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 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

Effective
0 Votes
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?

The Claim and Control Method

Effective
0 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?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Piper
cattle dog mix
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Piper
cattle dog mix
3 Years

We have two dogs in our house. Piper belongs to me and Esmè belongs to my room mates. Piper is extremely food driven and dominant over Esmè. Piper will find food and eat t if it is available and will go to any length to get it. She also has a very sensitive stomach and will have diarrhea from eating just about anything. My room mates free feed their dog in her crate and leave the food there all day long. Piper knows this and tries to go upstairs and into their room multiple times a day because she is obviously rewarded with food every time she is successful. I’ve asked them many times to either close their room door as well as the kennel door when the dog isn’t in there and they often fail to do so. I also asked them to stop free feeding their dog and to teach her that food is only available twice a day. None of these things have worked and it creates a big problem. When this happens my dog wakes me up every hour in the night to poop. It has gotten so bad that there is now blood in her stool. They have lashed out at me and told me to train my dog better. Every time she walks up the stairs towards their room I tell her to come back down and leave it and she does. How do you train a food driven dog not to go eat food available when you’re not looking? I don’t think it’s too much to ask them to be responsible and shut the doors. My last resort is a baby gate at the top of the stairs. Please help.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
32 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sarah, Since you have no control over what your roommate does, then I suggest teaching Piper to avoid that room in general by creating a booby trap or by using a boundary type training device. Since your dog is so food motivated, she has been rewarded with food many times, she knows that the food is there, and it is causing her health problem, then you will probably need to use an electric training device to get truly consistent results. There are a couple of options for this, the first is something called a shock rock or pet barrier device, which is a rock/wire/or box type boundary item emits a signal that corresponds to your dog's electric collar. When your dog gets too close to the "rock" an signal is sent to your dog's collar and she is corrected with a stimulation, like an electric fence or a bark collar. The second option is to use a manual electric training collar and remote, where you control the stimuli level and when it is applied. Before you use either of these methods, spend time teaching your dog not to go through the door to that room. Walk through that door yourself with her following and as soon as she starts to follow you through, quickly turn 180 degrees and step in front of her. She will probably run into you and that is fine. Tell her "Out" or "Aha" in a firm but calm voice when you do this, and then practice this until she will not follow you into the room even when you run in. If she chooses to stay out of the room even in the presence of temptation, then toss treats into the hall for her as a reward. After you have taught her not to go into the room, then you can use a device to enforce the rules that she already knows. The pros to using an remote electric collar is that you can use a lower stimulation level and have more control. You can also typically communicate with her better during training with it to make the lesson clearer. The drawback is that you have to be there to enforce it, so when you are not around she might realize that things are not consistent and begin to go into the room again. To minimize the chance of this, you will need to either confine her when you are not there and hide while you are teaching her to stay out of the room so that she does not associate the correction with just you but also with the room itself. Go somewhere where she cannot see you while she is wearing the collar, and either watch her while you are hiding or set up a camera and spy on her. As soon as she crosses the threshold for the room, hit the stimulation button and then release it again as soon as she moves back out into the hallway, away from the room. If she does not move into the hallway, then immediately go to her and bring her out of the room rather than continuing to apply the stimulation. To find the proper level to use and to learn the proper and safe ways to use electric collars, look into Jamie Penrith from Taketheleaddogtraining and Jeff Gelman from Solidk9training. Both of which have youtube channels with detailed videos about electric collar usage. Do not simply go out and buy a collar without first doing a lot of research on their proper use, fitting, and stimulation levels. Only buy a high quality collar such as Dogtra, Garmin, e-collar technologies, or SportDog. A good quality collar has well over twenty levels of stimulation and is built to give consistent results. Cheap collars can cause terrible damage and inconsistency and should never be used. Be especially wary of collars that ship from China online. To use a shock rock or barrier device you will want to place the barrier rock right inside your roommates' door or by the crate with the food in it and adjust the range down so that your dog will only get corrected when he goes into the room or near the crate, and not when he is in the hallway or a room next door. PetSafe makes one device called Pawsaway that might work. Look into the range on the one you buy and make sure that the range can be small enough for just that small room on the one you buy. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
scrappy
not sure
2 Years
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Question
0 found helpful
scrappy
not sure
2 Years

Hello, I have a two year old dog and another dog as well. My two year old (Scrappy) is a wonderful dog, but she has a fear of loud noises mostly when she is outside playing. Like sometimes in my people in my area might be fixing there roof or something and the noise makes her very scared She will start running all over trying to get back in the house. What could I do to help?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
32 Dog owners recommended

Hello Julie, Try gradually building up his tolerance of loud noises and pairing them with something positive. Also provide your dog with a secure location that he can go to to help him manage his own fears. Typically somewhere covered, enclosed, and den like. To build up his tolerance, one great method is to find recordings of the loud noises that your dog is typically afraid of. Play the noise quietly in the background while you give your dog treats and do very fun and exciting things with him. You want the recording to be quiet enough that your dog acts like he does not notice it and remains relaxed and excited about the treats and fun. Over several months, gradually increase the volume level of the recording while doing fun things with your dog. Again only increase the noise a bit at a time, so that your dog always remains relaxed and happy. You do not want to make the fear worse by going too fast. Overtime you can turn up the recording's volume level to the level that your dog was previously scared of, but only play it at that level when your dog is distracted by fun things and for short periods of time. This should help your dog manage other loud noises as well when they occur. When you are with your dog and he hears a loud noise, try to act up beat, confident, and excited about the noise yourself, and reward your dog for courage in the situation. You do not want to act sorry for him or nervous also, because he will be looking to you for direction and if he thinks you are worried about the noise or worried about him, that communicates to him that the noise really is something to be afraid of. Working with the recording should help your dog, but the truth is most fear of loud noises is best prevented while dogs are still puppies, and certain dogs are more naturally prone to noise sensitivity, so also be mindful that Scrappy may need you to continue to make noises positive for him even after he improves, in order to not regress again. Be patient with with and try to act confident and upbeat to encourage him to be brave. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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