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Learn : Puppy Care

Feeding Two or More Dogs at the Same Time

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feeding two dogs

Many families share their hearts and homes with multiple dogs. While this makes playtime and cuddling even more fun, mealtime can bring its own unique issues. All dogs have different personalities, and that includes how they feel about their food. A dog who gets along with his companions in other situations could possibly feel threatened or anxious when it comes to their supper, and the term used to describe this behavior is “resource guarding.”

Resource guarding is exactly what it sounds like: a dog feels compelled to protect his property, and in this case, it is his food, and displays of aggression usually accompany this impulse. A dog who is resource guarding will likely freeze up, show his teeth, growl, or even snap at anyone who gets too close to his food. This is a learned behavior; when a dog does this and gets the intended result (his food left alone), it reinforces that habit. It is therefore important to find ways to curb it wherever possible, and often, this begins with finding ways to feed multiple dogs that keep a nervous dog from feeling the need to protect what is his.

Tricks to Feeding Two or More Dogs at the Same Time

Feed in Different Rooms

In order to ensure that all dogs get the food they need, separating them into separate rooms might work best. Make sure each dog gets the same room each time. For dogs who like to wander away from their food bowl before they are finished, pet parents can feed them with a closed door or a baby gate to keep them contained. This is an especially useful trick for dogs that are on a diet and are not used to eating smaller portions yet because if he has access to other dogs' bowls, he might sneak more food. Keep him confined until his food bowl is empty or until the other dogs have finished their meals.

Use Separate Bowls

If all of the dogs are eating the same food, it might be tempting to allow the dogs to eat out of the same bowl at the same time. However, this can result in food anxiety in a dog that exhibits resource-guarding behaviors. Feeding time should occur for each dog in their own separate bowl. Separating the resource in question allows all dogs to feel certain they are getting the food they need.

Benefits for Dogs with Specialized Diets

One instance in which separate bowls is especially important is when your dogs have different nutritional needs. Separate food bowls are 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.

Dogs in this position benefit greatly from pet parents who know the right way to feed multiple dogs. For example, pet parents should always make sure that an adult dog does not eat food meant for a puppy’s growing body. Other specialized diets include recipes for dogs that are overweight or obese. A dog who needs to maintain a given weight will have far different nutritional needs than a dog who needs to lose weight. A dog on a weight loss diet might have a recipe that is higher in fiber to help him feel full faster and keep his portions under control.

Crate Feeding

Crate training is a useful tool that many pet parents utilize for their dogs. If the dogs are already crate trained, make use of that training to have space for each dog to eat their food. Using crates that your dogs already feel comfortable in as feeding spaces can make it easier for anxious dogs to finish their meals in peace. You can make sure they are eating from their own bowls and are finishing their food entirely before letting them out. Crate feeding also helps pet parents deal with not only resource guarding but also issues like bullying.

How to Stop Resource Guarding

You can reduce a dog's tendency to resource guard with creative feeding strategies. However, pet parents need to address the source of the anxiety. The goal is to make sure your dog feels safe enough that he no longer needs to guard his food. The main issue with resource guarding is learned behaviors. When a dog growls at you for getting near his food, the likely outcome is you leaving his food alone. This does not address the root cause and reinforces guarding behaviors.  

Start Early

Start preventative measures as early as possible. When a dog is young, it is important to accustom him to people and other dogs around his food or treats. Pet parents need to be in control of the feeding process, so it is good practice to teach the puppy to sit for food, making it clear that the parent controls feeding time. Pet parents may also want to make a habit of picking up his food bowl temporarily, for only thirty seconds or so, before returning it to him. This helps to assure the puppy that he can trust his parents 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.

Positive Reinforcement

When a pet parent approaches their dog, he may get protective of his food. This can happen even when there is no intention to remove the food bowl from the dog. To cut down on the anxiety response, begin to associate your approach to his food bowl with something positive. For example, to teach the dog that nothing bad is going to happen when you get near his food, add his favorite wet food or tasty treats to his bowl while he is near it. This can help him to associate good things with his parent’s approach to his bowl.

Reward Good Behavior

Reward the behavior that you want to see in your dog, especially when it comes to resource guarding. It may take time and patience for a dog to become more comfortable with people or other dogs around his food. As you build up his trust, be sure to reward the dog in question every time he allows his food bowl to be picked up or moved without having an aggressive reaction. If he is food motivated, you can praise him and give him his bowl right back. Other dogs are motivated by treats, toys, or praise, so make sure you know what he responds to most.

Feeding multiple dogs at the same time can be an easy and peaceful time, as long as pet parents know what they are looking for. Sometimes, problematic behavior is learned before a dog comes into your home. That can often mean that he needs a little extra patience as his parents guide him and teach him the correct behavior. When dogs have different nutritional needs or diets, knowing the best way to feed multiple dogs in the home can be a lifesaver. It ensures amicable feeding time for both the pet parents and the dogs.

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