Prepare Yourself For The Process
While food aggression in dogs is solvable, it probably wont be a quick process. Undoing food-motivated aggression can take time, says Annie Grossman, owner of School for the Dogs in New York City. But dont let that stop you from seeking help this is not a situation that should be ignored. Its necessary to be patient and consistent in your efforts to make sure everyone in your household feels comfortable around your pet. Dont miss these 15 secrets dog trainers wont tell you for free.
Try Cbd Treats For Dealing With An Aggressive Dog
CBD-infused treats are a safe, non-toxic way to let your dog snack. Although CBD derives from marijuana, there are several important factors to consider.
First and foremost, although theres a stigma surrounding cannabis, several studies have demonstrated its immense array of benefits, which is why several states have legalized it, or are in the motions of doing so.
Secondly, Cannabidiol is just one out of over 100 active cannabinoids that have been identified in cannabis. CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid pulled from hemp. This is not to be confused with THC, which is the chemical in marijuana that gives you the feeling of being high.
Therefore, you cannot get high from CBD, making it a perfectly safe and natural way to treat aggression in pets. CBD is currently legal in 30 states, many of which havent yet legalized traditional THC cannabis.
Today, CBD treats are very popular. The CBD company Plantacea, for example, specializes in dog treats infused with CBD to treat a variety of conditions, from nervousness to aggression to loss of appetite.
Heres how it works: your dog has natural cannabinoids in their body, called anandamide. The cannabinoids in CBD dog treats attach to the receptors in your dogs brain, accentuating the already-existing anandamide that exists.
There May Be An Easy Solution To Your Dogs Resource Guarding
If your dog has recently started resource guarding, it may not be a behavioral issue at all. Before you take steps to modify their behavior, be sure to rule out the following scenarios.
- Your dog isnt getting enough to eat. Dogs who are constantly hungry will be a lot more protective of their nutritional resources. Be sure your dog is eating enough. If you feed your dogs together, make sure to watch them as they eat. Its not uncommon for one dog to finish a bowl of food and then move in on their neighbors dinner.
- Your dog is ill or in pain. Rule out any medical issues, especially if your dog starts acting different without much warning.
- Your dog isnt getting enough mental or physical stimulation. Dogs need to exercise their brains and their bodies to thrive, and dogs who dont get enough stimulation will start acting out in all kinds of negative ways.
- Your dog is a puppy. Thats right sometimes puppies will try out behaviors with people and other dogs to see what kind of response they get. Because this is a behavior that you dont want to encourage, you should still follow the steps outlined in this article. Just keep in mind that your puppy is still learning the difference between right and wrong.
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Trainer That Reviewed This Article
There is so much misinformation out there, we want to make sure we only provide the highest quality information to our community. We have all of our articles reviewed by qualified, positive-only trainers. The trainers that review our content are reviewed by other trainers to ensure that we have the best quality filters on our content.
This is the trainer that reviewed this article:
Danette JohnstonCertified Professional Dog Trainer Licensed AKC CGC Evaluator
Why Do Dogs Behave Aggressively
Aggressive behavior in a dog refers to any behavior connected with an attack or an impending attack. This includes becoming still and rigid, growling, snarling, baring teeth, lunging, and nipping or biting.
Your first step toward stopping this behavior is to figure out what is causing your dog’s aggression. Some dogs growl as someone approaches them while they’re eating or chewing a bone, for instance. Others react aggressively toward children or strangers.
The aggression doesn’t have to be directed toward a person either. Some dogs become aggressive around other animals, only specific animals , or toward inanimate objects, such as wheels on vehicles or yard equipment.
The key thing to keep in mind is that you can’t come up with a plan to modify your dog’s behavior until you know the reason behind it. The most common types of dog aggression include:ï»¿ï»¿
- Territorial aggression: The dog defends its space or your home from what it deems to be an intruder.
- Protective aggression: The dog protects members of its pack against another animal or a person. Mother dogs are also extremely protective of their puppies and may become hostile toward anyone who goes near them.
- Possessive aggression: The dog protects food, chew toys, bones, or another object of value to it. This is sometimes called resource guarding.
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Object Guarding And Food Aggression Management
Please use caution at all times when working on managing object guarding and food aggression. If you are at all uncomfortable with doing the techniques described below, ask a reward-based trainer for help in teaching your dog not to guard food or objects.
Guarding is a natural, normal behavior for dogs. Some dogs will guard any valued item or space: their food, food bowls, toys, treats, chewies, bones, beds, couches. But, object guarding can be dangerous if a dog sees a person as someone he needs to guard against. You can easily get bitten trying to take something away from a dog who is a serious guarder.
