My Dog Has Food Aggression – Phoenix Dog Training – Dog Trainer – Behaviorist
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Some dogs guard food, or when chewing on a toy, and in some cases, the dog can attack.
Many species guard their food. Some do it by hiding their kills, such as a leopard dragging an antelope up into a tree. Some do it by “wolfing” down their food, such as what a wolf does. Some do it through aggression, threatening combat, and even attacking if the competitor doesn’t back off.
I remember a Golden Retreiver I worked with many years ago. He was a nice, adult dog. But, if you got near him when he was eating, he would stop eating, lower his head, and start growling. If you got within about 8 feet of him, he would leap at you and attack. He also would do the same thing with toys in the yard. It could even be part of a stick. You could be caught unawares, walking through the back yard, not knowing that a small stick a couple of feet away was being guarded. But, if you got too close, then you found out, he’d come after you. In all other circumstances, this dog was a friendly, though untrained, nice dog.
After interviewing the owners, I found out that they had caused this.
Lots of free dog advice is out there for the taking. From veterinarians, to dog books, to friends, to relatives… you hear a lot of stuff, some of it even sounds reasonable. So, this couple got the idea that they didn’t want an aggressive dog, nor did they want a fat dog. And they then started messing with this dog. They kept him hungry all the time. They would mess with their hands in his food bowl when he ate. They put pool cue balls in the food bowl so as to make him eat more slowly. And they were harsh on him for any behavioral infraction. All that added up to a very dangerous adult dog.
I find it alarming that some of these same things are taught in dog books as ways to prevent food aggression. Obviously, the authors don’t know what they are talking about. I also see stupid advice out there regarding what to do when you try to take a toy or bone away from a dog and it bites you. The answers are usually something that will make the dog more aggressive and dangerous.
It took me nearly 3 months to get this dog to be safe around food and toys. That was 2000. Today, it would take me less time, because I know more about behavior… I continually work to improve my skills and knowledge… Even so, this dog was headed for euthanasia if things couldn’t be turned around.
I have developed techniques to unravel these situations. You won’t find them in a book, from your friends, or even from some professionals. I will tell you this, we didn’t do this by fighting it out with the dog. We didn’t do it by dominating the dog, being the dog’s “leader”, pinning him on his side or back, or jerking him around. It required a combination approach of a variety of techniques.
This kind of thing can usually be fixed, but not always. It is very dangerous to do it on your own. And it is dangerous to be a cheapskate and not hire a professional behaviorist to assist you. Children are especially vulnerable, and there are stories every year of a kid being mauled or killed by dogs guarding food.
Food guarding is a natural behavior that allows an animal to survive in a competitive and dangerous wild environment. But, it isn’t so fun, nor is it safe, in our homes. We have to get our dogs to do something completely unnatural… to not hide, wolf down, or guard their food. That takes proper handling technique from the beginning. And if it has gotten to the point of being dangerous, requiring professional help.