Food Aggression

Food Aggression

Dogs that become protective of their food can cause a whole host of problems for their owners. This guarding behaviour is not exclusive to food however, and can manifest with toys, beds and even people. I often come across cases where people have aggression issues simply because the dog has had the behaviour of guarding their owner reinforced!


The issue here is that dogs feel the need to claim objects, for fear they will be taken away from them. The psychology behind this can get a lot more complexed depending on the context of the behaviour of course, however the basic mind set is ‘this is mine, you can’t have it.‘ This is a very natural behaviour, observed regularly in littles of puppies from a very early age even. Unfortunately, when this manifests in dogs living in the human world, especially around young children and babies it can be a very serious and dangerous problem. Food aggression can occur due to limited resources at a young age, a lack of structured training from the owners and sometimes certain dogs are even just more predisposed towards this behaviour due to genetics. That is not to say that any dog cant develop this behaviour! I have successfully treated resource guarding in breeds ranging from puppies-10 years old.


Advice here is usually to ‘swap’ higher quality foods for the item the dog is guarding. For some cases, especially young dogs this can work. Unfortunately, for most this will begin a never ending cycle for the owners and dog and poses a problem when you’re out and about without treats etc and this problem arises.


In order to target this specific problem, I will often advise application of an appropriate punisher. This can be anything from a water spray to sudden loud noise, with varying degrees of intensity depending on how severe the behaviour is. We will then condition a specific command (usually ‘off’ or ‘leave it’) to mean stop guarding this object i’m taking it. As for a lot of unwanted behaviours, the only way to quickly and effectively eliminate it is to apply a correction. This will not damage your relationship with your dog or cause lasting harm in any way, in fact by setting clear boundaries and guidelines I often have clients tell me how much they feel the training has enhanced their bond with their dog. Dogs thrive of structure and fair leadership and unfortunately ‘positive only’ training, although more palatable, will not resolve most of these situations.


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