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

How to Train Your Dog to Not Eat Other Dogs' Food
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-4 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

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.

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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!

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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.

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The Claim and Control Method

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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.

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.

3

Be verbal

Firmly say “leave it” or “off".

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.

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.

The Leave It Method

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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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Take Turns Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

By Laurie Haggart

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Roscoe

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Irish Wolfhound

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Three Years

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Question

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I'm a former basic obedience trainer. The 'leave it' and 'off' methods do not work for this dog. Neither does blocking him with your body. He charges through everything and everyone just to eat the food while ignoring you. Not aggressively, just on a mission to eat every bowl of food that is in this house. Pulling him off takes all your strength as he is 170 lbs and he doesn't care. You have to pull his collar and pick the bowl up at the same time. It is quite frustrating. I cannot wrap my head around correcting this.

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Roscoe's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, First, when not actively training I would have the owners feed the dogs in separate closed crates and not free feed - you will want to keep him from being rewarded by getting the left out food. I would practice this at least until better obedience is established so that the training you are doing isn't being undone by the food left out rewarding him. Second, I would have the vet check him for a tapeworm. Most parasite and heartworm prevention medications don't cover preventing tape worms and a tape worm will make a dog being fed well feel ravenous, which makes training something like this a lot harder. Owners can start by checking his poops, looking for small white/yellow rice size bits that are flat like tape. A bit gross but you can google pictures of tape worms in poop to know what to check for. I am not a vet though so refer to their vet. Third, once anything medical potentially going on is addressed or if pup is free of something medical going on and for sure being fed enough according not only to breed size, recommended food brand recommendations but also individual metabolism and activity level, then I would work on remote collar training. Check out this body weight chart. https://www.thefarmersdog.com/digest/measure-dogs-body-condition/ Finally, after ruling out medical and feeding causes, I would work on teaching the basics of what leave it means, rewarding with a second treat hidden behind your back, not giving the dog the treat they are supposed to be leaving - so they don't just learn to wait for that first treat but to disengage from it completely to earn a different reward. Once he has learned what Leave It means when you have the food, then I would also use remote collar training to enforce that command, working up to being able to set the food down, correcting pup with the collar on their working level if they don't obey leave it when told during practice. Feed dogs in crates when not training, and use a back tie leash in case pup expresses aggression while training this - you haven't mentioned aggression but a dog this food driven is a risk for biting due to resource guarding. Once he has learned the rules and will leave food alone when told, something call a pet barrier device can also be used in the area where the other dogs' food bowls generally are to enforce him never going over to their bowls to being with. Only the dog wearing the corresponding collar would be corrected for approaching, correcting Roscoe wearing the collar but not the other dogs, and feeding Roscoe in another part of the kitchen. A good pet barrier device has a region you should be able to set, so that the correction radius is small enough that he won't be corrected just for being in the room but only for trying to get to the bowls. Personally, I would only teach leave it with the remote training collar then feed dogs in crate. That is much fairer and safer for all the dogs and people involved, instead of him being tempted with left out food bowls and corrected if he gives into temptation. There are some situations where things may need to be left out though. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cl3V8vYobM&t=351s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WChhdM8t5qo Spend time as a trainer learning about proper remote collar training and fitting before attempting to use. Always work to include clear communication - with reward based training as an initial foundation, so pup will fully understand before using the corrections ahead of time whenever possible. Be sure to also reward pup for obeying even when corrections are also needed for disobedience and behavior issues. If you still don't feel comfortable addressing this yourself, especially with this tool, its honorable to refer the client to a trainer who has experience in this area, so please don't feel any shame about taking that approach if you find it's needed. We all need to take that approach every once in a while when something is outside of our expertise. As a fellow trainer, I really appreciate your willingness to keep learning and look for additional solutions when your initial approach isn't working. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

today

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Chewy

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Yorkie

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7 Years

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Chew has suddenly become a bully. He has taken possession of her food bowl. I leave food in their bowls 24/7. He lays by her bowl and won’t let her eat. I have to intervene. At night he gets under the bed so he can watch her bowl instead of in bed with us. I recently remarried and moved together 4 months ago. That is the only change. He just started this behavior a couple weeks ago. If I am talking to Daisy he comes and pushes her away.

April 16, 2022

Chewy's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Barbara, First, I would start by feeding both dogs in separate closed crate or different closed rooms (ideally crates for Chewy). Give thirty minutes to eat. If they aren't actively eating the food in the last ten minutes, let them out and remove the food. If it wasn't eaten, give an extra meal opportunity at lunch, repeating the same circumstances, then removing what's left, and giving more at dinner again. After about a week of this routine, many dogs will learn to eat at meal times and not free feed, so there isn't a bowl to guard at all times. Second, to address the overall attitude toward your female, I would work on teaching boundary commands and building his respect for you, so you are the one making and enforcing household rules between the dogs and not the dogs for each other, or him for her specifically. Check out the Working, Consistency, and Obedience methods found in this article. I would specifically spend time on the Working method with him. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you For boundary commands, I recommend teaching things like Place, Out, and Leave It. You may also find the other commands I have included useful too for addressing his attitude. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the room: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Keep a drag leash on Chewy when you are present (and crated when not present) if they won't listen to your directional commands once learned well. Calmly lead pup where you tell them to go as needed by picking up the end of the leash. If you see any signs of aggression toward you, pause and get professional help to deal with aggression toward you also. Training will likely need to be mortified to take extra precautions to keep you safe. Don't risk a bite. You attitude should be calm but confident. Mean what you say and follow through without acting angry or overly harsh. A calm, confident, consistent approach tends to earn the respect of dogs most easily. For things like pushiness around you, first, working on his respect and listening with you should partially help, because in that instant it sounds like he is being possessive of you - which is like resource guarding you similar to the dog bowl. Pup no longer seeing you as his own by increasing his respect for you can positively affect that, but also, practice him being on Place while you give the other dog attention, then sending the other dog to their own Place while you call him over for attention; this way he is waiting for his turn and your permission to come over, instead of being pushy and aggressive toward you and the other dog; if he will wait, he will get attention too. Avoid giving lots of attention to both dogs while they are right next to each other at first though, rotate who is getting what while the other waits until the behavior improves. In dog training - this is called Honoring. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

April 18, 2022


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