Aggression Part 7: Food Aggression

14 03 2009

dog-at-tableFood aggression is something that I do not put up with in my pack.  When my brother, Tax, joined our family, he was food aggressive.  He would growl and snap when anyone approached either his food or water dish.  I gave him a few days to get used to our family and our place, but I could not have anyone in my pack aggressive about food, so it was time for me to rule with an iron paw!

Anytime Mom would put down food for him, I would walk over to Tax’s bowl and “stand guard.”  If Tax walked over to my bowl, I would follow him and “stand guard” there as well.  I had a message for him, and the message I was sending is that I am the alpha and all of the food belongs to me…  unless I want you to have some.  Because Tax was so aggressive over food, it was my job to keep him from it, until he learned to share.  Tax is not a dog with a lot of determination, so it only took about a day to break Tax’s food aggression.  It all sounds pretty easy, right?

It is pretty easy for me, because I am a dog.  I think like a dog, and I behave like a dog.  This means that I know how other dogs think.  A similar story involving humans would not be over so fast.  Humans like to attach things like emotions and personalities to dogs, which can have very bad consequences.  For any human with a dog in their family that is food aggressive, I suggest that they seek a dog trainer or behaviorist that thinks like a dog.

If you are sure what food aggression is, it occurs when a dog reacts aggressively with serious growls or snapping when he or she is approached while eating or when food being eaten by the family drops on the floor.  When you have a young puppy, there should be no growling, barking or attacking if you put your hands in his bowl of food.  With them, you should always be able to put your hands in his food without issue.  One thing that may keep young pups from developing food aggression is to feed them in an area where people are constantly passing by.  This will help to de-sensitize them to the things going on around him as he dines, and it will serve as a reminder to attend to the business at hand, which is eating.  You should also be picking up his food bowl after he finishes as a reminder that you control the food.  Leaving the bowl down may encourage the dog to take possession of it, causing him to guard his resources.

Food aggression is a form of possessive aggression, and your dog must learn to respect you (and other humans) as the pack leader, realizing that aggression over food is not tolerated.  To help you get this behavior under control, I suggest that you seek a professional trainer or behaviorist to guide you, as food aggression is very serious.  Participating in a training or behavior class taught by one of these professionals will help you to establish your role as the ultimate alpha.  It will also provide you with an avenue to seek their guidance in addressing your food aggression issue.

I can say that hand-feeding would help to establish your position as the ultimate alpha of your pack.  Remember, he who controls the food is the one in charge.  If your dog shows aggression while you are trying to hand feed him, you should immediately seek professional help.

Mom says there are lots of methods for dealing with food aggression, but due to the severity of the situation, this needs to be addressed by a professional that specializes in dog behavior.  One tiny mistake can result in a trip to the emergency room.

I began this article telling all about how Tax ceased being food aggressive.  People would not know to do this, and they would try to handle this situation on their own.  However, Mom understands canine behavior, and she understands me.  A strong behaviorist will know when to let dogs work it out on their own or to step in if necessary.

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