4 Ways to Prevent Food Aggression in a Dog and 7 Ways to Eliminate It
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, and then with a behaviorist to find out why she is being aggressive (if her medical examination is normal); animal behaviorists know the signs a dog will show before biting and are trained in helping your dog. 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?
Four Steps To Prevent It Starting
This is a problem that you can prevent even before it starts!
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
Seven Steps To Eliminate Food Aggression
1. Make your dog “sit” before you give her the food bowl.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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
Don´t yell at her or ht 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.