We deal with food aggressive dogs at our training facility in Northern Virginia, a lot. So, many of you are probably wondering, “How can I stop food aggression with my dog?”
Click here to see a before/after video of a food aggressive Pit Bull we just recently trained at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia.
Food aggression in dogs can be caused by numerous things, a couple of the main things are poor pack leadership and the dog having to be food aggressive prior (common with shelter or hoarder dogs). Where the dogs “had” to fight over food.
There are a lot of steps you can start taking in order to begin fixing your dog’s food aggression problems. First, I would like to point out the 5-step approach we use that I wrote about in my blog on dog and people aggression .
When working with food aggressive dogs at our training facility in Northern Virginia, I always preach that we do a 5-part approach to this: Obedience, Confidence Building , Positive Association with People, Pack Leadership, and Proper Correction for the Negative Behavior. I have found that this is a fundamental approach that is imperative to start working a dog towards rehabilitation, and all 5 components are necessary to be successful.
First, we focus on obedience and confidence building, as I always say, “You cannot fix any issue in a dog that doesn’t listen to you.” If you cannot get control over your dog, it’s pretty much impossible to fix any issue that your dog is having. Also, obedience naturally bolsters pack leadership for you
Second, start by establishing yourself as the pack leader. There are many things you can do which I cover in the Pack Leadership blog in order to help establish this. Remember, if you watch pack animals such as Lions, when you see them eating a Gazelle the alpha males will always scare off the lower members of the pack so they can eat. This is essentially what your dog is doing to you, generally because he doesn’t see you as the alpha.
Third, start putting his food on the floor or a mat, this way it prevents your food aggressive dog from having a specific object to guard and try to protect. Just put a little bit of food down (about 7-8 pieces at a time), once he eats that, he will look up at you, put a little bit more down. Repeat this until his normal feeding is complete. This is just another small step to show him that YOU control his food.
Fourth, start having your dog sit or down while you are pouring his or her food (this is why control over your dog is important), once you finish putting his food on the floor or a mat, wait a minute or so and then release him to eat. This is a small drill that teaches your food aggressive dog that YOU are the one that controls when he eats.
Fifth, positive association with you approaching his food. While your dog is eating (on the mat or floor) approach his bowl from about 3-4 feet away (depending on your dog’s tolerance level with his food aggression) and toss a couple pieces of hot dogs (or anything your dog finds as a high-valued reward) near him. As he gets comfortable, slowly move in closer and toss the hot dogs into his food. Progress this until you can stand right next to him and put the hot dogs in his food. What this drill does is it teaches him to associate you approaching his bowl with someone positive! In your food aggressive dog’s mind, they learn, “Anytime this person gets close to me or my bowl, it means something good for me.”
Sixth, PROPER correction for the negative behavior. Again, this is where your dog obedience program comes in, find a qualified trainer to show you how to properly correct this behavior (properly being the key word). There has to be a correction when the dog displays the negative behavior (growling, snarling, snapping, etc). Just like there would be a correction if a lower pack member tried to correct the alpha male of the lion pride. Letting your dog know that there is a consequence for displaying the food aggressive behavior, and letting your dog know there is a reward for not displaying the behavior.
In summary, if you follow these 6-steps, you should be able to drastically help your food aggressive dog and/or completely stop the food aggression in your dog.
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