Dog-Human Food Bowl Guarding

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Food-bowl guarding is actually one of the simplest forms of resource guarding to modify because management is often enough - feeding the dog in a separate room, in a crate, removing the bowl when they're done, never leaving uneaten food down or unattended - these are all quick and easy solutions to prevent guarding. 

Nevertheless, we can modify it to reduce the overall stress surrounding the food bowl! 

If during your work with your dog, they show any of these signs, it it a cue for you to stop, back off, reassess your plan. 

  1. Freezing, sometimes accompanied by side-eye
  2. Accelerated consumption
  3. Growling
  4. Snarling (showing teeth)
  5. Snapping
  6. Bite without damage
  7. Bite with damage

Punishment, such as scolding, yelling, hitting, spraying water, etc... will only cause the dog to escalate much faster and skip the warnings next time. 

By stopping and backing off, you're not "letting the dog win"; you're avoiding getting bitten.


The foundation behaviour that is recommended to have mastered prior to working on this plan is "sit". Click the toggle below to learn how to teach your dog to sit on cue. 

Sit

Teaching a dog to sit is often our first step and it’s an excellent default behaviour when our dogs want to “say please” for something they want.

Ideas for verbal cues: “sit”, “park it”, “off”,

  1. With your dog in a standing position, bring a treat from their nose slowly moving the treat slightly upwards and back towards their tail. 
    Keep the treat lure close to your dog’s nose—if you move your hand up too quickly or too far away from their mouth, they may jump up, back up, or give up.
    As soon as your dog’s hindquarters hit the ground, say “yes!” (or click) and release the treat for them to eat while they are still in the seated position. 
    You can toss a treat away to reset. Repeat 4 more times for a total of 5 repetitions.
  2. With your dog in a standing position, cup your empty hand as if you have a treat in it. Raise it in the same motion as the lure – slightly upwards and back towards their tail.
    As soon as your dog’s hindquarters hit the ground, say “yes!” (or click) and feed a treat from your pouch while they are still in the seated position. If your dog stands up after the mark and before you have a chance to feed the treat, simply lure them back into the seated position to release the food.
    You can toss a treat away to reset. Repeat 4 more times for a total of 5 repetitions. 
  3. With your dog in a standing position, cup your empty hand and without bending your body, raise it by bending at the elbow. When your arm is bent at a 90º angle, freeze and wait.
    As soon as your dog’s hindquarters hit the ground, say “yes!” (or click) and feed a treat from your pouch while they are still in the seated position.
  4. With your dog in a standing position, say “sit” in a gentle voice, wait 1 second, then offer the hand signal, freeze and wait.
    As soon as your dog’s hindquarters hit the ground, say “yes!” (or click) and feed a treat from your pouch while they are still in the seated position.
  5. With your dog in a standing position, say “sit” in a gentle voice, freeze and wait. Your arms should remain still or behind your back.
    As soon as your dog’s hindquarters hit the ground, say “yes!” (or click) and feed a treat from your pouch while they are still in the seated position.
  6. Take it on the road! You may have to start from scratch in a new environment but the steps will go a LOT faster as your dog already knows them, but not how to apply it to different environments. Alternate your use of the silent hand signal and the verbal cue without a hand signal. It’s ideal to have a dog who will respond to both independently!
    Some situations in which to practice:
    - at home
    - in the yard
    - on leash on the sidewalk
    - at the crosswalk
    - before getting into the car
    - before opening the front door
    - before giving a food toy
    - when you arrive home after an absence
    - before throwing the toy

The following training plan has two tabs - one for CC/DS and another for DRI. 

CC/DS is short for counterconditioning and desensitisation - creating a positive emotional response and gradually getting closer to the target. 

DRI is short for Differential Reinforcement of an Incompatible behaviour - replacing the unwanted behaviour with something that cannot occur at the same time, like a "sit"! 

Work through the CC/DS first and once successfully completed, move on to the DRI plan. 

Download your Dog-Human Food Bowl Guarding Training Plan below:

When you click the button above, you will be asked to make a copy of the document for yourself to keep and use. It is a Google Spreadsheet. You do not require an account to use this.

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