How to Prevent and Stop Food Aggression in Dogs
Aggression in dogs is a delicate subject. If your dog is showing symptoms of aggression, you should consult with a veterinarian to find out if your dog has a medical reason for her behavior changes. Thereafter, consult with a behaviorist to find out why she is being aggressive (if her medical examination is normal); animal behaviorists know which signs indicate a dog may bite and are trained to help your dog and intervene. It takes many years of dealing with aggressive dogs before a person can handle them safely.
The reality may be different. If you are isolated—in an area where there is no one to help your companion—the dog should not be condemned without searching for answers. In this article, I will discuss a few causes of food aggression and some of the ways you might be able to help reduce them.
Even among dog trainers, there is a lot of conflicting advice on this subject. Some of them think the dog is trying to take charge in the household. Sometimes a food aggressive dog will be fearful, not dominant. Some food aggressive dogs are easy to train, some are very difficult. These tips may help in some situations, but dogs are all different and they will not work in all cases. If your dog is snarling, growling, or barking, there is a problem. If he is shaking and tense, the situation is more serious. Ultimately, it will lead to biting, the most serious problem of all.
So, what can you do?
How to Prevent Food Aggression in Dogs
This is a problem that you can prevent even before it starts!
- Always tell your new puppy to “sit”: Always tell your new puppy to “sit” before giving her the food bowl. This will reinforce the idea that you are the provider and in control; it is helpful in questions of dominance.
- Pet her: Pet your puppy while she is eating. She will be used to your presence and will also learn that you will not steal her food.
- Give her a treat: Once your puppy has learned the recall, call her over to you (during the meal) and give her a treat. She can then go back over to her meal and finish it.
- Give her something extra: When your puppy is finished with her meal, give her something extra (like a special treat, for example, a small piece of chicken). If you do this, and she comes to expect it, she will want you to be around when she is eating.
7 Steps to Take to Help a Food-Aggressive Dog
- Make your dog “sit” before you give her the food bowl.
- Only feed your dog after you have had your dinner. Make sure she knows you are in control of the food and when it is passed out.
- Stop leaving food down all of the time. This is based on the “pack” theory, similar to the first two tips. If your dog recognizes you as the one who is in control of her meals, she is more likely to respect you as the leader and will no longer be aggressive.
- Feed twice a day so your dog does not get too hungry between meals. Some food aggression is caused by your dog not knowing when (or even if) her next meal will come along.
- Put her feed down in a quiet, secure location (like a back porch, not a busy area like the kitchen) so she does not feel threatened. You should leave your dog alone and not even pick up the bowl until she has gone into another room. This may be all that is needed for some dogs.
- Use counterconditioning techniques to let her get used to your presence. Step up just short of the point where she feels threatened; throw her a special treat (like a piece of baked chicken breast) and then walk away. Do this every day until she associates your approach to her food bowl with the handout of a special treat. Over time she will feel less aggressive and will not mind you coming very close to her bowl. This is a slow method, and needs to be reinforced occasionally, but may help if the other methods listed above are not enough.
If counterconditioning is successful, I have also heard some trainers suggest you take the dog´s bowl away and add treats to it while she is still eating. I think taking the dog´s food bowl away, for any reason, is not a good idea. This is supposed to be another method of making the dog more confident in your control.
- An alternative food bowl may be helpful. There are a lot of other alternatives that might be more successful so do not buy a bowl and expect it to solve your problems.
Food aggression might take a long time to get over.
How Long Will This Take?
Don't yell at her or hit her to make her stop. Don’t just reach in and take her food bowl away because she is growling. These actions might work at the moment but the problem will probably just get worse.
This behavior started slowly and has taken a long time to develop. Do not be surprised if it takes a long time to stop.
If your dog is showing other signs of aggression (like protecting her bed or a special toy) then dealing with food aggression may help her. When these methods do not help your dog, I really recommend you consult an animal behaviorist.
Take care of this problem before your dog bites someone.
What works best for your food-aggressive dog?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
We have two puppies one is a 17 week female and the other is a 14 week male. They are fine when it comes to meal time, but treats are our problem with aggression. How can I stop it?
The methods I describe in this article are for dogs with food aggression towards their families. If you have two puppies fighting over treats, it is a different problem.
It is mostly a matter of dog-dog aggression. The best thing to do would be to put the dogs in separate rooms before giving treats. This may seem inconvenient to you, but if you allow the dogs to continue to fight in this way one of them is going to be hurt, badly, as they grow up.
If this problem is not resolved, you may need to find a local animal behaviorist in your area. You need to get a handle on this and stop this now before the dogs become adults.
Our five-year-old Cavoodle is not aggressive over his own food, but when he steals food that he is not supposed to have (like chocolate), then he will bite if we try to take it away and becomes quite aggressive. How do we deal with this?
A dog that steals something often becomes aggressive. It is not food aggression, just a type of resource guarding. The easiest way to get over this problem is to exchange what he has with something even better.
You can not just take the treat away. Go to your fridge, grab a piece of chicken or lunchmeat, heat it up in the microwave for a few seconds, and then get down on the dogs level. Look at the food and tell him "Oh, look what I have here, this smells so good!" Well, not exactly, but you get the picture. Eat a little bit of it, loudly, so he gets curious. If he stands up to look, but is still guarding this food, hide the food in your hands a little so that he is forced to come closer to look at it.
Dogs cannot resist this.
When you get a new puppy, this is something that can be avoided. Take the treat away at the very beginning and then give it back, immediately, so that the dog realizes you are not a threat.Helpful 1
My ten months old GSD gets aggressive when am about to drop his food sometimes. I usually feed him in his doghouse, but this evening I tried dropping the bowl of water first before the food, and he bit my arm, nothing too serious; What do I do about it? He eats from my hand when I try feeding him, but once I drop his bowl, he shows those aggressive signs.
A dog that bites, even if it is not bad, is a very serious problem, so hopefully, we can solve this before it gets worse.
There is no reason he should be so upset when you are putting his food down. You need to make sure he is obedience trained and tell him to sit and lie down before putting the food down. Have him do so on the other side of the room. If he gets up and approaches the food, take it away before telling him to sit and lie down again. Do not feed him if he does not obey you.
You could also start feeding him in a separate room. Put the food down and then let the dog into the room. This is NOT a better solution though. The best thing to do is learn to control your dog.
If you need to learn more about how to teach him to be polite and control his impulses here is a reference: https://hubpages.com/dogs/teach-your-dog-impulse-c...Helpful 1
We have a 3 yr old female pit and lab mix. We have had her since she was 6 months old. The other day we brought home another 3 yr. old female pit/lab. The first one is being very dominant and sneering and growling at the second one if she comes too close to her or us or her food bowl. She is acting jealous but I understand that's not it. We have left them alone by themselves in the home and they were fine. How do we stop it?
This sounds much worse than a food aggression issue. It is possible that the 3 yr old considers this her turf and does not accept the other dog being there at all.
You should read https://pethelpful.com/dogs/dog-to-dog-aggression
Try all of the things that i recommend in that article. Do not give up on your dogs until you have tried those things.
Sometimes two females or two males never get along. You have to rehome one of the dogs. When you adopted the second dog, did you discuss this? I know a pit mix is going to have a hard time finding a new home, but keep in mind that this is something you might need to consider if things do not work out.