Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
First, the good news: “This isn’t a common behavior,” says
Dr. Karen Overall, MA, VMD, PhD, a professor at the
University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School and a certified applied animal behaviorist. “Dogs eat all the time, and nobody gets mauled.”
But if your dog bears his teeth whenever someone gets too close to him during feeding time, it’s likely the result of past experiences.
“When I see this behavior, it’s typically in dogs who were rescues, strays or from
puppy mills,” Dr. Overall says. “On the street, dogs have to protect their food from other
dogs or else they’ll starve. Same goes for puppy mills — breeders will put one dish down for all the animals, and they have to fight to eat.”
Dogs can also get temperamental around food if they’re experiencing pain.
“If your dog is ill or
broke a tooth, and can’t eat as quickly as he used to, it might cause him to growl if another dog in the house eats it before he has a chance,” Dr. Overall says.
If you notice a sudden change in your dog's behavior — for example, he goes from sweet to sassy during dinnertime — make sure that you get him to a vet to rule out any potential underlying medical conditions.
Obviously, having a snappy dog come mealtime isn’t ideal, particularly if you have young children in the house. Luckily, there are ways to calm your canine — and gain his trust.
According to Dr. Overall, you can start by setting out three or four bowls of water and small amounts of dry food around the house, so your dog understands that there’s an abundance of it and he doesn’t need to worry about not getting his share.
While he’s eating, you can try to sit near him — at a safe distance — without making any sudden movements. At the same time, you can add a little food to his dish, so he knows that you’re there to give him food, as opposed to take it away.
Dr. Overall says that these are all good bonding experiences that build trust over time.
Finally — and most important — do not take food away from your dog. Ever.
“Surprisingly, people think they should be able to give and take away food from their pet whenever they want, with no consequences,” Dr. Overall says. “But how would you like it if you went to a nice restaurant and the man at the table next to you leaned over, cut a piece of steak off your plate and ate it?”
It’s important to point out that these tips are only meant for adults who interact with dogs —
children should be taught to respect pets and not bother them when they’re eating.
If you have a particularly
aggressive dog, Dr. Overall recommends putting the pet behind a locked door or gate when it's time to eat. “It’s just better to be safe than sorry," Dr. Overall says, "until children are old enough to learn not to disturb or unintentionally scare the dog.”
Of course, always speak with your own veterinarian about any significant health or behavior issues.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
Shadow, a pregnant Lab-Terrier mix,
woke up her family when a fire started
near a space heater in their home.
This command can be a useful training
strategy for owners whose kitties are
always underfoot or jumping on counters.
A little bit of caution and preparedness
will go a long way toward helping to keep
your pets safe through the…
When a dog suddenly starts vomiting at
Thanksgiving dinner, SuperVet comes to
the rescue... and for some turkey.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect
on what you love most about your cat —
and to show her some affection…
Before sharing leftover turkey or mashed
potatoes, find out if your favorite holiday
eats are safe or dangerous for…
The Bombay may look like a jaguar, but he’s much more easygoing and laid back than his wild doppelgänger.
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.