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Stop Your Dog from Growling Over Food With These Training Tips

on June 28, 2023

Are you tired of your pup growling over his food every time you feed him dinner? You’re not alone! Resource guarding is a common issue among dogs and can be a real source of frustration for dog owners, but it’s an issue that must be addressed to maintain harmony within a home. Fortunately, with the proper training, you can curb this behavior and help your pup feel more at ease around meal times. In this blog post, we will provide tips on how to stop your dog from growling over food to bring more peace to your household. Keep reading to find out more! 

Understanding Why Your Dog is Growling

Identify the cause of the behavior so you can address it properly. 

It can be incredibly frustrating when your dog starts growling over food. Unwanted territorial behavior like this is unsettling, so identifying and addressing the underlying cause is essential. When considering the “why” behind resource guarding, ask yourself a few basic questions: Is your pup feeling possessive? Are they uncomfortable around other people or animals in the vicinity? Are they a rescue with a history of fighting for meals? 

Consider your dog’s past and the atmosphere you create during meal times. It could be that they feel they need to compete with housemates to have a proper dinner. Understanding why your dog is growling is the first step to adequately tracking and managing the behavior. With patience, consistency, and a good plan of action, it's possible to help your pup learn mealtime manners. 

Establish Rules and Boundaries

Clearly define what your dog is and isn’t allowed to do regarding food.

Establishing rules and boundaries when it comes to food can be key in stopping your dog from growling. Always be clear and consistent when it comes to what your pup is and isn’t allowed to do regarding food. Don’t make these rules too complicated, either. Examples of easy rules you can follow: 

  • No stealing scraps from the kitchen counter.
  • Eat only near designated feeding areas.
  • Do not rush at food when it is provided. 

These are all easy-to-set expectations for your pup, but they are not an exhaustive list! Decide what is best for your family, and then ensure you enforce the rules daily! Depending on where your dog is in their training, consider practicing each rule one at a time until they are second nature before starting to learn and enforce a new one. Incrementally, your pup will learn their boundaries around food and exhibit better manners at mealtime.

Don't Reward Negative Behavior

If your dog growls, don't give them any attention or treats, which could reinforce the unwanted behavior.

It's important to remember that attention is a reward for dogs, so don't give any if your pup is growling. Soothing the situation with a treat or belly rub may be tempting, but this could actually reinforce the unwanted behavior. Instead, when your dog starts growling around food, remain calm and take measures to reinforce that the behavior is unacceptable, like moving the food away from them. It may also help to practice other types of training to reinforce proper behavior, like “sit,” “stay,” and “wait.” Not acknowledging inappropriate behavior is the first step in helping prevent any future undesirable behavior while also letting your dog know that growling over meals is unacceptable.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Give your dog treats or praise when they show non-aggressive behavior around food. 

If your dog has a habit of growling over food, there are a few key training tips that you can use to turn their behavior around. The most beneficial strategy is to reward them with treats or praise when they act non-aggressively around food. This positive reinforcement will help train your pup to associate good behavior with rewards and significantly reduce the chance of unsavory incidents. 

Avoid Situations that Make Your Dog Uncomfortable

If possible, avoid putting them in situations where they feel anxious or threatened during mealtime.

Prevention is key when avoiding situations that make your dog uncomfortable. If it can be helped, try to keep them out of any environment that makes them anxious or threatened, especially when they are about to eat a meal. (Here’s a refresher on dog body language if you need help decoding when your dog is anxious). We know this isn’t always feasible, so if they end up in an uncomfortable situation and start growling, try calming them down. Redirecting a dog’s attention to something else until the environment becomes safer is an excellent option in these scenarios. With enough positive reinforcement and training, you can teach your pup how to avoid the need for growling and let you know how they feel through alternative behaviors.

Seek Professional Help if Needed

Consider working with a trainer if you are struggling to train your dog on their own

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with trying to stop your pup from growling over its food, consider enlisting the help of a professional canine trainer. It can be overwhelming and tricky to train a dog on your own. If you don’t feel up to the challenge, don’t hesitate to get outside support! An experienced trainer can provide valuable tips to help your furry friend learn proper mealtime behaviors. With practical guidance and patience, in no time, your pup will be dining without any issues or bad manners, creating a more relaxing environment for the whole family.

It is important to remember that every pup is different, and their response to external stimuli can vary greatly (including with resources like food!). With a bit of patience, persistence, and, most importantly, positive reinforcement, your pup can learn acceptable behavior for mealtime. Additionally, don’t forget to watch for signs of stress or fear in your dog, as they could contribute to the growling and protective behaviors. If all else fails, consider contacting a professional canine behaviorist who can help assess the situation and provide tailored techniques for you and your pup. 

Are you looking for more resources for your particular pooch? Check out all of K9 & Company’s offerings for all of your mealtime needs and more today!


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