Food Aggression in Dogs - Jim Burwell’s Petiquette

Food Aggression Solution

Food Aggression can develop in puppies and dogs if they are not properly socialized and desensitized around all family members while eating their meals.

You do not want your dog biting you or other family members. Training  to prevent food aggression means getting your new puppy or dog used to family member being around their food bowl.

Its a simple exercise that, if started when you first get your puppy or dog, and could save you a lot of grief down the road because you have prevented your dog from becoming an aggressive dog.

Why does a dog become aggressive around his food bowl? That’s a good question. There could be a number of factors.

Let’s take a look at possible reasons dogs develop this aggressive attitude while in possession or close to the things that fit into the categories above:

  • Not being properly desensitized to family members around him when he is eating. This should include heavy doses of feeding him from your hand, taking his food bowl up and giving it back with a yummier treat on top of his remaining food.
  • Another factor could be a complete lack of structure in the family – that is not requiring the dog to earn things in life that he wants by performing sits and downs.
  • Dogs that have more leader type personalities or dominant temperaments who may be in conflict with their owner as o “who’s the boss” because of a lack of structure just mentioned, could be more likely to develop guarding issues than say a very submissive dog as they struggle to affirm their pack position.

Now don’t get me wrong, submissive dogs can also develop food aggression issues. I’m just saying that the more dominant the dog, the more likely it could aggressively guard items of perceived value. I’ve also seen very dominant or leader type dogs aggressively guard a position taken on the family couch but are perfectly fine with family members near their
food bowl while they are eating. It all depends on the individual dog and influential environmental factors.

In addition to food aggression, here are some other things that can become valuable commodities causing dogs to be aggressive and to guard “their” high value resources::

  1. Space: His personal space, his dog bed, your bed, couch or chairs
  2. Articles of play: Dog toys, kid toys or anything of yours he picks up that is laying around that he determines is high value at that time.
  3. Love and affection: You can become a high value resource to your dog as well.   That’s the love and affection part may want to reserve for himself and not share with other 2 legged or 4 legged pack members.

For some dogs, this concern needs to be addressed immediately otherwise a growling dog could turn into a dog biting a family member and escalate from there. This could be setting the dog up for a one way trip to the vet and that is not a good outcome for anyone – especially the dog. It just makes good sense to make sure your new puppy or dog does not learn
to guard anything.

If you notice your dog developing serious aggression issues around his food bowl or when he is in possession of perceived high value things, consider the following:

  1. Make sure all humans and dogs are safe. This means that the dog should be physically managed – crated, gated or on a leash on leash in the house so that he is prevented from becoming aggressively reactive. For the time being, pick up items you know he likes and might guard.
  2. Balance your relationship with your canine companion. Let him know that your relationship is a give and take kind of deal. Control the things in life he wants. Put him on a learn-to-earn program of performing sits and downs for them.
  3. All family members should participate so that he gets the same message from everyone.
  4. Get back into the training groove with sits and downs to give him a sense of working for leadership rather than feeling responsible for it himself.
  5. Exercise your dog to more constructively manage his energy rather than it being managed by the dog in a destructive way.
  6. Finally, get with a qualified trainer or behaviorist to begin working on a behavior modification program to directly address the issues of food aggression and aggression around anything else.

If you detect a problem, it should be addressed sooner than later because this aggressive dog behavior grows stronger each time the dog growls or snaps causing people to back away. Dogs repeat behaviors that work for them.  If you notice your dog growling around their food bowl or growling when you approach them in certain situations, call a trainer or
behaviorist before the problem gets worse.

Be as comfortable with the trainer as you are with the teacher of your children.  And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”