Food Bowl Guarding

  1. Give the dog some regular food such as dry kibble. Have some treats ready (high value) and approach the bowl. As long as he does not behave aggressively (stiffening, hard stare, guarding the bowl), drop the treat in the bowl. If he shows any aggressive behavior wait until he finishes and try again (you can use small amounts of food several times to add up to the full meal amount to give you extra time to practice).
  2. After several repetitions he should start to lift his head when you approach the bowl, wait for this behavior (even a small head lift at first is progress) before dropping a treat in the bowl.
  3. When he begins to consistently lift his head begin to bend down slightly like you are going to take the bowl, and drop the treat in the bowl. Do not take the bowl yet! Monitor carefully for any stiffening or aggressive behavior. If you see any aggressive behavior go back to the last successful step.
  4. Continue to increase the amount you bend as he progresses.
  5. After several sessions of bending down and no signs of aggression take the bowl and reward with something better. Once the dog finishes his treat give the bowl back and allow him to finish.
  6. Work for a few minutes at each meal time.
  7. Hand feed or provide half the meal in a treat toy.
  8. Be sure the dog is getting adequate exercise.
  9. Teach him to sit calmly and wait for his bowl. Ask him to sit and start to bend to place the bowl. If he stands up or moves toward the bowl stand back up with the bowl. Try again until he is sitting until the bowl hits the ground.
  10. These same activities can be done with dogs who guard toys or chews. Start with a low value toy or chew and progress through the steps above until you can take the item from the dog.
  11. If he gets something he shouldn’t have that you need to take grab a high value treat or toy and get his attention with it. Toss it away from the item you are taking and pick it up when he goes to the treat you tossed.