Family Dogs Become Food Aggressive

“My two female dogs have become aggressive dogs at feeding time! They didn’t use to be that way but now, every time I feed them they go at it.”  Food aggression in her family dogs has put Mom on high alert.

dog food aggression

Now I probably don’t have to tell you of the dangers here.  Dog food aggression is a serious problem – especially around kids.

Let’s call the dogs Ella and Lady. Ella is 2 years and is very, very food motivated. As it turns out she is the one that instigates the attacks when Lady approaches her bowl.  Then the battle begins – fur is flying!

Lady is 6 years of age and is as much motivated by food as Ella. They are both dominant dogs. In human terms you might call them “Type A” personalities!

Further investigation revealed other areas in the dog-human relationship that have been contributing factors to the problem at hand. Let’s take a look:

Other issues that surfaced on first lesson:                        

  • Barking uncontrollably at door bell
  • Jumping on house guests when entering
  • Jumping on house guests when sitting on couch
  • Not coming when called and,
  • An occasional incident of house soiling (although it hadn’t happened recently that they know of)

The owners were not only concerned about the dog’s safety, but their safety as well when trying to break up the fighting. And, there were plans for a family in the future so kids were on the calendar in the future. This had to be fixed as soon as possible.

We had many things on which to work that would become part of the grand scheme of things to fix the fighting issue.

I recommended that the first thing to do was to prevent the fighting. Do not set them up to fail.

The fighting over food was handled by: 

  • feeding the dogs on opposite sides of the kitchen.
  • Lady always finished first so we began to teach her that as soon as she finished she must do a down/stay until Ella finished her food.
  • Once the food bowls were empty – no fighting.
  • In the past, Lady would finish first and run over to Ella’s bowl – and that’s when the dog fighting began.

Having the dogs on leash gave the owners more control and sent a very strong message to both dogs that they were no longer in control.

I also recommended keeping the leashes on the dogs in the house when the owners were home, to control their “out of control” behavior of jumping on visitors and the furniture.  I gave them specific instructions on how to greet visitors with their dogs on leash:

  • Take the dogs to the door when the door bell rings
  • Open the door just slightly to greet the visitor and if the dogs bark, just redirect to a sit followed by praise and treat as the visitor entered.
  • When the visitor sits on the sofa, continue to control your dogs on leash across the coffee table on the other side of the room and give them a stuffed Kong toy as they talked with their visitor.

They thought that was both reasonable and easy to do so we set off to practice another door greeting – but one that was both controlled and much more quiet. Except for an initial bark or two, the dogs – and the owners performed very well and with practice they would be pros in no time.

We began to set out a daily program on obedience training of come, sit and down – adding the stay later. They promised to practice each and every day keeping to the program on weekends as well. With dogs, the more consistent the daily routines, the better.

They had asked about dogs on the furniture and I had recommended that if the dogs were to come up on the couch, they would have to earn this privilege by performing a sit and then only coming up when invited – using the command word “Up!” They seemed pleased that I did not say no to this and didn’t object. In fact, they thought it made perfect sense as their family come to visit often and it had become point of contention with them. Time to get things under control.

The owners recognized that this was not going to be an “over night fix” and were prepared to work their dogs for this 6 week program. I am happy to report that all is well with Ella and Lady – they are perfect little ladies – or pretty darn close!

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Jim Burwell is a “thanks for making the impossible, possible” professional dog trainer having trained 20,000+ dogs and counting and serving more than 7,000 clients.  Jim’s easy to follow, common sense, and positive methods have made him the “dog trainer of choice” for 30 years.  One of his clients says it best: There are people who are so good at, and passionate about, what they do, that in their presence, one can’t help thinking that they have found their true calling and are doing exactly what they should be doing on this earth. Jim is one of these rare people. His quiet and understated manner, his effective technique for training dogs (and their families) is something which I feel fortunate to have witnessed and in which to have been an active participant.  Jane Wagner

(c)Jim Burwell Inc.