Dealing with Food Aggression in Your Dog
By Cassondra Fama
Food aggression results from lack of a trust because your dog thinks you will take his food away. It can be a pretty scary situation to deal with especially if you aren’t sure how to approach the problem. When approaching your dog while they are eating, he may become stiff, show his teeth and widen his eyes while looking at you. Terrified, you back away and leave the situation alone. Children may make the situation worse by playing with the kibble or startling him while he’s eating. Since you don’t want to live fearful of this problem, here’s some training advice to help you have a happier life with your dog.
Begin with feeding at least one meal a day from your hand for a few weeks. This gives the dog a positive association with people handling and being around their food. When feeding him other meals keep him isolated from other family members in the house, perhaps in another enclosed room.
Next, pick up the food bowl and pretend to put food in then put an empty bowl down. He’ll most likely run to the bowl thinking there’s food in it. Next, pick the bowl up and put a few pieces of kibble in and give it back to him. Repeat this process several times for each meal. Next meal time wait until he is calm and in a sitting position before you put his bowl of food down. Do this until your dog is able to sit calmly and quietly for his food before you release him to go to his bowl. You will repeat this several times.
Next you will put a little more kibble in the bowl for each meal but this time you will stand over the dog and the bowl while he’s eating. After he’s finished his meal, add some more in his bowl. Repeat this several times, then start putting more food in his bowl while he’s eating.
Depending how comfortable he is with you around his food, give him half of his meal while standing over his bowl. Continue to pay attention to your dog’s cues and comfort level with you by his food. If you see him start to stiffen and he has whale eyes (which means you can see the whites of his eyes. He feels anxious or uncomfortable) back away and continue this step a different day when he does not exhibit that behavior.
Drop in pieces of chicken or high value treats that your dog would LOVE. This shows your dog that every time you go near his bowl great things will happen. Once you see no signs of food aggression, you can feed your newly trained pooch on his regular routine!
There are several ways that you can help with less severe food aggression. One way is playing a high value trade game. When feeding your dog food, hold his bowl with one hand, take it away and then offer him something better like peanut butter or cream cheese.
Another way is by doing the drop and walk away technique. You do this either being outside or in a large room. When your pup is eating his meal, start walking by him and dropping some high value treats in his bowl like chicken, hotdogs or cheese. Keep walking back and forth past his bowl dropping in pieces of treats. This makes you a positive association every time you come near his food.
Keep in mind that you should always be careful while attempting these training techniques. Watch out for what his body language is telling you, you do not want to risk getting bit!
Lastly, once your pooch and you have mastered food aggression, pat yourself on the back! You both have just overcome a negative situation and made it into a positive one! Now everyone can enjoy feeding time thanks to your dedication, patients and time.
Cassondra Fama is a volunteer at Rochester Animal Services. She is a certified trainer through FernDog Trainer Academy.
Disclaimer of Liability and Endorsement: The views expressed in the Verona Street News are those of its authors and do not constitute the views of the City of Rochester, Friends of Verona Street Animal Shelter, Inc. or their Agents. The content herein is provided for informational purposes only. Dissemination by the City of Rochester and Friends of Verona Street Animal Shelter, Inc. does not constitute an endorsement of the author’s views, products or services..