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Protective of food

When a Chihuahua is Overly Protective of His Food


Chihuahuas and all dogs in general can be very possessive of what they consider to be theirs. However, with this breed, it can sometimes be extreme when it comes to food. 

If your dog acts this way, it is important to understand why this behavior is taking place.  Only then can you take steps to train your Chihuahua in order to address some of the issues.

Let’s discuss:
  • Why a Chihuahua may act very possessive of his dog food, water bowl and even an empty food bowl 
  • What is normal and what is excessive behavior 
  • What can you do to help your Chihuahua 
  • Another element that some dog owners may not think about is that the number of calories that the Chihuahua is eating each day may affect their behavior of over guarding their dog food. This will be discussed, as well.  

Signs of Being Over-Protective

Typical signs of this include a dog: 
  • Barking if anyone comes even close to his food
  • Barking or snapping if someone touches his bowl
  • Hiding food
  • Bringing food to a new location and eating it there
In addition, many rescued Chihuahuas did not receive enough dog food or had to fight to hold onto their food before they found their way into loving homes. They were taught that dog food may not always come to them. With enough time, understanding and a bit of training, your rescued Chihuahua can learn to trust you and the fact that yes, their dog food is theirs, and there is no reason to be over protective.  

Protecting the Food Bowl

A Chihuahua may not only try to protect his food, but in some cases a Chihuahua may also protect an empty bowl and the area around it. The dog food bowl itself is very important to the dog; it is seen as the “magic” element in which their food will appear. 

Therefore, the bowl is just as important as the dog food itself. For dogs that protect to this degree, the area surrounding the bowl is also important to them.

How can empty space be so important? Long ago dogs in the wild would live in dens. These were very small, enclosed spaces. This was a dog’s safe haven, where food was brought out of the way of any other animals who may try and take it.

Even now, domesticated dogs may have the instinct to consider the whole area around their dog food to be their “den”.

Other Reasons for Protecting Dog Food

While excessive protection behavior is the #1 reason for a dog barking, growling or even snapping if someone gets too close to their “den”… some dogs may behave this way if they are not receiving enough food.

How can loving owner not feed their dog enough? The media focuses very highly on overweight humans and the need to stay healthy. 

This has trickled down to veterinarians and other dog breed experts to warn about the dangers of overweight dogs. When a dog is overweight, this can cause many health issues and more is being learned every year.

Loving owners, concerned about this, may tend to feed their dog less than normal in an effort to keep the dog trim and fit. However, in some cases, the Chihuahua will simply not be receiving enough calories for the day. This, in turn, can cause a Chihuahua to become overly possessive of their dog food.

Is Your Chihuahua Getting Enough Calories?

Each dog has a completely different metabolic rate at which they burn calories. Active dogs will of course, burn more. Dogs who sleep and rest a lot will burn less. However, other factors change this also such as:
  • The age of your Chihuahua  
  • If your female Chihuahua is in heat or is pregnant  
  • The intensity of their daily exercise - for example walking vs. running  
Standard weight = calorie guidelines have been set by canine experts and are generally agreed upon. However do keep in mind that the number of calories your Chihuahua needs can vary greatly depending on the above factors. The best way to determine if your Chihuahua is getting enough calories is to look at his or her ribs.

If you can feel bones sticking out, your Chihuahua is underweight and should be fed more. If you have a very hard time feeling any ribs at all, and there is a thick layer of fat on the dog’s rib-cage, you would want to cut back on calories.  

How many calories does a Chihuahua need? The numbers can vary by 20%. We are showing all weights, even if this, of course, does not apply to your Chihuahua, so that you can get an idea of what an enormous dog needs. 

3 pounds (1.36 kg) = 125 calories 5 pounds (2.26 kg) = 175 calories 10 pounds (4.53 kg) = 370 calories 20 pounds (9.07 kg)= 700 calories 30 pounds (13.60 kg)= 938 calories 50 pounds (22.68 kg)= 1329 calories 80 pounds (36.28 kg)= 1780 calories 100 pounds (45.35 kg) = 2100 calories  

Abnormal VS Normal Possessive Behavior With Dog Food

What is normal behavior when a Chihuahua guards his food? It is absolutely normal and very common for a Chihuahua to show desire that his dog food and the area in which he dines, be left alone. Normal behavior will be when a dog simply makes gestures to gently push away someone who comes too close or lets out a little bark if someone touches the food.

If your dog aggressively barks, growls, bares teeth, nips (or the most severe behavior of biting) when someone comes close to this dog food, this is unacceptable behavior of being too protective of food and steps should be taken to stop this behavior. 

Giving Your Chihuahua Enough Personal Space

If your dog is showing too much aggression in guarding their food, water dish or dog dish area:

1) Before any dog training is done, an owner should first make sure that their dog is provided with a set up for the food that will make them feel safe and eliminate some of the instinct of needing to protect the food.

2) Clean your Chihuahua’s food dish and water bowl when your dog is not looking

3) Try to fill the bowl when your dog is out of the room, only after the food is in the bowl and set down in the area, should you then call your Chihuahua to dinner

4) Assigned an entire corner of a room to your Chihuahua for their dog food and water. This should be in a very quiet room of the house. You may wish to put down a place mat or even a kitchen rug to make it clear to all family members and visitors that this is the dog’s one special area. 

Many people, of course, feed their dog in the kitchen. However, if your kitchen is that one room in the house where everyone gathers…you may find a quieter spot in an enclosed porch, corner of the living room, den, etc. 

The main goal here is that your Chihuahua has their own corner for their dog food and water, clearly defined and offers them a quiet place to eat without distraction.

5) Once you have designated a spot for your Chihuahua to eat and this area is clearly defined as being off limits to everyone, it is also important that everyone, both family and guests, respect this area. 

Creating a dining spot for your Chihuahua in the corner of your den will not help if people are continually entering the room to get books, watch TV, etc. Your Chihuahua should be allowed to eat without excessive noise and without distractions.

6) If you have more than 1 dog or perhaps a cat or other pet…be sure to offer all animals their own special area to eat; this will knock out any perceived competition for food.


If you Chihuahua is still a puppy, this training will work best. You should train your Chihuahua puppy to learn from the start that food does not need to be overly protected.

Older dogs may respond to this as well, and it is worth trying.

Training your dog to give objects to you, including treats, can be a great help. Once your dog learns that when he gives food to you, you return that food right back, your dog will learn a great lesson and this will curb instinct to guard so severely.

Most owners use the command word of “Give”. You may choose another word, if you wish. The important goal is to give your Chihuahua a treat, coax him to “give” it to you, shower your dog with great words of praise and happiness to show that he did something wonderful and then give the treat back to him.

To Summarize

If your Chihuahua is too aggressive when protecting their food:
  • Make sure your dog is getting enough calories 
  • Give your dog their own “den” in which to eat 
  • Take time and patience to train your dog the “Give” command 
  • With time, love and understanding your Chihuahua should steadily learn that there is no threat to their dog food or bowl.
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