Nippy when it comes to food Pug Problems

I have a a nearly 15 (Jan 1!) year old pug named PeeWee. He was the only dog in the house until 2017, but he was used to going on trips with us with family members dogs. With 2 dogs in the house, the only thing that changed was that he now had a playmate. (he is much more active than the 4 year old beagle to this day. lol) A few months in the beagle (who was around 1 1/2 - 2 at the time) started taking nibbles of his food. He didn’t mind but I worked on it with Maria (beagle, the other dog in the house) and it was put to a stop within a matter of weeks. Over time, it got to the point where we could stop monitoring them when they eating. We still checked in, but they stay to their own bowls.

Eventually, Maria started trying to take treats from PeeWee. This was taken care of rather quickly. We stated monitoring them when eating again and when they had treats. No problem. But a few months ago PeeWee was switched to a senior food and we starting giving him various supplements in his food. We decided to get Maria some special powder stuff for her digestive system as well since we separating their food already. No problem for the first few days, but they eventually started trying to go back and forth between each others bowls. Maria could be told “No, your food” and she will go back to her bowl and finish up. (Now she doesn’t even try to eat anything but her food). PeeWee, on the other hand, had to be told no, and picked up and placed back in front of his bowl. They refuse to eat if we put them in different rooms or have some sort of barrier between them. I have a feeling this is where the problems started.
(the food situation is slowly being taken care of. PeeWee is just very stubborn)

PeeWee has been dubbed the “Land Shark” because he doesn’t know how to take treats politely. I will hold a treat out and barley have my fingers on it and he will still manage to bite each and every one of my fingers. I have tried several methods to try and fix this, including closing my hand and opening it bit by by and only when we leaves it alone. I have taught him the word “gentle” but he will only listen if it a bone or chew type treat.

It has gotten to the point where he will try and get the treat out of our hands as we are getting it out of the bag or container. He is given medication in a pill pocket everyday and I have to put it on the floor or else my finger might get ripped off (mild exaggeration).

Does anyone have any ideas on what I can do to resolve this issue? I know it’s my fault for letting it get to this point, but I was trying other things that were not working. I have tried the methods from YouTube channels such as Zack George and McCann dog training and have looked through a few Upstate Canine Academy videos. I’m at a loss. He isn’t food aggressive, he couldn’t care less if you touch him or mess with his food while he is eating. It’s more like he gets so excited and worked up that he can’t help himself.

It sounds like he lacks impulse control - when dogs get overly excited by food (or treats), you need to withhold the treat, and WAIT. ONLY calm, polite behavior gets rewarded.

I would put a house leash on him - or really, just a leash - and have him first SIT in front of you. Put your foot on the leash so that when he jumps up, it stops him in mid-jump. A “leash time out” can be very effective if the dog jumps at your hand while in front of you; the “floor” corrects him back into the sit. Make sure the leash is short enough (between dog and floor) so that when he jumps he hits the end of it, but when he sits back down, there is a wee bit of slack. When he sits, take your foot off the leash. When/if he continues to jump, foot goes right back on leash. He will associate the “correction” with his behavior, not with you.

This also keeps your hands free; keep your arms by your sides, stand up straight, be confident and quiet, and WAIT. Slowly offer the treat with your hand wrapped around it in a closed fist, and the BACK of your closed hand brings it slowly towards the dog. If he jumps, put it immediately behind your back, wait until he calms down, offer it again. (You can use a short sharp word: “EH!” works well, but try to avoid repeating: “NO, NO, NO!”)

If you have a “wait” command, this can be helpful - but remember that you also must have a release word; if he reacts with excitement to the release word (and takes the treat too greedily), this can work against you - your actions will be key to teaching him to use impulse control.

Remain tall, calm and confident, and act like (and believe!) that you have ALL. DAY. INTO. NEXT. WEEK. :wink:) ALL dogs will cave eventually when they realize that you will NEVER. GIVE. IN.

Offer the back of your hand again, if he comes TOWARDS the hand (dogs should always wait for the treat to come all the way to them before gently taking it), “EH”, put hand behind back. Rinse, repeat. This shouldn’t take too long, since he will quickly learn that his impulsive behavior results in the treat “disappearing.”

