Monday, April 26, 2010

Puppy Food Bowl Guarding

Recently, our puppy Jet, started becoming guardy around her food bowl. Jenn and Jet were working on a food bowl exercise in Junior Puppy Class, when Jet started eating faster and freezing as Barbara, the instructor, approached the bowl. These are signs of guarding behavior, as is growling. Guarding objects is a normal behavior for puppies. I did the same thing when I was Jet's age. Puppies must be taught from an early age that guarding things from people is not appropriate and that people approaching us when we have something is actually a good thing.
So Jenn has been working with Jet when she feeds her to ensure that Jet learns that guarding isn't necessary.
First, Jenn started hand feeding Jet her meals. No dumping the whole meal into the bowl at once. Jet works for her food by doing commands in exchange for handfuls of food for few minutes. Some of the meal is then placed on a plate and Jet has to sit and wait calmly for the plate to be put on the floor before she can start eating.Once Jet has begun to eat, Jenn approaches the plate, putting something better into it each time each time.Jenn works on approaching from different directions, at different speeds, always adding goodies to Jet's plate in the process. Jenn then works on gently touching Jet as she places the higher value food onto the plate. Jenn only does this when Jet has made progress and is relaxed around her food dish.With practice, a person approaching predicts something really good. So Jet will look forward to people coming up to her food bowl, or anything else in her possession. Jet will need to practice with Eric and other people too.

Food bowl guarding is a highly modifiable behavior in dogs. It is important to address the issue as early in the puppy's life as possible. For older dogs, consulting with a professional trainer is sometimes needed. For more information on guarding behavior, click here for a great Dog Star Daily article.

1 comment:

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