First What Exactly Is Food Aggression In Dogs How Does It Start
At its essence, food aggression in dogs stems from fear of losing out on the most life-giving resource of all: basic nourishment. The behavior is often learned at an exceedingly early age. In fact, according to professional animal trainer and educator Steve Frost KPA CTP, SBA, CPBT-KA, this learned propensity can even include a genetic component. A canines natural inclinations may be reinforced or intensified by external scenarios the animal encounters. For example:
- Newborn puppies often need to compete with their littermates whenever its time to eat.
- In an abusive situation, food may be withheld for lengthy intervals.
- A young dog alone on the streets may need to scrounge for every morsel of sustenance.
Does a similar dynamic hold true in shelter environments? As shelter program manager for A Sound Beginning, Frost has worked with well over 15,000 dogs in homes and shelters, addressing resource guarding behaviors of varying complexities. He explains that he occasionally sees a greater likelihood of shelter dogs guarding food against other dogs which, while not desirable, is part of normal canine behavior. Hes also quick to add that well-run, responsible shelters prioritize safety, fully disclosing any behavioral issues they observe firsthand.
Tip : Consistent Meal Time
Focus on being consistent. Feeding the dog at the same time every day will help to overcome his anxiety about the next meal.
Your dog follows an internal clock that tells him when its time for his daily walk, the time that his humans are supposed to return home, and of course when its time to eat. Ensure that you stick to a fixed feeding time to address any anxiety over food.
S To Stop Food Aggression In Dogs
Just like any pet, dogs can be territorial – especially when it comes to mealtime.
Food aggression causes dogs to exhibit behavior of being protective over their food. It can become an issue for a couple reasons: those living with the dog could be at risk of being bitten, and it could lead to your pup becoming possessive in other areas of its life.
There are ways to treat food aggression in dogs by properly training your pup and managing their behavior. You can also take steps to prevent it entirely. Read on to find out more.
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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.
Stage One: Help Your Dog Feel Used To Presence While Eating
When food aggression is displayed, dogs often feel uneasy having anyone present while they feed. This first step focuses on helping them feel calmer.
Allow your dog to eat while you stand a couple of feet away, dont stand over them. Repetition is key in this step. Practice this step for a while after ten feeds with your dog in a calmer state, youll be able to move on to step two.
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Solving Dog Food Aggression Summary Steps
1- Start training your hound, preferably using . Teach him basic dog commands like sit, down and stay. 2- Take away anything around the house that triggers guarding in your pet: rawhides, pig’s ears, Kong toys. You will also need to feed your canine friend only twice a day . In the morning, put the food bowl down for 15 minutes, then remove it and place it in a safe place . Do the same in the evening. This is important to create a feeding routine. 3- We will use Systematic desensitization and Counterconditioning combined to help your pet feel more secure and less stressed. 4- You will start the training yourself, but eventually you will need every member of the family and even distant family and friends to help you as well.
Make Them Work For Food
It is easy for puppies to become complacent.
After all, as far as they are concerned life is all about food, play, and the occasional nap.
In some circumstances, this can lead to the accelerated prominence of unwanted behaviors including food aggression.
Most experts will agree that it is better to simulate the pack mentality by making your pup work’ for their meal.
Key to this is exercise
Never feed your puppy before walking and make sure that the exercise is just the right side of more than enough’.
Your dog ought to be tired when they get home, and hungry.
But keep your hands off that bowl!
Now you feed yourself and your family.
Your dog will be extremely hungry and waiting for its share down the pecking order.
Once everyone has dined, give them some positive love and feed them.
Combined with the exercises above you will be reinforcing in your pup’s mind your control over when and how much they eat.
It is unlikely they will play up’ to risk their share and consequently, they ought to be less aggressive around feeding times.
Just remember that if you have more than one pup to treat both of them equally and keep a lookout for any thieving or bullying.
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How To Recognize Food Aggression
When a dog is eating, his body will stiffen and he may keep his head down. He is using his body language to hover over the meal and protect it.
Other signs are that the whites of your dogs eyes may be visible, their ears are held back, their tail is lowered, or their hackles may rise. A dog may show any or all of these signs. Finally, there are the above mentioned signs of the severity of the problem: growling, lunging, or biting.
Don’t Punish The Growl
Never punish a growling dog. You can punish away a growl, sure, but all you’ve done is make a dog bite more likely. If your dog learns that growling to express their discomfort at your approach results in an aversive , and the loss of the item they were guarding, the next time you reach for it, they’re more likely to skip the growl and go straight for a bite.
If someone keeps stealing my fries after asking them to stop, the next time they reach across the table, I might smack their fingers away . Ignored warnings will escalate behavioral responses, in both humans and dogs. You don’t want to take away important warning signs that your dog needs to communicate with you.
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Why Does Your Dog Display Dog Food Aggression
Canine possession aggression
If You Are Worried About How To Stop A Dog From Being Possessive Of Food Dont Lose Heart You Can Manage And Even Prevent This Defensive Behavior
According to a study, signs of food possessiveness or food aggression are present among 20% of all dogs.
This aggressive behavior is passed down through evolution when dogs had to protect their meals or resources.
Dogs guard resources they consider to be valuable, and food usually tops the list.
Desirable objects can include food in its bowl, food falling on the floor during mealtimes, or even bits of food in the garbage.
Resource guarding behavior in dogs can be risky to young children as they may not understand the aggressive attitude of the dog. If they disregard the signals and move forward, the dog may snarl or bite them.
Even adults can get attacked if they ignore the warnings of food possessive or food aggressive dogs.
