is estimated to be 12 and Nina is estimated to be 9.

They were 6 weeks in a shelter. Had to be sedated to have 6 pounds of matted fur shaved off each of them. Currently being treated for ear and eye infections. Nina (fat black younger one) has also been diagnosed with Lyme Disease and is being treated for a bladder infection.

House training has been challenging because they don’t like the crate, and when unsupervised (like overnight) they are babygated in the laundry room. Maybe they were house trained at one time but between their owner’s dementia and the shelter they have gotten used to pottying wherever.

More concerning is feeding time. I think they’re used to eating out of the same bowl - they will both dip into their bowl for a mouthful of kibble then drop it on the floor to eat it. As you can see from the photo Cookie is much smaller than Nina. But Cookie won’t eat out of her own bowl - not even peanut butter! She’ll look at her bowl then try to go to Nina’s bowl. (Nina has no issue eating out of her own bowl.) I’ll block Cookie and turn her back to her bowl but she might only eat a mouthful. She’s about 5-6 pounds underweight and I don’t know how to encourage her/reassure her that she needs to eat. This has been going on since I brought them home from the shelter on Saturday. (And if they’ve spilled any kibbles on the floor, they both leave them there after I’ve picked up their bowls.)

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
709 Dog owners recommended

Hello Liz, Cookie's food issues will likely take a bit of trial and error, with the main goal being to simply get her eating enough healthy again before working on anything too formal. Here are somethings I would experiment with. 1. Will Cookie eat out of Nina's bowl when Nina isn't there? Is so, after feeding both dogs in Nina's bowl, I would remove Nina somewhere that Cookie can still see, like on just the outside of the exercise pen if being fed in the pen, and add another portion to Nina's bowl for Cookie to also eat. 2. Work on teaching some very easy commands to Cookie, like looking at you, and have Cookie work for additional kibble by performing some commands. It can seem counter intuitive but some picky dogs will eat better if they are working for the food. I would do this on top of the food they are getting from Nina's bowl and not in place, to maximize calories. 3. Have you check with your vet about possible nausea or teeth issues? I would investigate side effects of medication or other medical issues that might be causing nausea, or possible teeth issues that could cause an aversion to hard food. If so, a change in diet or food texture - like soft food, could help temporarily. Hard food tends to be better for preventing teeth plaque, but once there are already issues with digestion or teeth, soft might be accepted better. I would speak with your vet about these things. I am not a vet. 4. If pup does better with soft food and it seems to be texture that helps, I would check with your vet about adding some goat's milk to pup's hard kibble, then you can slowly decrease the amount of milk as pup's health improves if your vet is able to treat teeth issues. I would also run this by your vet first. I am not a vet. 5. If pup likes toys, use toys to stuff dog food in. Again, having to work for it will sometimes help, especially if pup has an anxiety about the dog bowl due to something in their past. Toys like Kong wobbles can later be converted to bowls by unscrewing the top half if successful at getting pup to eat via the toy. At this age, it's also possible accidents are in part due to incontinence. It's hard to say how much is ability to hold it vs. their history. Check out the Exercise pen method from the article linked below. I would try using disposable real grass pads to make the difference between the potty and the rest of the house more distinct than pee pads would be. Rewarding pup's for going on the grass will be super important. When you can't be with the dogs working on the training, I would have the exercise pen set up in one area and keep accidents and the indoor potty confined to just that area. Exercise pen method: https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy Disposable real grass pads: www.doggielawn.com www.freshpatch.com www.porchpotty.com I would start with the cheaper options, and not consider the porch potty until you are having good success with the cheaper ones, simply to save you money incase a switch it needed or outside training goes well enough. When you can work with them, I recommend getting both dogs used to wearing a doggie diaper using treats and working on the tethering method from the article below. Use treats that are easy on the stomach, like plain liver paste, to reward pups while putting the diapers on, then play with or gently distract pups if they start chewing at the diapers. In this case, you don't want pups to go potty in the diaper. It's only there just in case and because sometimes the feeling of a diaper will actually discourage a dog from pottying in it the first few times, until they get used to the sensation - ideally pups won't get used to the sensation and you can use that to your advantage. With pup tethered to you with a hands free leash, pay close attention to pup's signals they need to go, and quickly take them to the grass potty or outside, and reward with praise and treat when they go - after you have removed the doggie diaper before they go potty that is. At this age and with their history, they may always need to be kept in the exercise pen near the grass pad at night and when you are not home to prevent accidents elsewhere, even after learning to hold it during the day in the rest of the house while you are there, so you may not phase out the exercise pen completely in your case - that will depend on how they do. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Texas and Cooper
Great Pyrenees
7 Weeks
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Question
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Texas and Cooper
Great Pyrenees
7 Weeks

