The other evening I was enjoying the cooler weather after the sunset as the dogs were eating outside. I am always there when the dogs are eating no matter where they do their eating. Jessie typically moves in to a safe range and hovers; waiting to snatch what she can. Although Jessie is the alpha in our pack and a voracious food maniac she is not stupid, not entirely stupid that is. But often her drive for food does hamper her otherwise dog savvy behavior.
So there we were; everyone eating nicely, even Luke. Jessie was done in a heartbeat; she doesn't chew anything and simply inhales which takes next to no time. She then moves to Luke's bowl and inch by inch closes in. This is where I come in and keep her at a distance that doesn't bother Luke; he doesn't like when she moves in and will sometimes just walk away if it gets to him too much. This night he was very much enjoying his fresh chicken and was not moving away. As I watched closely Luke froze at Jessie's approach; she missed this signal and one second later she received an almighty growl which even startled me.
Jessie's head flew to face the opposite direction before the growl was complete and Luke continued to eat. This head turn let's Luke know that she has no intention of pushing the issue. The action/reaction is imperative for dogs, it is how they communicate. Had she meant to take the food from Luke she would not have turned her head and the interaction would have grown. This is where it is the most important to step in. Normally I don't allow Jessie to get close enough to receive a growl; I make her wait at a distance and then once Luke is done she must wait for me to give the okay or not.
Obviously on this night the normal range was too close for Luke. He had put a higher value on what he was eating and intended on not letting Jessie have even the tiniest of morsels. Not watching got Jessie into trouble on this night; the same thing goes for when guardians are not watching. You can miss alot in a heartbeat.