How to Stop Dogs From Fighting During Mealtime

by Mary Lougee
    It's mine! No, it's mine.

    It's mine! No, it's mine.

    Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

    Dogs are descendants of wolves and are therefore pack animals. In multiple dog homes, the pack includes all animals and humans. Dogs can show possession aggression over food at mealtimes when the aggressive dog is vying for the alpha position in the pack order. This can occur when dogs are fed different foods, or if one dog just feels entitled to more food than the other does. If you don't stop it, food aggression can result in injuries, not to mention one really fat and one underweight dog.

    Step 1

    Place each dog in a separate room to feed them at the same time. Close a door between the feeding areas so they cannot see each other as they eat. If the dogs don’t see each other and cannot reach each other, they will not fight over food. Feed the dogs separately for a few days.

    Step 2

    Open the door separating the dogs at mealtime and stand in the doorway. Do not allow either dog to leave his bowl and go toward the other dog. Praise each dog for not reacting toward each other and give each a dog treat after his meal to reinforce positive behavior. If one dog approaches the doorway and will not stop, close the door between them. Transition the dogs into eating in this manner for a few days.

    Step 3

    Move both dog bowls into one large room, but place them as far apart as you possibly can. Praise the dogs for not interacting with each other while eating. Arm yourself with an automatic opening umbrella or a large metal cookie sheet. Stand between the dogs and watch for signs of possessive aggression, which include a long stare, growling or showing of teeth. If the aggressor exhibits any behavior that can become threatening, open an automatic umbrella in front of him to startle him. Bang loudly on a large metal cookie sheet or place it directly in front of his nose to stop him from approaching your other dog.

    Step 4

    Move the food bowls closer together in the room slowly to train the dogs to eat their food and not argue over it. If they attempt to argue again, move the bowls farther apart or start the mealtime training over with each in a separate room and a door between them.

    Items You Will Need

    • Dog treats
    • Umbrella
    • Cookie sheet

    Tip

    • Observe your dogs to note which dog is the aggressor at mealtime. He will usually be more aggressive in play with toys and demand more attention from you, too. Stand closer to the aggressor at mealtime to stop his behavior quickly.

    Warning

    • Do not punish your dogs for showing food aggression. Screaming or hitting them is definitely the wrong method to desensitize them, and they may accidentally hurt you in the process. This may only escalate the aggression toward one another and toward you also. Instead, reward them for proper behavior and being calm toward each other at mealtimes.

    Photo Credits

    • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Mary Lougee is a writer in Texas who writes on a wide variety of subjects from home improvement to pet care. Her love of animals led to building a farm and caring for rescue animals from equine and swine to dogs and cats. She holds a bachelor's degree in management.

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