Did you notice a sign of food aggression in your dog?
So what should you do? Should you just let him be? No. You have to make him understand that you are the one who provides the food and that you are someone to thank rather than someone to fear. So how do you accomplish this?
Food aggression causes a dog to exhibit the act of being protective over his food. It can become a problem for a couple of reasons, persons living with the pup could be in danger of being bitten, and it could lead to your dog becoming possessive in other aspects of its life.
Some ways to treat food aggression in dogs are by adequately training your dog and managing his behavior. You can also take action to prevent it entirely. In this article, you will learn more about how to get rid of food aggression in dogs.
What is food aggression in dogs?
Food aggression in dogs is a territorial reaction a pup experiences when eating treats or meals, in which they use hostile behavior to protect their food.
Food aggression is common in dogs. One study showed that nearly twenty percent of all dogs display signs of food aggression.
This attitude is a form of resource guarding – a behavior passed down via evolution when dogs needed to protect every food or resource they had. Object guarding differs slightly, though – it describes a defensive behavior of anything they consider high value, not just their meal.
Typically, canines only guard what they cherish. Because of this, what they protect can vary – though the very common one is food. This could be; food dropped on the floor during mealtimes or prepped on the counter, food in their bowls, or scraps in the garbage bin.
This defensive attitude can be an issue if a food-aggressive dog lives in a house with children. Children, especially younger ones, have a more challenging time recognizing the signs of guarding and may not regard them completely. This could lead to a child being growled at or bitten.
It’s not just children that need to be careful of this behavior; adults can be affected as well. It boils down to the pup’s confidence in eating at ease and being comfortable in its environment.
What are the causes of food aggression in dogs?
There isn’t one major cause for food aggression in dogs. However, here are a few likely reasons:
It can be learned in puppyhood by accidental training practices to compete over little resources in a shelter environment.
Canines can also develop food aggression later in life. Trauma can be a massive trigger – like physical abuse or neglect, natural disasters, losing a caretaker, or fighting with another dog can cause symptoms of food aggression.
Dogs become more protective over their property…. most especially their food.
Some dog breeds are genetically predisposed to aggressive or dominant tendencies and may want to guard food due to a pack-like mentality. Dogs like Rottweilers
English Springer Spaniels, or German Shepherds, are known for having hereditary guarding behavior – though these instincts typically apply to property or livestock.
While there can be some causes for food aggression in dogs, those that spend time in a shelter may be at higher risk of experiencing this resource-guarding tendency due to competition for limited resources like food, beds, treats, or potential mates.
What are the symptoms of aggression?
Several identifying signs of food aggression are categorized into three degrees of harmfulness: Mild, moderate, and severe.
Verbal signs best recognize the mild degree of food aggression. Your dog may growl when you touch his food while it’s eating. It may also raise its hackles or bare its teeth in a warning.
Another sign of food aggression is snapping or lunging when other dogs or persons approach them.
High food aggression can be dangerous to owners or people living around them. It can also affect other pets, like cats or domestic animals, as the dog will bite or chase the perceived threat away.
How to stop your dog’s food aggression
If your dog displays some of these signs, you can feel assured that this behavior can be managed or eradicated.
First things first, consider neutering or spaying your dog.
Hormones can cause aggression, and spaying or neutering may help reduce these tendencies.
Another treatment option is training: many dogs with food aggression can be put via a training sequence in 7 simple stages, focusing on desensitization and counter-conditioning to put your dog at ease with eating beside people.
Try these 7 simple steps to help put a stop to your dog’s food aggression:
Step 1: Get your pup used to your presence when eating
This step focuses on acquainting your pup with your presence when they are eating treats or meals.
Stand back from your pup by a few feet while he eats food from a bowl on the floor.
The goal is to have your dog eat relaxed for 10 or more meals in a row before moving on to the second stage in this training method.
Stage 2: Add a tasty treat, then move back
in this second stage, you will need to add a tasty treat to your dog’s food in a bowl, then return to your former distance after placing the food.
You must carry out this step consistently for 10 days before moving to the next stage.
Step 3: Move close, and talk to your pup.
This step focuses on proximity and conversation. While your pup is eating from his bowl, stand next to him and give a special treat.
Speaking to them in the usual tone – “What would you like to eat?” or asking about their food are excellent options. Train your dog to answer his name when you call him at this period when you are closer to him
Turn and walk away from your dog after giving him the treat.
Repeat this step every few seconds. If your dog can remain calm while eating 10 or more meals in a row, you can go on to the fourth step of this training process.
Step 4: Try the hand-feeding method.
Hand feeding is a major part of this stage. Your dog needs to understand that you don’t stand as a threat to their food when they eat.
Approach your dog, speaking to them in a conversational tone – similar to the previous stage.
Stand next to their feeding bowl, holding a hand out with a treat to your pup.
Instead of putting the treat in their bowl, encourage your dog to pick it out of your hand.
After they pick the treat, turn and move away to let him understand that you are interested in his food.
Every day, bend down until your hand is beside their bowl as your pup takes the food. After 10 meals in a relaxed manner, then move to the next step/
Step 5: Touch their feeding bowl, but never take food from it
This step is similar to the previous one, except this time, move close to your pup after taking the treat from you.
Talk to your dog in a casual tone, and offer the treat with one hand, and with the other, touch their feeding bowl – but do not take food from it.
This will help your pup become used to your close presence during mealtimes.
If your dog remains calm while eating 10 or more meals in a row, continue to the next step.
Step 6: Lift the bowl off the ground to give them their food
This next step is good for trust building, as you lift their bowl from the floor to give them food.
In a calm tone, talk to your dog as you pick its bowl up.
Lift the bowl 6-12 inches from the ground, add the food, and put the bowl back down.
You must do this every day until you can put it on a table to prepare the treat.
Repeat this sequence until you can walk a short distance away and put your dog’s bowl back in the same place you picked it up.
By now, your dog should be comfortable eating around you or other pets.
Step 7: Stop Free-Feeding All Day
Only feed your pup twice a day. You can also train your dog to understand impulse control by asking him to sit before you give him his food bowl. This helps him know that you are the food provider and are not trying to take his food away.
Your dog can stop being aggressive if you use all the above steps.
Repeat these steps as many times as you can.