Understanding Your Dog’s Mealtime Behavior
The short answer to why your dog is guarding her food is that it values its food and doesn’t want anyone else to eat it. The longer, more complicated, answer has to do with your dog’s overall demeanor and your behavior.
In extreme cases, some dogs may actually attempt to bite anyone who attempts to approach them during mealtimes. Most dogs that exhibit food-guarding will show less obvious “symptoms,” such as body language that indicates stress, wolfing down food not just out of hunger, and subtle to not-so-subtle growling. Such dogs tend toward defensive or aggressive behaviors, which owners can often control.
One thing you don’t want to do is to remove your dog’s bowl while your pet is still eating, according to Linda Case, author of Canine and Feline Behavior and Training: A Complete Guide to Understanding Our Two Best Friends. Doing this teaches your dog that you are, at least in that moment, an adversary, so it may resort to defensive tactics. Along the same lines, if you punish your dog for food guarding, it will also potentially see you as an enemy.
Train your dog to sit and stay before you offer food. Case advises that you feed your dog two to three times a day in a secure location, such as in a room with the door closed or within a gated corner. After it has finished its meal, let your dog out to do its business. At this time, remove the food bowl. You can follow the same procedure if you have a multi-dog household, feeding each dog separately. Reinforcing these nondestructive behaviors should help to resolve most mild cases of food-guarding.