Dogs who have shown guarding behaviors can be taught new associations to help keep them and their families safe. First, if guarding is a new behavior, visit a veterinarian for a health check. As with any sudden behavior change, the dog may have a medical issue that needs to be addressed.
To manage guarding behavior, youll do two things: hand-feeding and practicing trades. Start hand-feeding and practicing trades at the same time. To hand-feed, stop using a food bowl and start hand-feeding all meals to the dog, giving him a few pieces of kibble at a time. By doing this, youll change the association of hands near the dogs food from negative to positive. When you practice trades with the dog, youll teach him to always expect something better, making it worth trading.
Here are the steps for teaching trades:
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Things You Should Not Do When It Comes To Food Aggression In Dogs
Some people seem to feel that food aggression in dogs will resolve itself if the human owner can establish sufficient dominance over the canine. Frost warns that this is an extremely unwise course of action. We see a strong correlation between resource guarding and aversive training techniques and tools, he explains, especially with younger dogs.
According to Frost, punishing a dog for resource guarding is a surefire way to exacerbate the behavior, especially when you remove the guarded item as a form of reprimand. The risk, he explains, lies in teaching a resource-sensitive canine that a lower-level guarding behavior wasnt enough to keep that coveted item. This could actually escalate the issue going forward. So, if your dog exhibits any level of consistent food aggression, resist the urge to intimidate, threaten, provoke or punish your pet.
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Remove & Replace The Bowl
Were now working on the assumption that your dog is willing to eat treats from your hand.
But be aware that they do not understand the concept of do not bite the hand that feeds.
Assess your situation carefully before attempting this and only attempt it if you can stand right next to your dog while they eat and there are no signs of aggressive tendencies.
Start by lowering yourself onto your knees and gauge their reaction.
From their perspective, this will be unusual but ideally, they will just go yeah, whatever and carry on with their meal.
Very carefully put your hand on the bowl and lift it up as you straighten back to a full stance.
Your dog will wonder what is going on, but hold it for five seconds and then replace.
Next meal time, try this twice and leave it ten seconds before replacing.
Then try it three times and twenty seconds during the following meal.
There is no need to go any further than this .
Ideally, your dog will not be comfortable understanding that it is up to you to decide what happens with their food and just as importantly, that there is nothing to fear.
Treating Possessive Aggression In Dogs
Many dog owners are startled when their loving pet starts to growl or even bite when they try to take away a cherished toy or bowl of food. The behavioral term for this is possessive aggression and it is very common dog aggression behavior. Control of important resources is somewhat normal in dogs, but possessive aggression exceeds the tolerated limits of this behavior.
Dogs that have lived as strays or were allowed to roam free may develop possessive aggression as a means of survival. Lack of appropriate training of puppies, that show these traits, can reinforce their possessive behavior, and the aggressive dog behavior can worsen over time.
Possessive aggression occurs only when the dog is defending an object. Signs of possessive aggression can be a component of dominance aggression where other bad behaviors are observed.
The treatment of possessive aggression involves a number of options. If the object is non-essential, it can be removed from the home, such as a toy.
In the case of food guarding, the bowl needs to be removed when the pet is not around. After that, the pet is fed by hand after performing a command like sit. They need to first learn not to bite the hand that feeds them.
Many cases of possessive aggression significantly improve with treatment however, several weeks to months are often needed to achieve a satisfactory response.
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Let Your Dog Eat In Peace
For things that you can’t just remove from your dog’s environment, think about managing the context. If your dog guards their food bowl, set up a separate area where they can eat in peace. Use a gate to block off this area during mealtimes, so that no one can approach and make your dog feel the need to react. This is imperative if you have young children or elderly parents in the home who might not understand that they can’t pet your dog during mealtimes. Blocking off separate feeding areas is also important if you have more than one dog, and one shows inappropriate resource guarding behavior.
If your dog guards things like a chew or long-lasting treat, give these to them in their safe space, crate, or other areas where they won’t be bothered and let them enjoy it in peace. Ensure that everyone in your home knows that if the dog is eating or enjoying a chew, they are to let them be.
What Does The Science Say About Food Aggression In Dogs
One study reported as high as 20 percent of dogs show traits of food aggression while in a shelter setting. Thirty percent of dogs adopted from a shelter were reported by owners to show characteristics of food guarding.
So, we can say that food possessiveness is an innate trait in dogs, but it can also be learned from puppyhood from competition over limited access to resources.
In some cases, trauma or a major event could make a dog protective of food.
Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs in the world of canines too.
Events that could cause emotional trauma in dogs include natural disasters, getting hit by a car, the loss of a caretaker, being in a combat zone, physical abuse by an owner or a fight with another dog.
