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Get the Growl Out: Stopping Food Aggression

Posted by Awesome Doggies

dog-displaying-food-aggressionFighting, growling, snapping and snarling at humans and other dogs when food or toys are present is a common problem with many dogs.  It is called canine possession aggression, also known as food aggression or resource guarding, and it can become a serious issue unless steps are taken to help your furry family member learn more appropriate reactions.

The Canine Perspective

So what’s going on in Fido’s head? Why does he suddenly become a beast toward the very source of the food or toy? It has to do with the pack instincts with which he was born, and even in the wild, such behavior is curbed and corrected by other dogs. Dogs with food aggression see everyone, even the provider of treats, as a threat to their supply and work to establish a chain of priority in which the most aggressive gets the food. Food aggression is a dominance issue that will not go away on its own and will very likely escalate without intervention.

Severe Cases Need A Professional Trainer

While some cases of food aggression can be corrected with simple adjustments, food aggression is NOT a simple matter. Severe cases of food aggression need the help of a professional dog trainer.

How to Help Your Dog

When a dog displays food aggression, he is controlling the environment and the situation. To help the pet out of this, the dog owner must control the eating environment and establish their leadership in the relationship.

Tips for Curbing Food Aggression

  • Feed your dog after the family meal.

  • Make your dog earn the meal by performing commands, such as "sit", or "lie down"

  • While preparing the dog’s meal, make it sit or lie down a distance from the preparation area

  • Make your dog wait over the dish before beginning to eat

  • Own the food. Give your dog its meal reserving a bit aside. When the dog finishes what is in the dish, make him sit, wait, and earn the rest

  • Work up to hand feeding. You should be able to put your hand near the dish without the dog showing signs of aggression

  • Put the dog dish down empty, fill and stay with the dish, blocking the dog from eating until you give permission

  • Once dog is familiar waiting for permission, continue to feed dog by reserving a bit aside. When the dog finishes the meal and looks to the owner for more, place a small bit of any high value treat in the dish as reward


  • Periodically change the area of feeding to maintain control

  • Place food in your dog’s bowl, call him over, make him wait, then give permission to eat while you stay

  • Start puppies in training early by always making them wait, covering the dish with your hand before they are allowed to eat

Here are a few more links on food aggression and what you can so to stop it:

 Food Guarding l ASPCA

Dog Possession Aggression l Dog Listener

Dog Food Aggression & How To Prevent It l Dog Training Central

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