Wolfing Down Food

Our Border Collie is extremely freaked out regarding food. It is obvious she has been starved in her past (and beaten and locked outside!). She eats anything she can get her mouth on. She gobbles her food as though it will be taken away any second. She also fights with our other dog any time she thinks he has taken food that she could have eaten. We deal with the fighting and are careful at mealtimes. However, what should I do to help her feel more secure? Currently I feed her at 5am and at 5pm everyday. I think a strict schedule helps her but what else should I be doing?

The best solution to this problem, believe it or not, is to freefeed. Giving the dog as much as it wants conveys a clear message to the dog - you do not have to wolf down your food or fight for it because there will always be more. Many rescues coming in off the street will scarf down their food, attack other dogs when they get too close, and growl at their owners when they go to reach for the bowl. You would too if you didn't know where or when your next meal would be. This is perfectly reasonable behavior for life on the streets and a perfect survival strategy. It's unnecessary in a secure household environment however.

In order to get them over this habit, simply giving them all the food they want will solve it. Put food in lots of bowls around the house and keep filling them as they get lower. After a day or two of scarfing, guarding, and growling, they'll get the point. Food should be a matter of fact, not an unknown certainty. They will try to eat themselves into oblivion the first day but don't panic. A few extra bathroom trips may be in order but they will soon come out of their greed for food. I haven't had a rescue yet that didn't - no matter how starved they were in their former life. The key here is not to panic and take up the food. Schedule feeding actually promotes this type of behavior.

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Page last updated April 1, 1997. All material Copyright 2004 Border Collie Rescue, Inc. and Dr. Nicholas B. Carter
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