If Fido growls or snaps when anyone goes near his bowl, you’ll want to check out our tips on how to deal with food aggression in dogs.
Trust me, this is not one of those “wait and see if he grows out of it” things.
Dogs are aggressive for a reason, and until you figure out why & take steps to correct the behavior, it will only get worse.
Fortunately, I’ve got some tips that will help you nip the problem in the bud as soon as possible.
Just keep on reading.
7 Tips on how to deal with food aggression in dog
Food aggression in a dog is scary, especially when you don’t expect that your pooch will growl at you for any reason.
However, it’s a quite common type of resource guarding.
Resource guarding is when a dog gets defensive over his possessions and snaps, growls, or lunges at anybody who approaches his possessions.
Besides food, your pooch might guard toys, beds, or territory. In simple words, everything that Rover deems important.
Fortunately, you can correct this behavior. Let’s find out how.
#1 Understand food aggression
First, you have to understand why your dog feels the need to guard his food.
In the wild or on the streets, dogs must eat their food quickly and scare off potential predators and intruders.
They don’t know where the next meal is going to be, and they are desperate to protect what little they have.
In addition to this, puppies learn from the first day they’re born that they must guard their food sourceр or they will go hungry.
If you’ve ever raised puppies, you know how the little ones fight over each nipple for the best one to nurse.
Moreover, once puppies grow up and there is not enough food available, the bigger and stronger pups push the weaker ones aside.
So, these puppies never have enough food to satisfy their hunger. That’s why they are likely to guard their bowls.
Besides this, food aggression in dogs might also be the result of abuse when the dog hasn’t been fed regularly.
But it could also be a sign of dominance in dominant dogs who want to establish their leadership.
#2 Learn to recognize the symptoms of food aggression
Food aggression in dogs doesn’t always present as a dog that growls and snaps as you.
There are some subtle signs of food aggression that can show you that your pooch is uncomfortable with people or animals around his bowl.
Here is what to watch out for:
- Your dog usually gulps down his food.
- The dog stops eating when you approach him.
- Tensed body, raised hackles, lowered tail, or pulled-back ears when the dog is eating.
- The dog is staring at you or away from you while eating.
- Snapping, growling, lunching when somebody approaches the food.
Food aggression might not be directed entirely to people but dogs, cats, and children, as well.
That’s why you must warn your child never to bother an eating dog.
Specialists categorize food aggression in dogs into the following levels:
- Mild – growling and showing teeth
- Moderate – snapping and lunching
- Severe – biting
Mild and moderate food aggression can be corrected at home. Severe food aggression, on the other hand, must be handled very carefully because of the risk of getting bitten.
For a dog with severe food aggression, you should consult with a professional dog trainer for your safety and your dog’s well-being.
#3 Be consistent
Fear and anxiety over the next meal are one of the most common triggers of food aggression. That’s why you should be consistent when you feed your dog.
While your furbaby doesn’t measure time as we do, dogs have an internal clock.
That’s how they know when it’s time for a walk or when you usually get back home.
So, if you’re feeding your dog at different times every day, you’re increasing Rover’s anxiety.
If he doesn’t know when he will be fed next, you can be sure he is going to guard his food.
My advice is to be as consistent as when it comes to feeding time, especially with abused/mistreated dogs.
Your consistency will lessen Rover’s anxiety and fear and his desire to guard his food.
#4 Don’t back away
When a dog growls at you when you approach his bowl, your initial reaction is to back away. It makes sense because you don’t want to get bitten.
However, every time you back away when your dog exhibits food aggression, you’re reinforcing this behavior. You’re teaching your dog that he can “win” and scare you away.
Instead, you have to teach Rover that people next to his bowl equals good things and that they are not going to take his food away.
One way to achieve this is to drop treats into your dog’s bowl while he is eating.
Another way is to use your hand to put the food in the bowl, so that Rover will associate your scent with his meal.
In addition to this, you should put treats in the empty bowl when you pass near it.
In this way, Rover will understand that your closeness to his bowl means tasty food for him.
Of course, being too close to a growing dog while Rover eats, is also a good way to get bitten.
So, you might as well toss the treats from a distance until the dog is comfortable with you being close.
#5 Try avoidance
Another way to lessen your pooch’s anxiety over food is to feed Rover in a secure location.
You want to avoid placing your furbaby in a situation where he feels he must protect his food.
In other words, you’re going to feed him behind a closed door. Once Rover finishes eating, you’ll let him out and take care of any leftovers.
In cases where the dog is aggressive over long-lasting treats such as bones, you should give them only when your dog is secured in an empty room. Or stop giving such treats at all.
#6 Teach your dog to trade
Another way to curb your dog’s food aggression is to teach him to trade. Your goal will be to show Rover that no one will take his food when he is not looking.
In addition, you’re establishing that people near his bowl is a good, not a bad thing.
Here’s how to teach your dog to trade:
- Give your dog his regular meal.
- Approach him with something tastier that you know Rover won’t resist.
- Offer the treat to Rover and wait for him to get it.
- Remember to praise him.
- Let Rover finish his meal at peace.
- Continue this routine until the dog starts to relax when you’re near his bowl.
#7 Don’t punish your dog
Last but not least, it’s important not to punish your dog when you’re dealing with food aggression.
Some people think that if they take the bowl away from their dog when he shows aggression, Rover will stop growling.
That technique might work on people because people understand why they’re punished. Dogs don’t.
Your furbaby will only learn that you might take his food away when you’re near him, and his food aggression will escalate.
In addition to this, you mustn’t pet or touch a dog while he is eating.
You might have good intentions and want to reassure Rover that everything is fine, but that’s now how your dog sees it.
No one likes to be bothered when he is enjoying his meal.
The good news about food aggression in dogs is that it’s treatable. But it’s not something that you can remedy in a day or a week.
It’s also not something you should ignore and hope for the best.
Left untreated, food aggression might escalate to the point that your pooch might hurt you.
That’s why you should address the problem as soon as possible. In addition to this, take your pooch to the vet if he suddenly gets food aggressive to rule out a medical issue.