Food aggression is a natural behavior in many dogs. They instinctively want to protect their food from other animals or anyone who attempts to take it away from them.
This aggressive behaviors usually start when they are puppies and will remain with them throughout their lives until their senior years, unless corrected.
Why the food aggression?
This is a survival instinct found in many animals. The dog is fearful of losing his food. The thought of not getting his food is enough to cause anxiety in the dog as he is fearful that he would not be able to eat and will go hungry.
Although instinctual, this is also a learned behavior and can be and must be corrected. Otherwise, the dog can become too aggressive to keep in your home.
Then, they can be a danger to yourself, your family and visitors. Dogs will growl, snap and may eventually resort to biting when another animal or human being comes too close while he is eating.
Stopping food aggression
Aggressive puppies are the easiest to correct. Whenever they show any aggression over food, you must act swiftly to correct it.
If your puppy growls at you when you come near his feeding bowl while he is feeding, do not leave him alone and go away. Otherwise, he will establish himself as alpha over your action and this may grow into a worse problem over time.
Instead of going away doing nothing, get his attention and say a firm “No.” Then stay near while he starts to eat. Then, talk to him in a soothing tone before you walk away.
Feeding your dog
Although not always possible, you must do whatever you can to ensure that you always feed your dog on time. When your dog knows that he will get his food on a regular time table, his anxiety over food will be alleviated.
While you are preparing his food, your dog may run at you. Never allow your dog to jump on you, nip at you or attempt to force the food out of your hand. This type of behaviors can become aggressive quite quickly if you do not deal with them.
Instead, teach your dog to become still. Command him to sit while you are getting his food ready. Order him to stay until you have put his food into his bowl and have placed the bowl in his regular eating spot.
Remain at the bowl even after you have given the command to come. You walk off only after your dog has started eating. This will teach your dog that it is okay for you to be near his food.
You must always be the alpha member to your dog regardless of his age. If you lose control during meal times, your dog will catch on that and will take the lead.
More tips on how to stop food aggression
One way to stop food aggressive behaviors is to train your dog to eat what you hand to him after taking the food directly from his feeding bowl. This will enable the dog to see that you are giving the food to him and not taking it away. He will soon learn that it is safe for you to touch and be around his food.
Another way is to add some food into his bowl before he is done eating. In this way, your dog will soon learn that you are adding delicious food into his feeding bowl instead of taking it away.
There is also a great strategy you can use with a puppy. When he starts eating, interrupt him, break his concentration and give him something he really enjoys eating such as a bite of meat.
This will teach him that leaving his food is a good thing and that he might get a treat when you interrupt him when he is eating. A puppy that is trained this way will not show signs of food aggression when he is older.
Just as hunger can sometimes cause humans to get irritable, dogs can get snappy, too, when they are hungry. However, you must stay in control of your dog at all times, including meal times, regardless their age.
Click here to learn more from certified dog trainer, Adrienne Farricelli.