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Nom Nom Nom – Curbing Food Aggression

by Alvin Nguyen

Nothing is scarier than a dog snapping when you approach them eating. If this habit continues it can lead to serious behavioral issues and danger to other pets or humans. If this habit is left uncheck it can manifest to him becoming possessive with other objects.

Food aggression happens when your dog becomes defensive during feeding time. Depending on the severity of the food aggression your dog can growl, show teeth, snap, lung, and bite others.

Food aggression is a form of dominance, but it may also be caused by anxiety or fear. In the wild, dogs never know when the next meal will be and instinctually they will fight for their food.

 

First Signs of Aggression

If your dog acts like he is hovering over a meal to protect it. You might have a food aggression issue later down the road. If you catch your dog showing signs of food aggression train him early before the habit becomes more severe.

 

What to do?

Is your dog only possessive over food or does this habit extend to toys, beds, and people to? If the behavior is not limited to food the tactics below will help your dog become less aggressive.

Determine how aggressive your dog is. Depending on the severity you may need to hire a professional trainer.

Mild: showing teeth and or growling.

Moderate: the pet snaps or lunges when you approach them while feeding.

Severe: your pet bites you.

 

Consistency

If your dog is anxious, make sure you are consistently feeding him the same time every day. This will train your pet to understand that he will not go hungry and not to worry about when the next meal will arrive.

Dogs have a very good internal clock, they will quickly adapt to the new feeding schedule.

 

Work for It

Go on a walk before feeding your dog. The walk will fulfill your pet’s instinct to hunt for food. He will feel like he earned his meal when you get home. Make sure you do not exercise your dog after feeding time. This will lead to bloating or other illnesses.

Making your dog sit patiently or lie down before eating is a great way to enforce your dominance and encourage your dog to earn its meal. Have your dog stay until the bowl is on the ground. Wait a few seconds before you give him the okay to start eating.

 

Leaders Eat First

The Alpha dog eats first. Establish your dominance and leadership by eating before feeding your dog.

Never feed your dog before or during the time you eat. Humans eat first and then their K9 friends. This will strengthen your status as the pack leader.

 

Establish Dominance

When approaching your dog during his feeding time, if he gets aggressive you should not back away. Backing away will strengthen your dogs dominance because he “won” the food. You do not want to be aggressive, but you can re-condition them to let you stand next to him while he is feeding. Common techniques being:

  • Hand feeding your dog. Start by hand feeding your dog food and use your hands to scoop the rest of the food in the bowl. This will allow you to stick your hands near the dog bowl and stand next to them while they are eating.
  • Treats: Every time you approach your dog when he is feeding have treats in your hand. This reinforces the idea that you are not trying to steal his food and allows you near the dog bowl.

 

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