Dog food aggression is the behavior dogs exhibit when they feel their food is under threat of being snatched from them. This behavior can be exhibited towards humans or towards other dogs. The intensity of food aggression varies from one dog to another, and can worsen in the same dog.
The signs of food aggression include growling at people or other dogs when they approach your pet’s bowl, lunging at the person/dog approaching the bowl to the worst case scenario of biting the ‘enemy’.
Most professionals choose to refer to dog food aggression as food guarding because the dog is simply looking out for his welfare. However, since the behavior can harm others living with the dog, it’s wise for owners to try and stop the behavior as soon as possible.
If your dog does not already exhibit food aggression, you can prevent the behavior from developing by feeding him from your hands. This gets your scent on the food, which makes the dog associate you with good things. You can also make sure the dog or puppy you bring home does not develop food guarding by using this method.
What to do
If the dog has developed biting as a form of food guarding, don’t try to re-condition him on your own as this may lead to your getting bitten. Instead, seek the services of a dog behaviorist or a trainer who is qualified to treat food aggression.
If the dog is still at the growling and lunging stages, you can re-condition him. Start by putting treats such as meat or his favorite treat in his bowl when he is having his regular meal. If he approaches you to get extra treats, don’t give in. Only give him treats in his bowl so that he can associate your presence with something good, in this case a treat. He will then realize that you are not after his food and his food is not under threat of being taken away.
Animals who are able to guard their resources such as food are the ones who are best able to survive in the wild. By helping your dog realize his food is safe with humans, you can make him stop guarding his food.
Another reason that dogs guard their food is the breeder might have fed the puppies in the same bowl and only a few puppies were able to gobble the food down while the rest didn’t get enough. Puppies will therefore develop food aggression to enable them to get their fill.
You can reassure your puppy/dog that with you there is no need for food aggression because he will always have enough by feeding him at a fixed time each day. If you are consistent in your feeding, the dog will know he will have enough each time and feel no need to guard his food.
When you curb this behavior, there are benefits all around because you and your human family can rest assured of no danger from your pet and your pet can relax and be the pet you intended him to be.