Why do we see food aggression in dogs? Quite simply because food is a significant resource. If your dog is aggressive over food, whether it is towards you, or other dogs, your dog thinks that someone may be threatening his/her resource, and therefore survival… Most of us would defend our houses if we thought someone might be thinking about breaking in, wouldn’t we? And have you ever had a waiter walk past you in a restaurant and it’s made you quickly pick back up the fork you’d put down, for fear of having your plate cleaned away…? I remember an occasion at University when I’d cooked my dinner and a friend who’d pop round to see us pinched one of my boiled potatoes from my plate and ate it. I was furious with him!
Now in each of these examples, something which is ours has been threatened. Your dinner, your house… You would defend it. So going back to the dog which is aggressive over food. It is aggressive because it has the food and so the food belongs to him/her, and they are worried that someone is going to try to take it. In addition to this, dogs also have an understand that whoever is ‘top of the pack’ owns the food. They would then decide whether to let anyone have any of it. If anyone tried to take food from the top dog, they would be severely told off. This is what a dog understands.
What to do about food aggression in dogs.
- Under no circumstances do you ever challenge your dog for their food. If they have it, leave them with it.
- Do not leave food lying around. If you put their food down and they walk away from it, pick it back up.
- Do not let them tell you to give them food. So ignore all begging and reminders that it is dinner time. Only feed them when they are calm and you are doing it because you have decided to.
- Just before you put their bowl of food down, eat a little snack.
- If they growl at you as you are preparing their food, walk out of the room and shut the door. Isolating them from you. Don’t put the food down obviously!
- If they steal or ‘find’ food then take no notice. If you’re worried it might be poisonous for them, then calmly call them over with a treat so they have to drop what they have to accept the treat.
- Do your utmost to make sure they are not in a position where they can easily steal or find food!
These rules are a very basic, simple way of explaining what to do. If you are worried about this and other problem dog behaviour then your best bet is to read “The Dog Listener” by Jan Fennell and call a dog listener to come and help you. I am based in Essex and cover all of the county, plus parts of London, Kent, Herts and Suffolk. If you would like more information or a quote for individual help, please get in touch.