Is Your Dog Aggressive With Food?
25 March, 2014

Most dogs are relatively healthy eaters and are not as finicky about their food as cats. We love that our dogs are good eaters and usually accommodating to most food.  However, sometimes a dog can become too aggressive with his or her food that it becomes problematic.  If you have a dog that blocks his food or is aggressive towards you unless you feed him, your pup could be suffering from canine possession aggression (CPA), also known as food or object guarding.

How do you know if your dog is suffering from CPA

If you have a dog that growls at you for his lifeboat items such as meals, treats, chew toys, or even shoes or towels, your dog could be a CPA sufferer. If you remove these items as a punishment when he growls, it will only serve to further convince your dog that is suspicions about you were right all along.  Then, what’s an owner to do?

It is important and recommended that you or someone in your family is present when your dog eats—starting when he or she is a puppy. From time to time, it is a wise idea to approach the bowl and add a little something extra, a piece of chicken, a broken-up biscuit, a bite of turkey hotdog, or some string cheese.  If you develop this habit, early on, your dog should not suffer from the above.

Below are some steps to try if your dog already suffers from CPA:

Try to get your pup used to eating in small portions

Try taking away your dog’s food bowl entirely for a week or two. Your pup needs to eat form your hands, just a few kibbles at a time.  Or if you feed your dog wet food, just a very small amount while you watch your dog.

Bring back the food plate with food being given intermittently

Next you should bring back the food bowl or plate, but it should remain empty until you drop some dry food in it (or a small amount of food). After those are eaten up, drop small handfuls into your dog’s bowl at intervals of one to three minutes until the whole meal has been consumed.  By now your dog should be practically begging you to approach his bowl.

Put a semi- filled bowl on the floor

Next, put a semi-filled bowl on the floor and, as you pass by, drop in a few pieces of kibble and/or wet good on a plate. On your next pass by the bowl, add the remaining kibbles.

Finally, put the full food bowl on the floor

The final step is to put a full food bowl on the floor as your dog holds a sit and stay. Release him or her with a happy ‘dinner time’.  Then, once or twice a week, call your dog away from his bowl during mealtime and reward your pup with a tasty treat for coming to you. By using your commands, i.e. sit-and-stay, wait, and come, it will make it absolutely clear that you are the boss of your dog’s food and not the reverse.

Each of these steps should be taken for one to two weeks at each meal before going to the next step. While you are dealing with a food guarding problem, your dog should wear a leash at mealtimes as a safety measure, but don’t use it to control your dog unless you feel as if you might get hurt.  If you don’t succeed using the above steps and/or your dog is severely aggressive around all food, it might be time to hire a dog trainer or animal behaviorist to help bring this conflict to an end… the sooner, the better!  With love and time, you can get this problem under control.

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