How To Prevent “Food Bowl Aggression”

By Victoria “Nanny 911 for Dogs”

Dogs that guard their food (or other possessions such as bones and toys) can be a danger to anyone coming near the coveted item.

Although protective, aggressive behavior regarding food is actually quite NORMAL for canines (and often manifested by stiffening, staring, growling or snapping), we must teach them, as puppies, not to do it!

If your dog guards her food (or other items) from you, rest assured she does not see you as her leader.

By considering my suggestions and some hard work, you can change your relationship and extinguish this dangerous behavior.

You should always be able to take anything away from your dog, including food (even if it’s already in her mouth) without any signs of aggression toward you.

You MUST start training when she is a puppy to prevent this type of aggression! Start by teaching her that there is benefit in having you near her food…

  • Place her food on the floor, and teach her to wait until you tell her it’s ok to eat
  • While she’s eating, tell her to “Leave it” pick up the bowl and place something special (a piece of meat or cheese) in it, then let her continue eating.
  • Keep your hands on the bowl while she eats
  • Feed some of it to her by hand
  • Pet her while she eats
  • Occasionally remove food from her mouth

Do these things every once in a while throughout her life to maintain her comfort level.

However, with an older dog that is showing signs of food bowl aggression, you have your work cut out for you!

  • DO NOT practice these exercises — you are risking a bite
  • DO NOT use any type of force trying to get her to allow you near her food. Forcing the issue can get you bitten and will only further damage your relationship with her.

In addition, teaching her through force will not change her motivation or “heal” her distress. It can only make her more aggressive, or it may cause her to suppress her aggression and surprise you with it later.

You really should seek professional help. Choose a trainer who uses positive, motivational methods (never choose a force/punishment trainer) to work on your dog’s food bowl issues. She probably needs you to be firmer with her in all aspects of your relationship. If she’s “top dog” in your pack, that needs to change!

Over time, she should get comfortable with you near her food, and hopefully some day you should even be able to remove food from her mouth.

‘Til next time… kiss the kids!

Jetta and Mimi at the beach

Victoria (Mom of Jetta)

Get more tips and tricks on loving and living with dogs by subscribing to the free “Doggie Parenting” e-Newsletter. Victoria offers dog training/behavior modification by phone or via her “Baby Steps” training manual throughout the US. All services are guaranteed; payments accepted. For more information, visit Nanny 911 for Dogs.

Let us know what you think and please share your suggestions and experiences!

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