How to Feed Two or More Dogs at Once
Why are some dogs so weird about their food? More often than not, the answer lies in a behavior called resource guarding.
Resource guarding is when a dog feels compelled to guard his food (or a toy or object he likes), making them likely to freeze up, show their teeth, growl or even snap at anyone who gets too close. Resource guarding is a learned behavior; when a dog does it and gets the intended result (his food is left alone), it reinforces the habit.
Here are some tips you can use to prevent your dog from resource guarding if you are feeding multiple dogs at the same time.
Tricks for Feeding Two Dogs at Once
Feed dogs in different rooms
Sometimes separating dogs is the best way to protect them. If you go this route, make sure each dog eats in the same room each time to establish a habit. For dogs who like to wander away from their food bowl before they finish, you can close a door or use a baby gate to keep them in place. Keep your dog confined until their food bowl is empty or until all other dogs have finished their meals.
Use separate bowls
Even if your dogs are eating the same food, each dog should get his or her own bowl to help them feel certain that they’re going to get the food they need. Separate food bowls are also necessary in the case of a dog who needs a specialized diet for issues such as weight loss, prescription medication for health issues and food allergies.
If your dogs are already crate trained, feeding them here can lessen resource guarding behaviors. You can also make sure they’re eating from their own bowls and finishing their food entirely before letting them out.
How to Stop Resource Guarding
You can reduce a dog's tendency to resource guard with creative feeding strategies like we mentioned above but you’ll still want to address the source of the anxiety. Here are some tips to help.
Start them young
The earlier you can stop bad habits, the better. If you have a puppy, always make him sit for food, so it’s clear you control feeding time. You can also occasionally pick up your puppy’s food bowl (for only thirty seconds or so) before returning it to him. This helps teach him he can trust you to always make sure he is fed and that people near his food bowl are not a danger. When feeding your puppy, make sure you get him used to all kinds of situations involving his food and rewarding him for relaxed, calm behavior.
Use positive reinforcement
Some dogs get anxious about their food when a pet parent or other human approaches. You can reduce this response by teaching your dog to associate your proximity to his food bowl with something positive. For instance, go near his food bowl to add his favorite wet food or tasty treats. Be sure to reward your dog every time he allows his food bowl to be picked up or moved without having an aggressive reaction, whether it’s with treats, praise or toys.