Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds You
Over the course of my 23 years of dog training experience, I have encountered many dog owners inquiring how to correct food aggression in their beloved companion. Time and again I hear the same story. In an effort to keep food aggression from developing in a new puppy, dog owners always tell me how they start early with their pup in the hopes of keeping the dog from ever getting aggressive over its food. They do this by putting their hands in the bowl while the pup is eating, removing the bowl from the pup while eating, then putting it back again. Then they have their children do the same, petting the dog while eating…you get the idea.
It is my belief that by trying to keep the dog from developing food aggression issues by desensitizing the pup to a hand being near the bowl, these well meaning dog owners did just the opposite and created the food aggression!
Think about it. How would you feel if every time you sat down to eat a meal someone put their hand in your plate, handled your food, took your plate away then put it back again, or patted your head while you ate? I know I wouldn’t like it! While dogs are not human, I can only assume that they would feel the same way we might if that was being done to us. It may cause some level of stress and anxiety in the dog and as a result when the dog is 2 years of age we see the dog snapping, growling, or even biting when someone approaches while it is eating. It may be the dog’s way of saying, “Leave me alone while I am eating!”
So this leads to the question, “Well how do I desensitize my pup to my presence around the food bowl and set the stage to prevent food aggression?” The answer is quite simple!
Here are the steps to follow when feeding your puppy:
By adding a delicious treat to your dog’s bowl, your pup will WELCOME your presence while eating! Think about, wouldn’t you love it if someone added a filet mignon (that you never ordered or expected) to your plate of boring salad?
Do you have a dog that is already showing food aggression? First, consult with a professional dog trainer-behaviorist. You can find your local dog trainers through APDT.com or consult with one of our Certified Dog Trainers here at It’s A Dog’s World K-9 Academy, Inc. by calling (866)324-3647. Second, you can follow the above steps. However, for a dog with a history of biting, I would recommend making sure you put a leash on your dog that is tied to a sturdy object and start by throwing the delicious food near the dog without putting yourself in jeopardy of being bit.
Bottom line: keep feeding times as stress free and calm as possible. Do you have young children or a busy household? Find a quiet spot for your dog to eat in such as the laundry room, in the crate or even outside in the dog run. And, don’t forget to randomly add a delicious treat to your dog’s bowl. Your dog will thank you for it!
*To teach sit start with placing a treat between your thumb and forefinger and place treat on your dogs. Lure the treat up the nose, between the eyes while saying “sit”. Your dog will follow the treat and as the head goes up, the bottom naturally goes down into sitting position. As soon as your dog sits say, “yes” and give the treat!