We treat our dogs like members of the family, but it’s important to remember that they are still dogs, and dogs have instincts and these can control the way they react to various stimuli. One such example is food aggression and possession. Dogs that suffer from food aggression have a tendency to growl, bark, and even bite at those that feel their meal is under threat.
Dog food aggression is usually caused by dominant dogs that are yet to understand their place in the pack, or dogs who have a history of being underfed and so have developed a fear of losing their meal.
If you’ve just taken on a rescue dog, the latter can be an issue but it is the easiest to solve. Start feeding your dog regularly and he will soon learn that none of his food is under threat, and the consistent routine will comfort him.
However, in the event your dog is experiencing food aggression due to dominance issues, you will need to teach your dog his place. Dogs that think they are pack leader are far more prone to experiencing dog food aggression, because the “alpha dog” is supposed to be left alone while he eats.
Below are some tips to help combat dog food aggression:
Trick or treat
Before you give your dog his meal, always make him do a trick first. Don’t give him his good until he performs the trick you tell him to. This teaches him that you are the one in charge, because you are commanding him and therefore in control of the food.
When your dog shows aggression, the instinct reaction is to back away. However, this teaches your dog that his aggression works, and therefore he will do it again. Instead of backing away, be brave and be strong. Stand right next to your dog and do not move, no matter how angry he appears.
Remember that alpha dogs in a pack are always allowed to eat without interruption, which is one of the reasons dog food aggression occurs in the first place. In order to get your dog to realise he isn’t pack leader, interrupt his meal and make him perform a trick, rewarding with a treat. Alpha dogs do not get interrupted during their meal, so he will quickly learn he isn’t leader of the pack.
Establish Alpha status
Assume the alpha position by enforcing order in your dog’s routine. It is all too easy to baby your dog and to treat them as an equal member of the family but dogs don’t understand equality. They need to understand that as the leader you are the most important member of the pack. Only when you establish this leadership will you completely eliminate food aggression.