Friday, April 15, 2011

Food Aggression, a Serious Problem

            If you have a dog that is food aggressive, it is no laughing matter.  This is one of the most common ways people find themselves on the receiving end of a very nasty bite.  When a dog is near food, or even a toy, and it exhibits aggressive behavior, such as bearing its teeth, growling, lunging, it is a dangerous situation.  If you back off, your dog will take that as a sign that he has intimidated you and will continue to do so in the future, if you stand your ground or try to correct the behavior you may end up being bitten.  I know this seems like a lose lose situation.  I am not going to sugar coat this and say the problem is not a bad one, but I am also not going to say there is no hope.  There is always hope if we understand the dogs way of thinking along with its instincts.   Solving this problem is going to take time and patience as it would with any other type of training; the difference here is this is not an option.  If you have a food aggressive dog, you must fix this problem. If you don’t fix the problem someone is going to get bitten, and that is never a good thing.

            As I said before this is not a hopeless situation, I am going to offer a few tips in this article that might help, if they don’t you will need to seek the help of a trainer.  There are dog training classes everywhere and one should not be too hard to find.    All you need do is look.  Before you go spending your hard earned money on a professional, you may want to try some of these tips.  The first thing you must realize is why your dog is behaving this way.  There are all kinds of reasons for this type of behavior, but the most common is trust.  If your dog thinks you may take away its food or toy it will go into a protection mode.  That is to say the dog’s brain kicks in to a protective state and no longer views you as a provider, it views you as a threat.  If you know anything about dogs it is never good to be thought of as a threat.  It really doesn’t matter how this situation evolved, or if it’s a trust issue, what matters as that you understand your dog thinks you are going to take something it needs away from it, and therefore you are a threat.  Once you realize this you can start to formulate a plan as to how to become the trusted provider in your dog’s eyes.

            This method should be a good way to abruptly halt the snarling and growling at feeding time.  You will need to keep the food bowl up off the floor.  Keep it on a shelf out of the reach of your dog, but not out of sight.  When it is feeding time take the bowl, make sure your dog sees you do all of this, pour the food into the bowl but do not put it on the ground for your dog to eat as you normally would.  Instead, hold the bowl.  Lower the bowl low enough for your dog to eat, but do not put it on the floor.  If your dog does not eat, be patient, try feeding your dog from your hand with one or two bits of food.  Once your dog has started to eat slowly lift the bowl away from them.  Make the dog understand you are the one giving the food, and without you, there is no food.  If you do this at every feeding time you should be able to lower the bowl a little further each time until you are able to put the food on the floor.  If your dog starts to growl, put the food away, and try again in an hour or so.  Eventually it should click that you are the one providing the food, and the aggression should stop.  Along with this method you can try to hand feed your dog treats, put the treat in the bowl, lower the bowl and let your dog have its treat that way.  This is the best way I know of to break a dog from food aggression.  If you do this right, you should be able to put your hand in the dog’s food bowl while it is eating with no reaction.  If you don’t get this result it may be time to bring in a trainer.  Food aggression is not good for you or your dog, so break them of this bad habit; it will ensure your dog stays healthy and happy for many years to come.

Nick Carreno

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