To understand food aggression you have to consider where the behavior comes from. Guarding food is a natural instinct that derives from a dog’s pack behavior. When other animals are a threat, a pack will guard its food in order to survive. This food aggression instinct exists in every dog and can be triggered if a dog feels threatened while he eats.
Below are a few ideas to help prevent or stop food aggression in your dog. If you own a dog that has already become too dangerous to approach while eating, consult a behavior specialist before trying these techniques.
How to prevent food aggression
Once the problem has already surfaced, dealing with food aggression can prove frustrating. For this reason, it’s imperative to prevent the problem before it begins. The following are some effective ways to do this.
Pet your dog as you feed him
Gently pet your dog a few times as you set his food bowl down. Then walk away and let him eat. This builds your dog’s trust and allows him to become comfortable with your presence during his mealtimes.
Toss a treat in his bowl while he eats
When your dog eats, walk up and toss a treat in his food bowl. Be sure that it’s tastier then his regular food. Do this for about a month and your dog will think every time a person approaches his food dish something good will happen.
Feed in different places
In some cases of dog food aggression, a dog will guard the room where he eats. To avoid this problem, feed your dog in different areas around your house. This will allow your dog to become comfortable eating anywhere, which can be useful for long trips or if you decide to board him.
How to stop dog food aggression
If your dog is older and has already developed aggressive tendencies around food, there are several ways to reverse the behavior. Below are two ideas to get you started. Again, if your dog is too dangerous to approach while eating, consult a professional behavior specialist.
Remove the food bowl
Remove your dog’s food bowl from the floor between meals. When he’s hungry place the empty bowl on the floor. Once your dog realizes there’s nothing in it, he will turn to you. Walk over to his dish, put a small amount of food in, then move a few feet away. When he finishes, go back and place another small amount in his bowl. Repeat this until your dog is finished eating, then remove his food bowl until the next meal.
Feed your dog by hand
If your dog is overly protective of the food bowl itself, take it away completely. Feed your dog from your hand. Once he’s comfortable with this new idea, have him eat from your hand as you hold it over the bowl. This allows you to reintroduce the bowl and maintain control. Drop the food in and let him eat normally when you believe the food aggression has been overcome.
Never punish a dog that has food aggression. Punishment is often what causes this behavior problem to begin with and will only make it worse. Your dog needs to be comfortable with you before he’ll trust you around his food.