Foamy was enjoying his kibble but he lifted his head from his bowl when he saw the cat come into the kitchen.
“Hey, cat!” Foamy said.
The cat sat down in the middle of the floor and eyed the dog warily. “What, dog?”
Foamy stepped back from his bowl. “Are you hungry? Come try some of this. It’s really good!”
The cat narrowed his eyes. “Seriously?”
“Sure! Help yourself! I don’t mind!”
The cat walked over slowly and sniffed the bowl, then looked at Foamy. “Really, dog? You’re really going to share your food?”
Foamy wagged his tail “Sure!”
The cat cocked his head and studied Foamy. “You’re weird. You know that? I don’t know any other dogs that would share their food. They’re usually rather protective of it. But…thanks.”
The cat nibbled a few pieces of Foamy’s kibble then wandered off. Foamy panted happily as he watched the cat, then went back to eating.
That’s how I usually imagine the conversation between my dog and cat goes when I see them together in the kitchen. Foamy is such a sweet dog, willing to share his food with anyone, including the cat. Even when I come near his dish, he’ll look up at me as if to say, “Hey there! You want some? Help yourself!”
Not all dogs are so considerate and giving, however.
Most dogs usually have some level of protectiveness when it comes to their food and other possessions. Food aggression, also known as food guarding or resource guarding, is fairly common among dogs.
There are levels of resource guarding, from minor to severe. It can range from something small, like just running off with something coveted or growling at someone who’s approaching, to full-on aggression, including chasing someone away or biting. What a dog considers valuable can vary, and many will guard food. Some dogs will guard only from certain people, others will guard from everyone.
Most pet owners don’t like this behavior, especially when it’s directed at humans, and serious, severe food aggression can often prevent a dog from being considered adoptable. Often, food guarding doesn’t need to be treated, especially when it’s only minor, and pet owners just take reasonable precautions, such as: leaving the dog alone while it’s eating, or giving it plenty of food so it doesn’t feel like it needs to guard; feeding dogs in separate rooms or in crates; or not attempting to take items from the dog. Such precautions will work ok in homes without children, but when children are involved, the guarding behavior needs to be addressed for the child’s safety, since they won’t recognize the dog’s behavior as dangerous.
You can find tips on how to correct guarding behavior online. They will help when the behavior is only minor to moderate. But if your dog has a more severe case of food aggression, you will want to consult a professional, such as your vet or a professional behaviorist or dog trainer.
I’m so very lucky to have a dog like Foamy who happily shares with others.