We've all known dogs who viciously defend their food dishes from friend and foe.

To prevent meal hour hostilities from developing in pups and stop them in older dogs, try this simple method from Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Ask your kids to assist at feeding time. It'll be their job to ensure the dog waits quietly as you prepare the meal. When the dog is eating, tap your hand on the side of its dish, and give the dog the gentle scratch behind the ear. Do this two to three times per week with a puppy, every night with an adult dog. Invent other distractions as you go along.Your pet will learn these distractions are not a threat to its dinner. The food remains in the dish even after you touch or more it. Strongly reprimand your pet if it snarls or snaps but carefully limit any punishment.

Another lesson dogs need to learn is when and when not to bark. No one likes a dog that constantly barks, especially if it's for no apparent reason. Work with your dog from its first barking spell. When the dog barks out an alert, use an enthusiastic voice to ask it, "What's the matter?" Then, gently scratch the animal and say, "At ease."

You've responded exactly as your dog desired by paying attention to its barked-out warning. Then, you've done just what a dog expects of its master by quickly assuming command of the situation. Your dog will relax and even feel flattered knowing it has performed its "duty."

Try this method for just a few weeks, and your pet will learn to stop barking immediately after it has sounded an alert.