So my puppy suddenly doesnt like his puppy food and will go for the other grown up dogs food. We have tried putting the puppy food where the grown up dogs food is and he still wont take it. We are not sure if this is unhealthy or anything but he really loves the grown up dogs food.

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
93 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I think this is best answered by a vet who can let you know if the food is okay, once you've told them the brand of food and the ingredients. We have a feature "ask a vet a question". Take a look here and you can do so. https://wagwalking.com/condition/digestive-problems. My concern would be that the food would not have all of the nutrients that a puppy needs. You can try feeding the puppy in a separate room or try adding a little canned food (puppy food) mixed in with the kibble to make it very palatable. Try putting the food in an interactive feeder to make eating time more interesting and fun. Good luck!

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Question
Bella & Benji
Border Collie
3 Years
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Question
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Bella & Benji
Border Collie
3 Years

Hello, I have 2 collies,one eats all their food immediately while the other likes to nibble throughout the day. More recently the dog that eats theirs immediately has started to help him self to the others. I dont want to take the slow eating dogs food away as she eats throughout the day at her own leisure and i cannot feed them separate as again the slow eating dog nibbles. We have had 2 dogs for nearly a year now and this issue has only just started happening. I have been forceful with the fast eating dog pushing him away and telling him to leave however as soon as we both leave the room hes straight back at the food. Any help is appreciated.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
709 Dog owners recommended

Hello, First, the easiest solution would be to feed each dog in separate closed crates. Give each dog no more than 45 minutes to eat, then if they are not actively eating, let them out and put the food away. At first, I would feed the slow eater breakfast, lunch and dinner, to give them an extra opportunity to eat, while they are learning to eat more quickly. Once they are doing well, you can try removing the lunch meal. In many cases the slow eater will not eat much breakfast or lunch at first, but as they realize the food is taken up and have opportunity to get hungry again leading up to lunch and dinner, they are more likely to begin eating what's given to them at meal times. Some dogs also simply aren't hungry until later in the day and prefer to eat a little bit in the morning and most of their daily food ration in the evening - if you find pup is doing that with the new schedule, that should be fine as long as they eat extra in the evening to make up for overall calorie need - you can begin feeding less in the morning if so and give extra at night, so it equals the same amount of food in a day overall- if you have any concern for pup's health, like if they tend to get low blood sugar, speak with your vet and defer to them though - I am not a vet. I would also recommend teaching your fast eater an Out command - which means leave the area. Without supervising the dogs during feeding, you would have to set up something to automatically deter pup away from the other dog's food, which also means likely feeding the dogs in different rooms of the house and using something like a pet barrier device to keep the fast eater out of the room the other dog's food is in. A pet barrier device is a bit like an electric fence. You can set the range to be just that one room where the food is, and pup wears a collar that come with the device, and whenever they get within range of the barrier device (placed by the other dogs food) pup is corrected by the collar without you there. Practice the Out command without the barrier device first though with the food in the new location, so that pup understands that that room is off-limits before they start to be corrected by the collar. Make sure the room where the food is in, is not a room that that dog needs to be in at any point, since they will be learning to avoid that room. Out: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Personally, I recommend attempting to teach the slow eating to eat at set times in the crate first though, since that creates less stress around food and overall. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Willow
Catahoula Cur
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
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Willow
Catahoula Cur
1 Year

