Food envy in dogs occurs when dogs are afraid that a roommate will eat their own food. Dog anxiety often has a history and should be treated to prevent problems from arising in the first place. Envy can be directed not only against conspecifics but also against humans. Food envy does not only refer to the food, but also to objects or the space on the couch!
One dog eats quickly and devours, others eat downright leisurely. But what if there is real food envy? You, as the owner, have difficulties with being allowed to approach the bowl at all. But why only? Does your darling get too little? Hardly likely.
Is My Dog Getting Enough Food?
I strongly assume that you have already sufficiently dealt with the breed of your pet, its weight, and thus its diet and needs.
Accordingly, it can also be assumed that your dog is not undersupplied with a probability bordering on certainty. As a rough estimate, a dog with normal activity and bodyweight of 30 kilograms needs around 1200 kcal per day, whereas a small four-legged friend with a bodyweight of only 8 kilograms has a significantly lower requirement of just under 500 kcal per day.
Especially with ready-to-eat dog food, you will always find information on the dosage on the packaging and you can ask your veterinarian for advice at any time. Of course, the need does not only depend on the weight and breed, but also on the activity status of your darling. A dog that is challenged and encouraged on a daily basis will have a healthy appetite.
Causes of Food Envy
The subject of food envy itself is quite tricky since the causes can be manifold and even experts argue here.
First of all, I am deliberately addressing the problem of food envy in general and not explicitly that which is directed towards other dogs. Because even in families without a second dog, but where a child lives, for example, this disturbing behavior can occur. A real pack or, better said, the rank problem could be the cause of your sweetheart’s food envy.
Another reason for this can be a simple habit. Dogs in particular that have been imported from abroad and thus rescued may have had to fight not to starve to death. Then your four-legged friend can have such a loving nature – when it comes to the bowl, he no longer understands any fun! Because here the food envy has arisen due to competition and this mental wound has to be treated carefully. After all, your four-legged friend cannot simply know that he no longer has to fight for his meal with you, but that you give it to him and that with all regularity. Such trust must therefore first be built up gradually.
Tasty dog food
Especially with very tasty dog food, food envy can arise, since the animal has a particularly strong urge to have to defend its delicious meal (especially from other dogs). This is often the case when it comes to BARF, as most dogs find it downright palatable.
The wrong upbringing of previous owners
In addition, it can, unfortunately, happen that you adopt an adult dog, for example, whose origins may not be entirely known. The previous owner could have repeatedly withdrawn food from the animal as a punishment or for “educational purposes”. The clever animals remember something like that and draw consequences by defending the bowl from there. Nevertheless, it should of course not be common for your dog to growl at you, for example, when you approach his feeding station.
Problem Dogs from Abroad Often Tend to be Jealous of Food
Envy of food, which is directed against you as a human being, is mostly a matter of the dog’s head. Especially dogs from animal welfare are usually punished with bad experiences and just behave as they are used to.
The argument “The better it tastes, the more motivated the dog is to defend its food” is basically irrelevant here – because unfortunately, some animals have to feed on garbage all their lives. Accordingly, all food is considered attractive and worthy of defense.
But here it is also important to differentiate between the passive and active defense of the food. Although baring teeth and snapping in the air can be frightening, especially in larger animals, this is considered passive behavior. Serious, painful biting is active. So if your darling seems rather frightened and ducks a bit, he doesn’t mean it seriously with his defensive behavior. But if he puts his ears forward and looks ready to jump, caution is advised.
Solution: Your Dog Needs to Trust You!
You will never get that by physically punishing him for his behavior. No animal should be disciplined in this way. By doing so, you immediately break any path to building trust. And in the worst case, your dog, who then learned that he is not allowed to warn you in advance, will simply bite you badly.
In general, I refrain from ranking difficulties here, since they don’t exist in the pack either. Surely the stronger will survive, but in principle, the pack shares its food.
You shouldn’t give your sweetheart any reason to think you’re taking something away from him. Let your four-legged friend eat in peace. You probably can’t approach the bowl just like that, so let it eat it and then give it a special treat to allow you to approach and remove the empty (!) bowl.
This does not apply to your sweetheart as an intervention on your part either, because he had finished emptying the food bowl and therefore he does not have to feel threatened at all. However, you can also proceed in a very disciplined manner with an adult dog that comes from a less loving environment: Here your four-legged friend is generally only allowed to eat without a bowl – namely from your hand!
Then, little by little, you can always put a bit of the food from your hand into the bowl. Please only remove the empty bowl when your dog can no longer see it.