Peace at mealtimes

dog look up begging at dinner time

A two-dog household learns some new rules about food.

Several years ago I introduced a ten week old female puppy into my household. At the time I already had a dog. He was eighteen months old and he’d been an only dog up until then.

All went well between my dog and the new puppy until the first mealtime. The puppy had a cage at one end of my very large living room and my existing dog got fed at the other. On that first mealtime, I gave the adult dog his meal and then walked across the room to put the puppy’s food in her cage.

Instantly, my adult dog left his bowl, ran across the room, growling and snarling and charged into the puppy’s cage. I hadn’t expected him to be aggressive and could see that it would make mealtimes a challenge.

Many would have seen this as a dominance issue or as disrespecting my leadership. I didn’t see it like that and I knew that the best way to tackle feeding times was to use positive reinforcement to teach my older dog what I wanted from him.

At the next mealtime my older dog wore his lead and I tethered him next to his food bowl to prevent him charging at the puppy. Then, while the puppy ate, I stood next to him and dropped small pieces of ham into his food bowl for as long as the puppy ate.

After two days he didn’t need to wear a lead during meal times but I still kept on giving him pieces of ham while the puppy ate.

After a further 3 days I could feed the dogs normally with no worries about aggressive behaviour from my adult dog.

Five years after that training, I brought another puppy into the house. I had absolutely no work to do that time. There was no aggressive behaviour at all toward that puppy.

The dog who’d been a problem is now so placid at feeding times that I can happily put food bowls down for the dogs and then leave the room without any concern that there may be arguments over the food.

Tracey McLennan


Tracey is studying for a degree in canine behaviour and training and has been working as a Tellington TTouch practitioner for several years.