Food aggressive towards other animals food not just her own and has not experienced starvation at all but will leave her full bowl to run them off from their bowl and aggressively guards an empty bowl and is growling and snapping when on my bed getting affection. She has never been abused or has any lack of excercise as she lives on 50 acres and despite feeling like I have done everything to ensure a close bond she doesn't come to me for affection and doesn't seem to want to please me in any way and I don't feel like she would protect me or even care if I was there or not and I am having trouble leash training I have had her since she was a few months old and would hate to think that I may have to re-home her as I love her.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
709 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jammie, First, I suggest feeding all the dogs in separate locked crates. Give them 30-45 minutes to eat, and if they aren't actively eating still remove the food and give another opportunity to eat again later - no free feeding or feeding in the same room out of crates, and no walking into another dog's crate to eat left food - take the food back out and close the crate doors when no one is inside. Second, work on more structure in the home between dogs in general. It sounds like pup is possessive of you and food, which can often be improved by building more respect and boundaries. Check out the article linked below and practice all three methods with pup. You can also practice the methods with all the dogs for best results, but focus the most on Willow since they are the one guarding. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Create some new house rules and you be the one to enforce them - like no begging, demanding of your attention through things like climbing onto your lap, nudging, barking at you, ect... You putting themselves between you or an object and another dog to block the other dog, no rushing through doors ahead of others with pushiness, ect...Make pup leave the room whenever they are breaking a rule. Mange the dogs interactions between each other too - if one dog is pestering, stealing things, or otherwise not respecting another dog's space, make that dog leave the area where the first dog is too. You enforcing household rules calmly between the dogs can take the pressure off the dogs to do it themselves through aggression, it can decrease stress between them, teach new rules and boundaries, and prevent as much competing for dominance. If pup displays any form of aggression toward you, I would also desensitize pup to wearing a basket muzzle over the course of a couple of weeks - how fast you move through training depends on how receptive to it they are and how relaxed they remain with it. Have pup wear the basket muzzle during the day while you are home to keep you and the others safe while new rules and boundaries are established, if the extra safety may be needed for you. Use a soft basket muzzle to make it more comfortable and allow pup to still open their mouth while wearing it. Muzzle introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a&index=6&t=0s Finally, I do recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression to help you work with pup in person, to desensitize them to other dogs being around food and you. This is done with safety measures like a bag tie leash, rewards for calmness and tolerance, careful remote collar type corrections at the correct predetermined low level for unwanted responses, the right amount of space between the dogs during training to help pup succeed at this - gradually lessening the distance as pup improves, based on how they are responding with their body language. This is something that's carefully done for safety and behavior modification reasons, so this part is best done with professional help too. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Bandit
Chihuahua
9 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Bandit
Chihuahua
9 Years

Hi there,
We have two dogs, Bandit and Bugsy. Bandit has always had food issues, the type of dog that is always scrounging for food even though he is well fed. Bugsy is an elderly dog, 14 yrs, who has some cognitive issues and sleeps most of the day. Also a Chi. He isn't always hungry and we usually need to try several times a day to get him to eat. When he does eat, it usually takes a long time (30-60 mins) for him to finish it. He starts and stops a lot and often doesn't finish. In the meantime, Bandit is regularly sneaking over to steal his food. We generally just yell at him to make him stop and though he stops at the moment, he just does it again later. He also has a number of other problems: stealing our people food even off the dining room table, humping the elderly dog (who gets scared very easily and doesn't fight back), peeing in the wrong places, etc. Overall, he (we) need a lot of help to train him. We'd like to have someone come over somewhat regularly (1x/wk?) to teach us how to train him.

THank you,
Robin

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
709 Dog owners recommended

Hello Robin, It sounds like you may be looking to hire a WAG! in-person trainer. To do so, download the WAG! app if you haven't already done so. There you can fill out a profile with you and your dogs' information, then search for trainers in your area and contact one of the trainers who shows up in your area, who you feel would be a good fit, giving them the same information that you just told me about your dog's and training needs. I am not located in your area most likely, but am here for online training support. In the meantime, I suggest starting by working on a Leave It and Out command with Bandit. Check out the articles linked below. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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