Recently I had a reader ask me “our dog eats other dogs food, how do we stop it?” In this article, I want to discuss how to stop a dog from stealing and eating other dog’s food, why it happens and tips for training your dog to stop stealing food for good.
Our household has both a Beagle (loves food) and a Fox Terrier (picky and slow eater) and one dog loves stealing and eating the other dog’s food!
Why a dog eats other dog’s food
There can be many reasons why a dog will eat other dog’s food. Factors can include the breed of the dog (like a Beagle, for instance, loves to eat), not feeding enough food, gastrointestinal issues, not feeding the right balance of food or the right portions.
In the wild, dogs run in packs and have hierarchical social structures. Some dogs are leaders and some are followers. One of your dogs may be more dominant over the other and takes the food from a more submissive dog. Or in my case, one dog is just much bigger than the other and pushes him out of the way!
This can also occur because one dog may have more of an appetite than the other dog. Like I said before, a picky eater (or slow eater) just takes time to enjoy his food while your other dog may eat her whole bowl within minutes.
If one dog is food motivated and the other is not, it’s easy for one dog to eat the other’s food. If you are puppy training or have younger dogs, this can be easy for you to intervene to teach them manners! But for more senior dogs stuck in their ways, this can be more challenging.
If you work a lot and don’t have time to watch your dogs when they are eating, one dog can easily eat two meals.
This is a big problem because one dog gets double the portion and the other dog gets little to no food.
I had this problem when I was working a lot and didn’t keep the two separated. I would put the dog food bowls down and walk away only to return to one dog cleaning up both bowls and the other looking at me like “she ate all my food.” Not good!
I was feeding hydrolyzed protein for the amino acid profile to help my dog’s heart condition a few years ago and my Beagle ended up gaining much more weight (mostly muscle) because she would eat his food, while my little guy didn’t get any nutrients! This results in one dog eating too much food and the other not getting enough nutrients which can have long-term health consequences.
How to stop a dog from stealing food
If you have multiple dogs and one dog is eating your other dog’s food, it’s important you intervene and teach manners sooner rather than later. This is not a pack of wolves!
I’ve tried many ways to keep my dog from eating and stealing the other dog’s food. What I find works for me right now is separation: my fox terrier stays inside of his kennel while my beagle eats in another area a few feet from him. Here are some helpful tips to help stop a dog from stealing food:
- Keep your dogs separated. I have two dogs, my picky and slow eater Fox Terrier is fed inside of his kennel (also known as his “house”) where he feels safe. My Beagle eats a few feet away from him in her own area.
- Feed both dogs at the same time. I like to feed both of my dogs at the same time. This helps me keep track of when I feed them and portions I feed. If I don’t feed the Beagle at the same time she will try to steal food from my Fox Terrier.
- You may also consider baby gates or a dog gate to keep two dogs separated from each other.
If you want this separation to be temporary consider using the “Leave it method” to train your dogs and stop a dog from eating the other’s food.
You will need some good dog treats to teach a “leave it command.”
- Step 1. Hold a treat in your closed hand and show it to your dog to let him sniff it.
- Step 2. Wait for your dog to stop sniffing your hand until he becomes somewhat uninterested in the treat. When he walks away or takes a step away from your hand say “YES” and open your hand to offer the treat. The idea is to establish your dog just needs to leave the treat alone when you instruct him “leave it.”
- Step 3. Test your dog by putting some dry kibble on the floor and give the leave it command. If your dog obeys you, give him a delicious treat.
- Step 4. After you’ve established and tested this command over a period of days and weeks, try the same approach when your dog tries to eat the other dog’s food.
Should you punish a dog for stealing food?
What to do with a dog who eats other dog’s food?
I’m not a big believer in yelling and aggressively punishing a dog. I don’t advocate any mistreatment to your dog. They are like children to me and they should be handled like a small child.
So should you “punish” a dog for stealing food or eating your other dog’s food? Let’s change that word punish to “re-direct” or “re-train” because really what you want to do is teach your dog. Not punish him because more often than not, he won’t understand why he is being punished in the first place.
Consider trying the leave it command as I included above. Keep your dogs separated at the beginning and monitor your dogs during feeding.
Establish verbal commands so if your dog is stealing food off the table or eating other dog’s food, you can use a command in a strong tone of voice to get their attention. If you do decide to leave the house for an extended period of time and are concerned about your dogs eating food off the table, consider moving the food to secure location and establishing a safe zone for your dog using a gate or a kennel.
The Bottom Line
Dogs will eat other dog’s food if they are not properly trained and if one or more dogs is food motivated while the other is not. In the wild, dogs will form packs and the leader will eat his food first expressing some dominant traits. This can be the case in your household as well and proper training can prevent this from happening. It’s always best to separate your dogs with a kennel or gate (or in another room) when feeding. This allows you to appropriately feed each dog to their specific dietary needs without overfeeding one dog and causing health problems.
Remember that each dog is a child and should be treated as such. Never punish or harm your dog, instead create a calming environment where all dogs feel safe to eat (fast or slow) and teach them commands using training treats.
Now over to you, have you had this problem with dogs eating and stealing food? If so, leave a comment below and let me know what you did to solve it!