Dealing With A Food Aggressive Dog

Of all dog behavior problems, food aggression is one of the most serious.  It often escalates into something more serious and can become violent.  Unfortunately, many people ignore food aggression in their dogs because they don’t understand the behavior.  They simply choose to avoid dealing with it.

You may think that it doesn’t make any sense for your dog to become possessive of his food, bare his teeth and growl at you, especially when you’re the one who feeds him in the first place.  You may ask yourself how that kind of behavior makes any sense.

However, this kind of thinking can lead straight to chaos in your home.  With food aggression what’s actually happening is your dog is asserting ownership of his/her food as well as the home you share.  This happens because you’re not asserting your own alpha position as the leader in the home, so your dog will do so.

If you have a small dog it may seem cute when your dog is possessive about his food. You may laugh and joke about your dog’s behavior.  But that’s the last thing you should do.  You may not fear for your own safety but you should consider what could happen if your dog displays this kind of possessive behavior toward a friend or a child.

Dealing With Food Aggression

Your dog could begin to show aggressive tendencies, including food aggression, for lots of different reasons.  What’s important is that you work on stopping the aggression.  Here are some suggestions to help you stop the aggression.

*Backing Down: When your dog shows aggression you have to know when to react to it and when to step away.  If you give in to your dog when he shows aggression and don’t handle it properly, then you’re telling your dog that it’s all right to show aggression.

*Dog-Dog Aggression: If your dog is directing aggression toward another dog at meal time there is a simple answer.  Separate the two dogs.  Feed the dogs in different rooms or in crates.

*Get Your Family Involved: You must get all of your family members involved so they know what’s going on.  Everyone in the family needs to take the same actions toward your dog to correct him when he shows aggression.  Otherwise your dog will get mixed signals and continue to be aggressive.  You can’t do it alone.

*Control the Feeding: You need to be the alpha and control the feed bowl.  This means that you need to be in charge when you feed your dog.  Be a little more forceful and in control.  Teach your dog to sit and stay before you give them their food.  Doing this teaches the dog that they have to earn the food and that you are in charge.

Your dog should also pay attention to you when you are feeding them and not just focus on the feed bowl.  Your dog must understand that the food comes from you.  You control the food, not the dog.

*Feeding Time: Feed your dog after you eat.  This shows your dog that you eat first and you have the position of alpha leader.

*No Rewards: You should never give your dog a reward for growling. This means don’t give your dog his food if he growls. However, this doesn’t mean you should punish your dog or yell at him.  Just withhold the reward of the food.  If you show aggression, such as yelling or punishing, in response to your dog’s aggression, the situation can escalate and become dangerous.

*Attention and Hand Feeding: You can stop your dog’s aggressive behavior by hand feeding him and by showing your dog special attention while you are feeding.  This is particularly effective when you’re trying to calm a dog during meal times.

Hand feeding your dog and showing him special attention while you’re feeding him will also get him used to you being near him while he’s eating.  This is even easier to do if you have a puppy.  You should practice this from the first time you feed a puppy.

Your dog’s meals are a very important part of the day, especially for your dog.  You should show your dog that you are the alpha leader and that you “own” the food bowl. You should also make sure that you provide your dog with reassuring attention while he eats.  This will help reduce all forms of aggression.

If your dog shows aggression toward family members, your neighbors or toward other people when he’s near the food bowl or toward your friends, children or toward other dogs, then we strongly suggest that you find the best trainer possible to help you deal with this problem.

Mark Mansfield

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