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What Is Food Aggression In Puppies
The actual term food aggression’ can be a little misguiding as it implies that the puppy is going to fight and demand food.
In most cases, it is actually best understood by considering it as a defensive or protective behavior with the underlying threat of aggression.
Say for example you lay out your puppy’s bowl of food and then try to take it away.
Rather than passively accepting your decision without question, they instead snarl and bare their teeth.
And in the worst cases, they may even go to bite.
Should your dog exhibit any of the following characteristics when feeding then it is time to be on the lookout for potential food aggression such as
- Growling when someone comes to close.
- Snarling at other dogs who try and encroach on their bowl.
- Adopts a frozen’ and on edge posture when eating.
- Makes a snapping motion at you when removing their bowl even if they do not actually bite.
- Eats especially fast and immediately looks for more food when their own bowl is empty.
- The whites of their eyes are especially pronounced.
You will be able to tell a puppy exhibiting signs of such aggression pretty easily.
Even if they still have their baby’ teeth, do be careful as they can bite pretty hard and at such an age will likely not quite have figured out the difference between a nip and a snap.
Don’t worry though, it is surprisingly easy to train that little food fiend out of such antisocial behavior!
Ask Family Members To Leave Your Dog In Peace
Would you like to be petted or picked up when youre eating? Probably not. Ask children and other family members to let your new puppy eat in peace or feed the puppy once the children are in bed. Find a quiet corner where your dog wont be disturbed when theyre eating you can even shut the door so that other animals cant make them anxious, and let them out once they have finished eating. Remember, food aggression comes about because the animal is worried about their food supply so make sure they havent got any reason to worry.
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Symptoms Of Food Aggression In Dogs
The symptoms of food aggression are pretty straightforward, ranging from warnings to actions, sometimes with only milliseconds between:
- Snaps or bites when feeding is interrupted
The danger here is that the object of the aggression may be another dog or cat in the family or even a toddler or child who has wandered too close to the food bowl and who doesnt understand the warnings or why they are important.
Food aggression or guarding could be typed into two categories:
Aggression toward humans – This type of food aggression could be directed toward any human being who comes anywhere near the food bowl, kitchen where food is being prepared, the dinner table where the food is eaten or even near the leftovers. It could also be directed at only some of the human family members, with one or two being trusted to come near the canine when he is eating.
Aggression toward other animals – This type could include other dogs, cats or any other animals who are courageous enough to venture near the food dish when your dog is eating or is otherwise near it.
Don’t Leave Out Items That Your Dog Might Guard
If your dog loves to grab socks from the laundry basket, and then growls or tries to bite when you try to take them away, set yourself up for success from the get-go by removing the opportunity. Don’t leave items lying around that your dog might find valuable enough to guard. Keep your laundry basket up high. Pick up their food bowls between meals after they’ve finished eating and have walked away. Don’t give them certain toys or high-value edible chews that they’ve become protective over.
Once I gave each of my dogs a new chew, a super smelly lamb spine. They sat and enjoyed it for a while, and then I got up from my spot on the couch and walked past one of them to the kitchen. As I got near, I reached down not to take the chew, but to give my dog a scratch on the neck and I was greeted by a low, sustained growl. I immediately stopped what I was doing, took a step back, and assessed the situation. This was the first time that my dog had shown resource guarding behavior towards me. And you know what I did? I called him into the kitchen and traded him some cheese for the chew, and then never bought those chews again. If only all my resource guarding cases were that simple.
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What Not To Do Help Your Dogs Food Aggression
Do not take their food away. Taking a dogs food away will leave them to believe that whenever they see food, they must scarf it down as fast as possible before someone comes to take it. This is essentially the root cause of food aggression in dogs. Allow your dog to eat their food in peace.
Do not feed multiple dogs out of the same dog bowl. This is known as communion feeding. In situations like this, dogs will tend to push other dogs away or fight them in order to display dominance to alert other dogs that this food belongs to them. This practice increases the likeliness of developing food aggression.
Never attempt to grab food out of a dogs mouth. Serious injuries may occur.
Do not get into a shouting match with a dog that is protecting their food bowl. This will only provoke them further to anger and slow down the process of getting them to stop being food aggressive.
Do not hire a dog trainer! Dog trainers tend to charge an arm and a leg to dog owners to solve a problem that does not require much training. Only lazy dog owners should take this route. Your dog needs to have this training experience with you. This is the only way they can learn to respect you, your authority, and not just that of a dog trainer.
Why I Never Take Food From A Dog
For many, it creates the issue we wish to avoid. When we give, it should be just that. Do not try to remove the bowl to ensure youre pups wont get grumpy as they grow up, because thats a sure way of ending up with the behaviour you didnt want. Instead, when your pup has finished his food, pop another plate of food down next to it. Give Give Give.
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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.
How To Stop Food Aggression In Your Dog
Food aggression is an incredibly dangerous behavior. Aggressive eaters can present a threat to you, the members of your household, and your other dogs. Even worse, food aggression can lead to other forms of aggression and possessiveness in your dog.
So it is extremely important that you learn how to stop aggression during feeding time before the behavior becomes a huge problem for your family.
Before we dive in, we need to give the usual disclaimer when dealing with aggressive dogs. If you do not have experience and training with aggressive dog behavior, this is a situation where you must get some advice from a professional trainer. The longer you wait, the worse things will get and the harder it will be to correct the behavior. You will need to be the judge on how to handle the situation, but be very careful as bites are extremely common with food aggressive dogs. The advice given in this article only serves as general guidelines and techniques that can work in SOME cases. The only way to truly stop aggressive behavior is to develop a customized training plan for your specific dogs needs.
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