The next step will involve your “gentle” command. Once he remains calm enough to allow the treat to come all the way down to HIM (never feed a treat to a dog in mid-air, or when they even have one front foot off the ground), you will release the treat into his mouth ONLY if you feel no teeth. IME, dogs with undershot jaw conformation can more easily take treats gently than dogs with long snouts who tend to use their front incisors - but if his mouth is open at ALL, you will “roll” the treat away from him (while saying “gentle”) with a slow bicep curl - no snatching. Offer it again, repeat the “gentle” (he will learn that this is the word you use when he gets rude, and that it means that the treat will go away UNLESS he changes the way he takes it), and slowly offer the treat again with the back of your hand leading the way. Wait to turn your hand over and release the treat into his mouth until he has waited for the back of you hand to reach the tip of his nose WHILE he remains in a sit. If he jumps at the treat or offers teeth? Roll it away, wait a few seconds, try again.

Eventually he will try a different way of taking the treat, as in “politely” (dogs are problem solvers and will experiment with behaviors to earn the reward: food/attention, so withhold the food/attention UNTIL they offer the “right” behavior, then reward AND praise.)

This sounds like a lot, but believe me - it works like a CHARM if you follow the instructions and are patient. No excessive talking, arm waving, excitement, or scolding.

You want to be a “sea of calm”, waiting until his brain settles and he exhibits patience and restraint. NO rewards for excited, impulsive behavior - especially inadvertent ones! Dogs quickly learn how to “get the good stuff” if you are consistent about rewarding ONLY the behavior you want, ignoring the behavior you don’t want (or correcting/re-directing it), and withholding the resources.

Also, don’t smile at him or laugh when he is pulling these antics :lol:, see “inadvertent reinforcement”, above.

Good luck!

I will definitely try this out! I’ve tried a few things similar, but definitely have done things not in accordance with your advice. He usually picks up on things pretty quickly, and this is much more simplified than things I have tried in the past. Thank you for replying and hopefully helping me out!

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You are most welcome, best of luck! And please check back here with the results :wink:

So, there is a lot going on here. For one, it’s a behavior that has either been allowed to exist for more than a decade, and/or it has gotten worse since the introduction of a new dog, which has created competition for food.

I’d suggest feeding both dogs in crates so that they each get to finish their food in peace, at their own pace, without stress of competition.

It is possible that based on the shape of his face, it’s not easy for him to take a treat without putting his mouth on your fingers. So rather than continue to fight a losing battle with an elderly dog, I’d put your attention elsewhere. You could train him to stay and put the treat on the floor instead, for example. Or, put it in your palm, rather than in your fingertips. Or, just put it in the bowl with his food.


Agree, the behavior is escalating because there is now competition for food (which intensifies greed and excitement over the “resource”) - feeding them separately is a good idea since this will remove some of the intensity and gives them their own “space” - but that said, ANY dog can be taught how to take a treat politely from a hand. Dogs should be taught that it’s NEVER okay to jump at a human hand just because they want what’s in it - what if it’s a child holding a toy or an ice cream cone?

I have given treats to many, many dogs with this face shape, and they can easily take treats without using teeth when taught how. If he used to take treats more politely (and this is a recent development, based on the addition of a “competitor” in the pack), then it’s possible to work on this and improve it.

That said, training a dog to wait or stay until he’s released after putting a treat on the floor (or for meals!) is a great idea in general; every dog should do this since it improves patience and impulse control.

Just make sure the dog gives you an eye contact check in before releasing him.

Sorry for taking a while to respond. Christmas was a bit crazy.

So far it has been going good. He will now wait for me to tell him “okay” before trying to get the treat and it seems he is trying to be more careful. He does have an underbite, and I do think that that is causing him to nip a bit. He no longer lunges at your hand though. Which is certainly a plus!

I’ve been thinking about it being possible food aggressiveness, but I’m not sure. He eats fine around other dogs and couldn’t care less if we (or another dog) touch his bowl, him, or his food while he is eating. He used to go into “shark mode” when other dogs weren’t around as well. So I’m thinking he just gets way too excited for his yummy treats. Lol.

I would try feeding them separately or in their crates, but they only go into their crates when we leave the house, and I don’t think they (my beagle especially. She’s very sensitive) would eat in their crates. I’ve tried feeding them in separate rooms before, but they won’t eat unless they are together.

I will say that he gets a daily pill (for his arthritis. Galliprant) that we put in a pill pocket. The only ones he will eat are very tiny and I don’t think it’s worth the effort of getting him to properly take them. His pills barely fit inside. He has become very proficient at catching treats in the air however.