Any of these traumas could make a dog protective of food.
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How To Stop Your Dogs Food Aggression
If your dog is displaying some of these signs, you can feel assured that this defensive behavior can be managed or even prevented.
First things first, consider spaying or neutering your dog. Hormones can be the cause of aggression, and spaying or neutering may help reduce these tendencies.
Another treatment option is training: many dogs that have food aggression can be put through a training sequence, laid out in seven stages, focusing on desensitization and counterconditioning to put your dog more at ease with eating near people. Try these seven steps to help put a stop to your dogs food aggression:
What Does Food Aggression Look Like
In general, a dog that is said to have food aggression is one that exhibits any of these behaviors:
- Dog growling while eating and someone approaches
- Growls when another dog attempts to eat from his food bowl
- Dog guarding food in general
- Dog growls when eating a bone
- Lunges when you attempt to take away a food treat such as a bone
- Freezes and looks out of the side of his eyes when anyone walks by the place he is chewing on a food treat
- Bites you or anyone who pets him while hes eating
- His hackles raise when someone or another dog walks by while he is eating
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How To Help Stop Food Aggression In Your Dog
This three-step process will discourage your dog from food guarding and help them get used to having people around during mealtimes. The duration estimates given for each step are just that: estimates. No one knows your dog better than you, so use your best judgment when deciding whether to move on to the next step or extend the current step by a few days or weeks.
If food aggression has become a serious issue for your dog, consider feeding them separately so you can focus on training. In addition, if your dog has a tendency to eat too quickly, try using a food bowl that makes it deliberately hard for your dog to scarf down their meal.
What Are The Signs Of Food Aggression In Dogs
Signs of food aggression can vary, and even easygoing dogs can still display these common signs:
- Growling when any person or pet gets near their food bowl, especially when eating
- Freezing their body or stiffening while theyre eating this could also include rotating their body to keep eye contact with a perceived intruder
- Eating at a faster pace, which can cause digestive issues and make your dog feel unsettled
- Blocking access to their food by rotating to stay between the bowl and anyone else
- Cycling between any of these behaviors many people incorrectly assume that if the dog is not growling, its not food guarding
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Connect With A Certified And Qualified Dog Trainer Or Behavior Consultant
Before diving into ways you can start to address any resource guarding with your dog, I want to stress that working one-on-one with a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, or veterinary behaviorist should be your first step. I do not know your dog or your situation personally. I cannot know the severity of your dog’s individual case without meeting with you personally and learning your dog’s behavioral history. Not only will your certified trainer build a trainer-client relationship with you and your dog, but they’ll also be able to help you through the steps that I’ll briefly outline below. Due to the potentially dangerous situations that resource guarding can create, it’s important to keep safety first both for you and your dog.
Looking for professional help for your dog’s resource guarding behavior?Schedule a one-on-one virtual coaching session with Cathy here.
When To Add A Command
It can seem counterintuitive, notes Grossman, but you should take this approach even if your dog is eating something he shouldnt, like a chicken bone . The big difference is that, in addition to giving the treat, you firmly say, Drop it. Why? The dog is going to have to open his mouth in order to gobble up the treat, and this will mean dropping whatever was in his maw to begin with, giving you the opportunity to take the forbidden thing, explains Grossman. The key to success is to have already given the treat in the food-aggression scenario several times. That way, your dog recognizes the command as an aberration.
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Add A Treat To Their Bowl Of Food
Duration: 1 week
After your dog understands that your presence during mealtime isnt something to worry about, reinforce their progress with positive association.
Begin this step while youre finishing Step 2. While your dog eats their bowl of food, make a point to get a delicious treat for them. Return to the bowl while your dog is still eating and verbally reward them as you give them the treat. Have your dog take the treat from your open palm so they can internalize positive reinforcement when others approach.
Why Do Some Dogs Display Possession Aggression
Possession aggression in dogs is natural behavior that originates from the instinct to react to a perceived threat. Although it’s useful, necessary behavior in the wild, it has no place in your home and needs to be managed before it develops into a serious problem. Reasons for resource guarding may include:
- Acquired behavior:Some puppies learn resource guarding behavior from their mothers or littermates. Even pups only a few weeks old have been observed growling over food bowls.
- Arrival of a rival:A single dog in your household may never show signs of possession aggression. But if you adopt another dog, squabbles over toys, food bowls, or territories may suddenly break out.
- Shelter dog syndrome: It’s not uncommon for dogs that spend a long time in an animal shelter to develop a problem with possession aggression. This may be because they see the other shelter dogs as competition for limited resources.
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