Stopping Food Aggression in Your Dog
Dogs have an instinctual nature to guard their home, their pack, and in some instances even their food. If you are not careful, your dog’s instinct to guard his food can quickly lead to food aggression, which can put everyone in the house at risk. It is important to detect signs of food aggression as early as possible and to stop this behavior before the condition becomes severe.
Signs of Food Aggression
A dog may start to show signs of food aggression, by showing his teeth or growling when someone gets too close to his food bowl. The dog may also start to hover over his food in a protective stance, keeping his body stiff, his ears pulled back, and his head and tail down. These are all signs of aggression in a dog and should not be taken lightly.
If these behaviors are not immediately stopped and proper training does not begin, this aggression could escalate. It could eventually lead to the point where the dog lunges or even snaps at the person close to his food. In severe cases of food aggression, the dog may actually bite the person.
While your initial reaction may be just to let the dog alone when he is eating, this will not stop the behavior. In fact, if this behavior is not stopped, your dog could start to show signs of aggressive behavior over other items that are important to him, such as his toys and sleeping area. This could eventually lead to a very dangerous situation.
Reasons for Food Aggression
There are two main reasons why a dog would show signs of food aggression. The first reason is that the dog is fighting for his pack leader position and uses the aggression to show dominance over the situation. In these cases, it is important to that you take control of the situation and resume your place as the pack leader. If this does not happen, the dog will start to become possessive of other areas of the home.
The second reason is because the dog is scared or fearful. This is especially the case in rescue dogs that may not have eaten on a regular basis. In these cases, it is important to build your dog’s confidence and sense of security.
Understanding Dog’s Eating Habits
Before you can stop this negative behavior, it is important to understand the natural eating habits of dogs. In a pack, the leader or alpha dog always eats first. The other dogs must wait until the alpha dog is completely done eating before they can begin. At this point, all the other dogs in the pack must fight for the remainder of the food. While your dog does not live in a pack, these instincts are still natural to him.
While the need to protect their food, even to the point of aggression, is very instinctual in dogs, it does not mean that it is an acceptable behavior for your dog to have. However, it does mean that you will have to train your dog and make him feel safe and secure knowing that he will always be fed.
Tips for Stopping This Negative Behavior
In order to change your dog’s behavior, you will need to show him that he does not need to be protective of his food. Counterconditioning can be very effective with helping to stop food aggression. This is done by changing your dog’s attitude about people coming near his food bowl. Instead of fearing this, your dog should associated people near his food dish as a positive thing.
There are several effective steps you can take to stop this negative behavior in your dog. These techniques listed below will also help you resume your role as the leader and build your dog’s confidence.
Hand Feed Your Dog – Your dog must start to feel safe eating around people. There may be no better way to start this process than by allowing your dog to eat right out of your hands. Be sure to show your dog love and affection while feeding him and praise him if he is well behaved.
Use Special Treats – Another great option is to use special treats while your dog is eating. You can simply throw some special treats into the bowl while he is eating or offer your dog treats by hand. Be sure not to get too close to your dog’s food bowl. Remember, you do not want to scare him. Your main object is to make him associate you being near his food bowl as a good thing.
Always Eats First – If your dog’s aggression is due to the fact that he is trying to regain leadership of the pack, it is vital that you quickly reestablish your position. Since, the alpha dog always eats first, you should follow suit and be the first one to eat. Only, when everyone in the house has finished eating should you fill your dog’s bowl. He should never eat at the same time you do, because this will make he see you as an equal instead of a leader.
Order Your Dog to Sit – One of the best things you can do is to teach your dog to “sit,” while you are preparing his food. You should order him to “sit,” and “stay.” If he is too excited, you can go one step further and command your dog to “lie down.” This will help to calm him down. Your dog should remain in this position until you are done filling his food dishes and you release the command.
Take Your Dog for a Walk First – Dogs’ natural instinct is to work for their food by hunting. While you cannot take your dog hunting on a daily basis, you can take him for a long walk or allow him to run outside for a long period of time prior to eating. This will help your dog associated eating with a reward for hard work.
Feed Your Dog at the Same Time – This step will help especially if your dog’s aggression is caused by a fear of not having anything to eat. This fear is not only seen in rescue dogs, but can also be seen in puppies that had to fight over food with the brothers and sisters. Your dog will soon learn when feeding time is and his anxiety will start to be alleviated over time.
Food aggression requires immediate attention because you do not want this behavior to worsen over time. If not repaired, your dog may even start to show aggressive behavior towards other members of the household, other dogs and animals, and even his regular vets or local dog groomers Tucson. This can make getting a regular checkup, shot, or dog bath more difficult.
The good news is that if you consistently use one or more of the tips listed above, you are likely to see a change in your dog’s behavior in just weeks. However, if your dog’s aggressive behavior worsens or he continues to bite, it may be time to seek out help from a professional dog trainer. This expert can give you more tips and techniques to help stop this negative behavior and to keep everyone safe, including your dog.