Dog Food Aggression & How To Prevent It
Dog food aggression is one of those dog behavior problems that is difficult for us humans to fully understand. It just doesn’t seem to make sense that your dog would consider you a threat to his/her food resource. I mean you gave him the food in the first place, and if you feed your dog the same kind of foods that I do, it’s not all that appealing anyway!
But, what is your dog thinking?
If your dog glares at you, snarls, growls and positions himself between you and the food he is actually saying to you “this is mine, go away, find your own”. He is basically telling you that he considers himself as the leader or alpha dog in your household. Dog food aggression (sometimes called canine possession aggression or food guarding) is a dominance issue, it is serious and needs to be addressed immediately.
It won’t simply just go away.
We’ve all made the mistake of laughing and even encouraging our feisty little dogs when they first display the “cute” signs of dog food aggression. Don’t fall into this trap! Food or toy aggression in dogs should never be tolerated as you never know when it can escalate into something more dangerous for you or a family member.
Why Does Your Dog Display Dog Food Aggression?
Canine possession aggression can be triggered by any number of factors but in most cases it can be attributed to one of these common causes:
Your dog is desperate for this food, in his mind he doesn’t know if or when he will get more food. Therefore he protects or guards his food, just like he would have done in a pack situation in the wild.
Your dog may begin to see you as someone who is always taking good stuff away. He comes to view you more as a threat than a provider (you’ve got to turn this thinking around).
Dog food aggression can be part of the general confusion regarding who the leader is in your owner-dog relationship. Often food aggression is not an isolated incident – it’s something you must rectify. To discover how to establish yourself as your dog’s fair and respected leader I recommend you study and implement these training methods.
It’s possible that your dog doesn’t even understand that his dog food aggression is an unacceptable behavior. In such cases there is an obvious communication breakdown between human and dog.
General Rules For Correcting Food Aggression In Dogs
Keep in mind that your dog’s snarling/barking/growling is actually rewarded and therefore reinforced each time you back off. Your dog believes his behavior has worked and is much more likely to try the same thing again in future. Note: This doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t back off in this situation – more on this later.
If your dog is directing his aggression towards other dogs the best solution is to simply separate them at meal times. Feed them in different rooms or in their crates.
Involve all of your family members in this dog food aggression training. You must convey a unified and consistent message to your dog in order to successfully reverse this behavior.
Take control of feeding time. You control the time and place of dinner time – own the food!
Make it clear to your young puppies that it’s good to have people around when they are eating. If you do this from day one you will almost certainly prevent dog food aggression problems.
If you encounter dog food aggression it is a good idea to feed your dog after you and your family eat. This again is a throwback to your dog’s pack mentality where the alpha dog or leader of the pack (which is you) eats first – your dog will understand this technique.
Don’t let your dog “win” the food through his growling, this would reward the very behavior you are trying to eradicate. Don’t bully or intimidate your dog though, it’s much better to make him actually like having you around at meal time (follow the tips below to achieve this).
Never respond to canine possession aggression with aggression of your own. In essence what this does is to lock you and your dog into a battle of wills. Your dog’s next move will most likely be to step up his level of aggression in order to counter your action.