pit bull eating

Avoid Innate Competition

Question:
I have a 55# pit mix, Molly, with food guarding. I have pet gates set up for feeding to avoid conflict but recently the gate got left open. Molly walked over to my 10 pound dog to eat her food, the little dog growled and Molly attacked. I was able to intervene immediately and no one was injured. I took Molly to a trainer. They put an electric shock collar on her. This doesn’t sit right with me. Molly was extremely uncomfortable and the shock collar does not seem like a long term solution to me.

Dr. Nichol:
Most dogs are sure that a famine is only about 20 minutes away. If they don’t get all of the food right now, they won’t get any of it. Their concept of scarcity is genetically programmed – and it’s served them well for millennia. Electric shock for Molly’s natural behavior won’t rewire her brain but it can instill fear. You could try a brain transplant but, considering the pool of donors, who wants a dog who behaves like, well, “you-know-who”?

Instead, allow your dogs to be dogs and avoid their triggers. Feed each one in a separate room at the same time. To avoid all tension, even remotely associated with food, store their bowls in a closed cabinet. At meal time lead each pet to a specific room where he or she will always eat and close the door. Be sure your dogs can’t see each other through a window or a sliding glass door. Then measure each pet’s food into his or her own bowl. Open the door to each feeding room, one-at-a-time, slide the bowl in, and close the door.

After allowing plenty of time for everybody to get their fill, retrieve the bowls individually and close the door on each dog, leaving them in their feeding rooms just a little longer. Clean the bowls and store them out of sight. Then everybody can rejoin the group, gather ‘round the fire and sing kumbaya. The bottom line: When food or food bowls are available, your pets will never be together.

Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog, or podcast to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet behavioral or physical questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.