My dogs set their own rules for each other when it comes to canine etiquette and food.
I of course manage the environment and make sure each one of my dogs needs are met each day in the way of exercise (both physical and mental), optimal nutrition, emotionally stable environment or anything close to it, and a social outlet to other people, places, things, events, and other dogs if that is their thing.
But this is what their rules kind of look like, and they establish them sans any input from me. And by the way, I am a HUGE fan of NOT messing with dogs and food, I am always the giver of good things not the taker-awayer of good things. I want my hands to always be perceived as safe and kind. And with that keep in mind, I have a manged environment.
Here we go –
STORY – Everyone allows Story free access to their bowls, bones, or bully sticks. He doesn’t ever purposefully go near the others when eating, he likes his own space to luxuriate over his own food, but he has been granted free access, this was established about 12 years ago. Like most dogs who are this level of solid, they don’t ever have to push for anything, and prefer their own space that is conflict free. He is the most benevolent dog I have ever met, with integrity up one side and down the other.
$EEKER will allow anyone to share his food, bully stick or bone, but he is NOT allowed to approach anyone elses bowls, bones, or bully sticks, they won’t allow it. He is pretty polite and will just stand there and wait, but if he does push, all of them will growl just a bit to remind him to back off, except Mama Beetz, he won’t push her too much until she is done and then he licks her bowl clean for her. He will allow anyone to dig up his buried bones, he has zero resource guarding, but he is a foodie and they all know that about him.
RHUMB is a slow and pokey eater, and just because she moved away from her plate does not mean she is done with it. Story is the only dog allowed to approach and smell her food. She does not share bones or bully sticks, and even after she has buried one, it does not mean it is up for free grabs, she will watch from across the yard and if anyone, sans Story, goes near her buried treasure, she is swift to remind them, MINE. She is the ultimate Pirate. In saying this, she is totally content eating next to all of the dogs, and will share space kindly, but trying to eat her ‘resource’ is forbidden, except Massimo, he can pull a bullystick out of her mouth and she will allow that, I’m not sure for how much longer.
MASSIMO will not share his food bowl with Mama Beetz, but will share with Rhumb if she does come over, which is rare now. The other dogs can pull a bully stick out of his mouth and he doesn’t mind. When he is working on a bone, he will only share if he is full or done with it.
MAMA BEETZ would not share bones or chews when she was still in the nursery romper room, MINE! was her mantra each day, and my oh my how that is starting to change. She will now share her food bowl if another dog approaches, and she shares her bully sticks as well. She will sometimes gift a bone away, but most of the time, much like Story, she will move far away to enjoy her bone without conflict.
If I put down a cutting board with raw meat trimmings or ‘whatever’ on it, their rules seem to be –
– If $eeker is first everyone can join in equally.
– If Massimo is first, only Rhumb and Story can join, sometimes Mama Beetz.
– If Mama Beetz is first, everyone can enjoy.
– If Story is first no other dog approaches, and if they do they ask politely.
– If Rhumb is first, depending on her mood, either no other dog is allowed, or everyone is allowed, Rhumbs RULES seem to flex depending on her hormonal cycle, and everyone, I mean everyone is super respectful of this flex.
– If Massimo and Mama Beetz get there first, no other dog joins in.
– If Story and $eeker arrive at the same time, they will enjoy together but no other dog approaches.
Food and enjoying food is important in our household, both for dogs and humans. Healthy, good, nourishing food. It is important to me that my dogs don’t have stress while eating, so I observe their rules and adjust their spaces if need be.
I appreciate and acknowledge fully how awesome a conflict free home is, but there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to create that, mostly observing without judgement. Why? Because they speak each others language fluently and know why they feel the way they do about each other, I am the outlier, truth be told.
I don’t let dogs ‘work it out’ if that means harm, fighting, conflict, or a lot of stress. To me that would be a sign of poor management, and ‘needs’ not being met, and probably inappropriate food.
While I train a great deal with my dogs, my number one goal has always been to have a stress free household, that is what I truly work towards each day. Observing my dogs rules for each other helps me out a great deal.