Dog food aggression is one of the most common forms of canine aggression. It is also one of the most likely to escalate from a threat to an actual attack.
Yet, many dog owners simple sidestep the issue, accepting that “the dog growls when I feed her, so what?”.
If the dog is small it may even become a point of amusement. I mean, what could be cuter than your little Chihuahua or Pom growling like a little buzz-saw to protect her food bowl.
Actually, dog food aggression may be just a symptom of a broader problem. The dog is not just defending her food bowl, she’s asserting herself as pack leader.
This is not a behavior you should tolerate. In fact, it needs to be addressed right away.
Here are some tips to help you do just that;
Dealing with Dog Food AggressionDon’t Back Down- Backing down in the face of aggression sends the wrong message to your dog. It tells the dog that it is okay to growl and show their teeth, and that they can get you to back down by doing so.
However, you don’t want to get into a confrontation with an aggressive dog, particularly a large one. What you want, is to manage the entire feeding process on your terms.
Controlling the Feeding- In the wolf pack, the alpha decides who eats and when. In your “pack” this role belongs to you as pack leader.
I’m not suggesting that you deprive your dog of food, but that you control the feeding process. Start by getting her to sit before being fed. Later, if you want, you can even train her to only start eating when you say so.
Feeding Times- Another aspect that you control is feeding times. Make sure that your dog is fed at regular times, rather than leaving food out. This teaches the dog that you control when she is fed.
Dog on Dog Aggression- If food aggression is directed to other dogs, the simplest solution is to feed the dogs in different rooms.
If this feels too much like giving in to bad behavior you can always supervise meal times and step in to curtail any aggro before it escalates.
Consistency- If different family members have responsibility for feeding make sure that you brief them on how to deal with the dog, because consistency is the key.
It is probably not a good idea though, to let a child feed a dog that is food aggressive.
Don’t Reward Bad Behavior- If the dog growls while you are dishing up or giving her her food, remove the food until she calms down. Rewarding the dog for growling will only re-enforce the behavior.
Hand Feeding- Another way of curbing aggressive behavior is hand feeding. This special attention is very effective with puppies who show early signs of food aggression. It calms them and gets them used to your presence while they are eating.
For dogs with food aggression, feeding becomes more complicated than simply putting out food. Follow the tips above consistently, and you’ll eliminate dog food aggression.