TRAINING FOOD AGGRESSION OUT OF DOGS
I recently made the decision to adopt another dog. I have had my older dog for more than 8 years now and I brought younger rescue dog into the house to join it. The two are gradually assimilating to one another, but when it comes to food we are still having some issues.
When the new dog is eating it frequently growls and shows its teeth if me or the older dog approaches it. It isn’t aggressive at any other time, only during feeding times. It seems to be suffering from food aggression. Obviously he doesn’t want to share his food and thinks that the other dog is going to steal it.
UNDERSTANDING FOOD AGGRESSION
In the wild, the alphas will eat first. So, food aggression in dogs, particularly in established dogs, can be seen as a form of exerting dominance over the other animals, or humans, in the house. But this isn’t necessarily the only reason. The pack may not be successful every time they hunt in the wild. As a result, for some months of the year food is sparing. Food aggression in younger dogs often comes from anxiety or fear over where their next meal will come from. This can be the case with rescue dogs who have not been properly fed before.
Food aggression isn’t always easy to detect. In mild cases, the dog might just keep his or her head down whilst eating and hover protectively over its food. Their bodies might stiffen and their ears may become pricked. In more severe cases it will lead to lunging or biting out at those around them. First you need to get to the bottom of why your dog is protecting its food. If it is because it wants to show its dominance, you will need to assert yourself as the leader. If it is out of fear, you will need to show it that it has nothing to be afraid of and nobody is going to take his or her food away.
SET MEAL TIMES AND SET RULES
Setting precise meal times and sticking to them will help show your dog that there will always be food for it at a certain time and it doesn’t need to become anxious or worried.
Before you give the dog its meal, get it to sit or lie down. Training it to be disciplined, even when the food is out and ready. Only once you release him or her, can she eat. This shows the dog who is in control. Similarly, never feed the dog before, or during your meal. Some people are obsessed with asserting their leadership over animals and say they must eat before their dogs. Other people are just normal and don’t bother to think about such things. Whether you eat before or after your dog is not going decide who is the king of the house. What is more important with dogs is that you have rules they can become used and that you always follow.
IF THE PROBLEM PERSISTS
Use your hands to put the food in the bowl. Giving the food your scent will help get the dog used to your presence during feeding times. In some cases, hand feeding the dog to get them accustomed to you around them can be useful, particularly if the dog is timid.
If the dog is having issues with you approaching the bowl while they are eating, try dropping treats, or a little more food, into the bowl when you approach. This will show the dog that humans approaching the bowl during meal-times can be a good thing.
There are many ways to treat food aggression, but the basic principles are the same. Show the dog that you are not going to steal its food and it won’t go hungry, but at the same time you are firm and in control of the situation, and finally, keep it all regular.
Do you have any experience with food aggression in animals? How did you deal with it. Share your experience through the comments section below.