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

ribbon-method-3
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

ribbon-method-1
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

ribbon-method-2
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?
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Written by Laurie Haggart

Published: 11/13/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Faith and heaven
Chihuahua
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Faith and heaven
Chihuahua
2 Years

Recently reunited with my husband who.now has 2 dogs. One a very lsrge 5 mth pup. They wo t let my dogs eat took over thier doggie beds took thier toys. The pup uses my smaller dog as a chew toy while husband who is disabled just lays around and does nothing. They poop and pee everywhere. Im at wits end

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jaynie, For the new dogs, check out the articles below. For the biting - Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite For the potty training - check out the Crate Training or Tethering methods. Since pup is a bit older, you can add 30-60 minutes to the times for potty breaks. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside I would feed all the dogs in separate closed crates. If your dogs aren't crate trained and you don't wish to, then crate the new dogs while everyone eats for thirty minutes, feeding the new dogs in their own individual, separate crates with the door closed. I would also work on teaching the Out command for future needs. Out -which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ I would set up an exercise pen with a dog food stuffed chew toy to use for pup when you can't supervise and train the dogs together, or tether pup to yourself with a hands-free leash while they are still the age where they would get into mischief or pester if left alone. Leave It and Out are also good commands for setting boundaries for what's allowed and not allowed in your home between dogs - like pup being told Leave It if they try to steal another dog's toy, and you returning the toy to your older dog if pup disobeys and takes it. Keep your leadership, calm, confident, and consistent. Insist on follow through when giving commands and setting boundaries, be calm instead of acting angry or harsh, and spend time proactively teaching the new dogs what commands mean so that they understand your instructions and how to behave clearly - often we skip proactively teaching commands, and dogs won't understand why you are upset or what you expect them to do if time hasn't been spend teaching the meaning of words or hand signals ahead of time. Drop It section: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-to-fetch/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Duke
Great Dane
18 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
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Duke
Great Dane
18 Weeks

What should I do because I have another white Great Dane and they often fight like duke will put his mouth open on her neck and she will maybe pull his lip and then sometimes when duke gets close to her she will bark , and sometime I find duke on top of her I’ve had duke longer than I’ve had the white one I got duke when he was 14 weeks and a got the white one one week ago




What should I do

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kganya, I recommend finding a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression to work with you in person where you are. This often involves teaching the dogs to associate each other with good things by rewarding them for tolerance and calmness around each other when the other dog isn't watching - you don't want either rushing over for a treat too and causing a fight. It will likely involve teaching things like Place, Down-Stay, Leave It, and Crate Training to help manage their interactions and practice calmly co-existing in the same room while giving each other space. Your relationship with both dogs would be evaluated, since pups both need to trust and respect you so that they will allow you to mediate their interactions, making and enforcing rules for how they can interact with each other. Certain management strategies need to be in place, like crating them when you can't supervise, basket muzzles if they are drawing blood when they fight, and feeding them separately in separate closed crates so neither feels the need to protect their food. Once they are safe enough to be in the same general space, practicing heeling walks with some space between them - two people walking the dogs, practicing obedience together, and other calm, structured activities, can help them bond through a shared purpose while in a calm mindset. If either isn't neutered or spayed, how hormones are effecting things also needs to be evaluated, like if the female is near heat, or the male is constantly trying to hump her. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Jumbo
Bolognese
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Jumbo
Bolognese
2 Years

My dog only listens when i have treats with me how do i make him listen?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Vanesa, Is pup not obeying the method for leaving other dogs' food alone or in general not listening unless you have treats? There are a few ways to address this. I would start by phasing out the use of food rewards. Hide the treat behind your back, not showing it to pup until after they obey. After they obey, present the treat. Once pup can consistently obey that way, have pup obey commands multiple times, like three times, before giving the treat. Starting with just a couple commands, then requiring pup to obey more commands before earning the treat as pup improves. Next, only give pup a treat for especially good obedience - like obeying very quickly, holding the position for longer, or exceeding their normal skills in another way. You may also need to switch to a different method. If this seems to be the case, please submit a question with a bit more details of what you are currently doing and how pup is responding. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Kali
Alaskan malamu
12 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
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Kali
Alaskan malamu
12 Weeks

Hi. We have a 2 year old intact male malamute who is a take it or leave it with food and recently got a female puppy malamute who is about 12 weeks, she is food obsessed to the extreme. We got her a lick matt to try and slow her down which hasn't really helped but our biggest issue is that she can't help herself but still from the other dogs bowl. We have tried "leave it" for a couple of weeks but it doesn't seem to be making a difference. I also worry about our older dog now as where we have been "protecting" his food for him he has now started growling at her on occasions which is great but he tends to leave his food until she comes near it and will only eat it when she gives it attention. Unsure how good or bad this behaviour is. I'd love any tips on how to stop the puppy being so consumed and unable to be distracted from being so obsessed. Imagine the game hungry hippo - that is what she is like grabbing food from his bowl... they are raw fed.
Any help would be appreciated, thanks

