Dogs are not born with self control when it comes to food. They see something tasty in front of them, and take it! Here are ways to teach them the essential politeness rules when food is available.
It may be that your dog is very keen to get his dinner, but if you start by teaching him to sit beforehand, you can use this as a way of keeping him anchored to the floor instead.
Never follow the ancient and dangerous advice to take the food away while your dog is eating. Stop doing that! I see a lot of aggressive dogs where the owner managed to teach them to food guard using such a silly method. Instead, be sensible and teach this food bowl exercise:
1. As you prepare your dog’s food, ask him to sit calmly. Once he does so, offer him a piece of food from the bowl.
2. Whilst he remains sitting, start to lower the food bowl to the floor.
3. If he remains sitting, praise him and offer him a piece of food from the bowl.
4. Remind him to sit and continue lowering the food bowl to the floor.
5. If he moves out of the sit, simply stop lowering the bowl, and stand back up again.
6. Continue repeating from stage 3 above until he sits calmly whilst the food bowl is lowered all the way to the floor. Be patient and remember to reward him during this process for sitting so that your dog understands what will earn him the food.
7. Once the bowl is on the floor, give your dog permission to eat his dinner. Success!
Next, teach your dog some patience:
1. Hold the food in your hand as with the previous exercise.
2. As your dog backs away from the food, say ‘Leave’, praise (or click) and give him some food, saying ‘Take it’.
3. Progress to holding some of the food in your fingertips or open hand, and each time, ask him to ‘Leave’, praise/click and give him the food ‘Take it’.
4. Progress further to placing the food onto the floor, repeating as above. Do not rush this stage! The goal is to teach the dog that the food will always be given to him when he hears ‘take it’, never that he snatch it himself.
5. Build up to dropping the food, or more delicious food, until your dog really understands that hearing ‘Leave’ is always something that will gain him a tasty result.
Take your time, and teach what you’d like. If your dog guards food, growls, or otherwise becomes defensive, why not give me a call? I can help.