Some dogs display food guarding behaviours. It is important to curb these habits for several reasons. If your dog is aggressive around food, this creates a hostile environment for you and your family. Also, if the dog ever picks up something which will harm him if he eats it, it is important to be able to approach him and remove the item for his own safety.
Indicators for food guarding
Approach your dog’s bowl at quite a slow pace, and keep a look out for the following signs:
- Stopping eating
- Freezing where they are like a statue
- Moving around the bowl so that they are between you and their food
- Staring at you out of the corner of their eye
- Growling or lifting the corners of their lips.
If you see him doing any of these things, stop where you are and leave him in peace for now – he’s communicating to you that he’s uncomfortable. Not listening will make the issue become more problematic and less easy to solve.
What To Do
We want to work towards them being happy to have you around their food, because they associate you with positive things
- At their next meal, be prepared with some of your dog’s favourite food, preferably something smelly and tasty like cheese or chicken.
- Approach their bowl slowly and stop just before they become uncomfortable. Don’t move any closer. Throw some of the treats towards the bowl as they are eating. Let them eat the treats, return to their regular food and then throw some more until they are finished.
- As he becomes more comfortable with you being there, you can move a little bit closer before throwing the food. Over time, he should be entirely happy with you standing next to him and his bowl, because having you there means treats.
- Now can you actively begin to crouch down and toss treats into the bowl. Allow him to take them from your hand, as well as trying a gentle pet on the back with more treats. Finally, you can move down and begin to actively touch their food, always remembering to reward him for being tolerant.
- It may seem as if you are rewarding him for the growling, but what you are actually doing is changing how he feels about humans near his bowl.