Your dog can get territorial when it’s mealtime. When a dog shows food aggression, they act protective about the food. It might become a problem for various reasons. At times, when the problem gets out of hand, it can lead to injuries and dog bites as well. Hence, it is necessary to come up with ways to treat food aggression in dogs.
Understanding food aggression
Simply put, the concept of food aggression proves to be a territorial reaction that a dog witnesses while eating the treats or meals, where they use hostile behaviour to keep their food secured.
The aggression acts as a resource guarding, which is a behavioural trait, that got passed down from one generation to the other. Here the dogs become very protective about something that they think has an increasing value, food being just one of them. Usually, the dogs can only protect what they feel is of a high value. Other than this, the resources that they secure can differ. The common point here is the food. It could be anything from the food contained in the bowls or anything they dropped at mealtime. The scraps that are present in the garbage bin or the food that is getting prepared can also attract their attention.
This defensive behavior can lead to several issues if kids are at home. Generally, children who are slightly young, find it challenging to identify the signals of food guarding by the pets. As a result, there is a chance that they might get bitten or there is a scope of any other accidents taking place.
The danger doesn’t just lie with the kids. Even adults can get hurt when they are trying to manage the food aggression in dogs, especially when they aren’t aware of it and they don’t know how to respond to this. The solution is in making the dog feel calm and confident about the environment and eat the food without creating many hassles.
What are the causes of dog aggression?
You can’t point to a single cause for good aggression. Some of the common reasons are as follows:
- It can generate from puppyhood, either by the need to compete for any limited resource or by any accident training practices.
- The dogs can further develop food aggression at a later stage of the life. The trauma can be a huge trigger, especially like physical abuse, losing the caretaker, neglect and many more. All of these make them very protective about the resources, which also involves the food.
- A few dog breeds are genetically disposed to aggressive tendencies and can start to guard the food involuntarily. The dog breeds like German Shepherds, English Springer Spaniels and the Rottweilers possess a guarding instinct by hereditary trait.
There can be several reasons that lead to food aggression in dogs. However, the time that gets spent in the shelter can be the highest risk to witness this resource securing the tendency owing to the competition for the available resources such as potential mates, treats and beds.
The signs of food aggression in dogs
There are multiple signs of food aggression in dogs, that get categorized in three degrees of harmfulness, severe, moderate and mild. When it comes to the mild form of food aggression, it gets best recognized through verbal signs. You will find that your dog might growl the moment you approach the food. They might even get into a defensive mode.
That aside, a certain degree of food aggression gets featured by the dog snapping or even lunging when an individual or any other dog approaches them. If your dog suffers from severe food aggression, it becomes dangerous for them to lead a balanced life.
Ways to manage food aggression in dogs
When you find that your dog is highlighting all these signs, be rest assured that it is defensive behavior. However, you need to prevent or manage it. You need to neuter or spay the dog, it is because hormones might lead to ample aggression.
The other treatment here is dog training. There are several dogs that have highlighted food aggression which can be placed in a training sequence that concentrates on counterconditioning and desensitization so that your dog is at more ease.
The following steps can be helpful:
- Make your dog comfortable in your presence as you eat
Here the step concentrates on making your dog stay at ease when you are present while it is eating. It would help if you stood back a few feet as they were eating and assessed their behaviour. The objective is to ensure that your dog eats without any irritation for about ten meals, after that you can move to the next step.
- Get a tasty treat and move back
You add more to the first step by including a tasty treat in their bowl and instantly stepping back at the original distance for placing the treat. Here the key is consistency. Every day you need to possess a goal for moving a step ahead. When you can stand on two feet once you have placed the treat for about 10 meals, the dog is all set to move to the next step.
- Stay close to the dog and talk to it
This step concentrates on a close conversation and proximity. Also, as your dog is consuming from the bowl, you should stand next to it and provide them with an attractive treat. You have to speak to them like you are making a conversation, asking what it is eating and the like. Once you give them the treat, you should turn and move away. Try and repeat this method for a few times. When your dog stays relaxed during eating for more times, you know that the trick is successful in changing the aggression.
These are some ways you can treat dog aggression and ensure that you, your pet and the family members are in good condition. Alternatively, you can also get in touch with a dog trainer for the same.