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kate, I recommend feeding both dogs in separate locked crates with the doors closed, so that neither dog can steal or hover around the other one, which helps with the stealing behavior while pup is learning better self-control at this age, and continuing to practice Leave It with you. This also prevents stress around mealtimes which can increase resource guarding aggression and lead to future fights if that continues. Since your older dog is picky, I would give them three opportunities to eat in the closed crate away from pup. If your schedule will allow, that can be morning, noon, and evening. If your schedule won't allow, have that be morning, when you first get home, and before bed if pup still hasn't eaten his food. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Snickers
Springer spaniel
10 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Snickers
Springer spaniel
10 Years

Two dogs
Snickers 10 years old English Springer Spaniel
Reece’s 10 weeks old lab/German Shepherd mix mutt

We recently got a puppy Reece’s and our older dog Snickers is sharing everything toys and beds. There are only two problems one Snickers dose not like when Reece’s touches him even if just a paw if there sitting next to each other. When think it will get a bit better in time knowing that they will probably never cuddle together. We are okay with that. The other major problem is both dogs are food motivated, Snickers dose not like when Reece’s comes near any type of food he has. Treat, bone, dog food, or little food from our plates to lick clean. Yet Snickers will not hesitant to go up to Reece’s and steal his food. When feed them at the same time and watch to make sure each dog is eating there own food, after immediately picking up the food bowls after they are done. But sometimes we give the bone, a ball with treats inside, or let them like the plates clean, to keep them busy. Snickers will always finish his first and them try to take Reece’s treat or what ever we give him, Reece’s will sometimes momentarily forget about the treat then Snickers takes it. Sometimes even his food which we have to guard Reece’s to make sure he gets all for his food as he is growing up. After Snickers steals the food, Reece’s then comes up to get it back or see what he is doing but Snicker will not let him have it back. We make sure to always give them each a piece of what ever to make sure there is no food jealousy. Yet then puppy is not a fast enough eater to finish dog food or treat. It’s like you can NOT come near my food but I’m allowed to come and get you’re food. We need to figure this out now when the puppy is still small enough to be picked up and moved easier, and can not hurt older dog. But I can see down the line a bigger problem and there being a big fight with blood. We need them to not steal each other food because both are fast eater and need slow feeding dog feeder toys to help each of them. Right now we are using slow feeding dog bowls but have 3 different dog slow feeder interact toys for them and we would at one point need to use. When camping or have a lot of guests over after COVID though.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Elizabeth, First, I recommend feeding the dogs separately in closed crates, not only to stop the food stealing now but also to stop the stress that's related to each dog guarding or hovering around the others' food, since that stress can lead to guarding and food aggression later if not prevented. I would also work on teaching both dogs Place, and work up to each dog being able to stay on their own designated place spot for 1-2 hours. Give dog food stuffed chew toys in crates on while pup's are on separate place beds they are not allow to leave. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo I suggest teaching both dogs Out (which means leave the area). Out is great for giving direction and giving a consequence of leaving the room when there is pushiness or mild resource guarding. Out command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ I also suggest crate training both dogs so that they can have a calm place to chew on a chew toy away from each other when things are tense, or one dog is pestering the other, or you are not home to supervise while they are still getting to know each other. Crate training is an important potty training and safety measure for a young pup also. An open crate while you are home can also serve as an additional Place to practice, and feeding both dogs in separate locked crates can prevent food resource guarding and remove stress around mealtimes! Surprise method - for introducing crate for first time: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate I also recommend teaching Leave It to use to stop food or toy stealing. Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Decide what your house rules are for both dogs and you be the one to enforce the rules instead of the dogs. No aggression, no pushiness, no stealing toys, no stealing food, no being possessive of people or things, or any other unwanted behavior - if one dog is causing a problem, you be the one to enforce the rules so that the dogs are NOT working it out themselves. For example, if pup comes over to your other dog when he is trying to sleep, tell pup Out. If he obeys, praise and reward him. If he disobeys, stand in front of your other dog, blocking the pup from getting to him, and walk toward pup calmly but firmly until pup leaves the area and stops trying to go back to your other dog. If your older dog pushes pup or gets between you and pup uninvited, tell your older dog Out and enforce him leaving. When he is waiting for his turn patiently, then send pup to place and invite your older dog - no demanding of attention right now from either dog. Make them wait or do a command first to work for your attention if pushiness is an issue, and make them leave if being pushy or aggressive. If your older dog growls at pup, make your older dog leave the room while also carefully disciplining pup if pup antagonized him. Be vigilant and take the pressure off of your dogs - you want them to learn to look to you when there is a problem, and for them to learn respect for each other because you have taught it to them and not because they have used aggression. Don't feel sorry for either dog but give clear boundaries instead. Don't expect them to be best friends right now - the goal is calm co-existence. When puppy matures and they have learned good manners around each other, they may decide to be friends as adults, but calmness, tolerance, and co-existence comes first. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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