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Canine Feeding Instincts

The front right side of a brown brindle with white Boxer that is eating out of his bowl

Right up there next to a dog's migration instinct and the importance of you leading the way on the walk, rather than the dog leading you, is the feeding ritual. This is another key aspect to communicating to your dog in its language. In the wild, a canine animal gets up in the morning and goes off with its pack to hunt. The pack hunts together as a group. When the pack brings down an animal, the leader of the pack eats first, consuming the tastiest parts of the kill. The other members of the pack wait until the alpha member is finished and then proceed to eat their share.

It is best to walk your dog before a meal; this simulates him working for his food. It is not natural for a dog to be given everything for free. Canine animals have a drive to earn their keep in the pack. Always let your dog cool off and wind down before feeding him in order to prevent conditions such as bloat.

When it is feeding time your dog should wait patiently for you to prepare the food. The dog should not be begging or excited.

The back of a brown brindle with white Boxer and a brown Boxer that are laying on the kitchen floor

A dog that lays or sits down without intensely staring is being respectful. When a dog turns its back or walks away while its food is being prepared, it is giving the ultimate respect. It is giving you space because it sees it as your turn to "eat."

Two dogs are sitting on the kitchen floor waiting to be told they can eat out of the bowl

When the dog is calm, place the bowl on the ground. Tell him to wait, practicing good discipline and then give the command to go and get it.

If your dog is anxious, whining, jumping, spinning, pacing, being pushy, begging, intensely staring or otherwise not calm while you are preparing the food, do not put the food bowl down. Tell your dog you disagree with his behavior. Correct him while remaining calm and feeling confident. You may have to put the food dish on the counter and wait. Eventually the dog will calm down and if you are consistent he will learn that you only put the food down when he is calm and respectful.

There should be no self-feeding, where the food is available all of the time. The pack leader decides when it is time to eat, so you do not want to let your dog decide when to go and get a nibble. Food available all of the time sends mixed signals. There should be a scheduled feeding time. Your dog needs to see that you are deciding when it is time to eat.

Close Up - A brown brindle with white Boxer is eating food out of a persons hand

You should be able to reach down and touch your dog's food without the dog getting upset in any way. If you try this and your dog growls, snaps, bites or tries to push you away from their food, then your dog is seeing himself as above you in the order. He is telling you that he is alpha and to leave him alone while eating. It is not safe for you to allow your dog to believe he is alpha, since an alpha dog will resort to biting in order to communicate his displeasure with your actions.

This video clip gives an example of how a balanced dog will act. The first part of the clip shows when I first went downstairs in the morning. The dogs are calm and not over-excited. The second part of the clip shows the same dogs getting fed. They are just as calm at feeding time.

The right side of a brindle Valley Bulldog eating food off of a plate

Diesel the Valley Bulldog

Written by Sharon Rose© Dog Breed Info Center® All Rights Reserved