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  • Writer's pictureDotty Ann Harding

Food Aggression In Dogs

It's dinnertime at your home, and there are a lot of interactions and distractions going on simultaneously. Then suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, your child is by the dog and his food bowl and screaming. You bolt over to them and find the dog cowering on the floor and your child shaken and hysterically crying. What Just Happened!!! What happened was you were not paying attention! The situation could have had a terrible outcome, and with most incidents in life, it occurs in seconds and shakes you to the core. This article will get your attention and help you manage interactions between your family and pets. There are many articles you can find online which have in-depth information to assist you further.

A natural, normal behavior in dogs is guarding their food, but this can produce an unsafe environment for other family members, including other dogs. Here are some ideas on how to manage this behavior. Some studies state that 20% of dogs have food aggression.

Food aggression is part of a more extensive behavior known as resource guarding of other valuable items, including toys, crates, and treats. In the wild, they die if canines do not protect valuable resources

It's up to you to manage your pet's environment

  • Feed your dog in a non-threatening low-traffic area.

  • Show them when you approach, they get more food. So as you come toward them, from a distance, toss a small piece of chicken toward their area and gradually decrease the space. (See "The 'I Come in Peace' Resourse Guarding Modification Protocol," Whole Dog Journal May 2020.)

What's The Cause

  • It can be learned in puppyhood by training practices or in a litter with limited resources.

  • Dogs can also develop food aggression later in life as well. They become more protective over their resources, most importantly, their food.

  • While there can be several causes for food aggression in dogs, those that spend time in a shelter may be at higher risk of experiencing this resource guarding tendency

Dog -Dog Food Aggression Can Worsen Over Time

The best case scenario resolved without escalation is when another dog approaches a dog while eating; the dog eating will usually freeze or stare at the other dog to tell them to back off; this is my food!

If the approaching dog doesn't get the message of the guarder, an attack could occur, which could be violent. By failing to manage mealtimes, the misunderstandings will grow, and their relationship will be affected.

Management Tools

When feeding your dogs place the bowls at least 10 feet apart, and their owner should play the part of "food –police" during their mealtimes to prevent interaction. You could also consider feeding them in separate rooms to avoid any interactions.

What Not To Do

It's inappropriate to take a dog's food away without warning or put your hand in his bowl while he is eating to prove you are the boss or the "alpha". Be aware that these actions can exacerbate food aggression or create guarding behavior. Instead, exercise correct behaviors around mealtime, and your dog will be calm and comfortable with you and the presence of others.

Cats can also be aggressive. I have a friend with a cat who will lie in wait or sneak up behind you and inflict deep bleeding scratches. She even was attacked while she was asleep. Emerging Infections Diseases estimate that 12,000 outpatients are diagnosed with the cat scratch disease in the United States each year, and about 500 inpatients are hospitalized for the disease.

You must control aggression in your dog when expressed in any form, as it could result in life-changing events. No one wants to deal with an aggressive dog, not boarding facilities, pet sitters, family, or friends, so you will have difficulty when you require assistance or companionship from them. The worse outcome would be a child that could be mauled who wandered too close to a dog who was eating their food, treat, or toy. This event would result in the euthanasia of the dog and years of physical and psychological trauma for the child.


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