Dinner is one of the rare highlights of a dog’s day. Once the walk is done, they get 2 meals to look forward to.
However mealtimes can become a battleground, and it’s not the dog’s doing.
Quite often, I still get asked to ‘make sure my dog is ok with having it’s dinner taken away’. I don’t understand this. Why should we ask our pets to be used to having their meal stolen mid-way through?
Up until recently, some top TV dog ‘trainers’ encouraged you to snatch the bowl away whilst they are eating as a way to learn to be nice to you. Seriously? If someone stole my food, I would be livid! Why is this even on their agenda to learn how to live with humans? This is a sure-fire way to start them resource guarding.
Think of it this way – would you teach your toddler this? No, because as soon as you go to take away their tasty chocolate cake, you will have an instant messy and VERY loud tantrum. It’s not teaching your child to be tolerant, it’s making them very conscious that if you approach their meal, it will be stolen. So if we don’t think it’s appropriate for children, why is it so for dogs?
Try and do this, and you are likely to cause guarding of their bowl. When you approach, they may freeze, hang their heads over the bowl, roll their eyes so you see the whites, and possibly a lip curl or low growl. These are massive warnings of ‘stay away from my dinner or there will be blood – yours’. The other option they have is to suddenly speed up their eating ‘if I eat it all, there is nothing there for you to steal – ha!’ That is itself can be problematic as gulping the food means a bigger air intake and a risk of the fatal bloat.
But what about the children getting near their bowls – I hear you cry. Surely the dog must learn that the child might take the food so I don’t want them to react…… This one is easy to solve. Separate the dog and children! Give your dog a lovely quiet area away from the other dogs/kids and use a stairgate if necessary. Let them eat in peace! At their own pace! If your children can’t learn to keep away from the dog whilst they are eating, then separate them into another room – use a stairgate to keep them in!
What if you are bumbling around the kitchen whilst your dog is eating, and you have to get close to them? Instead of taking their food, why not drop a lovely chunk of cooked chicken into their bowl as you pass – that way they will really like you hanging around if more tasty treats magically appear.
This whole scenario reminds me of a scene in the BBC comedy Gavin and Stacey (Series 3 ep 2) about the takeaway curry. Despite all the characters ordering their own food, all they are interested in is pinching (taking/tasting) everyone else’s dishes. Cue a rant from Smithy about when takeaway is ordered, no one is capable of eating their own food – they expect to take food from others. If they want something else, they should have ordered it….! It makes him so unhappy to be forced to have food taken from him that he goes and sits in the car to eat alone.
Do our dogs feel like Smithy when we try and ‘teach’ them to share (also read that as stealing)?