How To Reduce a Dog’s Food Aggression

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When you’ve got a dog with food aggression issues, also known as ‘resource guarding, it’s important to start addressing the problem right away.  The strategies I’m about to share with you are perfect for brand new puppies, as well as dogs who’ve just started to develop food aggression issues.

Please Note: If your dog has SEVERE cases of dog food aggression, you should seek the help of a trained professional by doing a search in google for dog behavior specialist, or dog trainer.  This article is not meant to be the replacement of a professional trainer.

Also make sure you check out the type of training that the trainer you find uses.  There are many different methods for training dogs, so it’s important to choose a trainer who uses positive reinforcement, and not electronic collars or punishment.

If you’d like to tackle your dog’s food aggression issues yourself, here are three things you need to do:

  1. Train your dog the ‘Leave it’ command. One way to train this behavior is to take something your dog likes, like a piece of cheese, and let your dog see you put it under your foot.  Most dogs will try to dig out the food from under your shoe.  Make sure to keep the cheese covered until the dog gives up.  When your dog is no longer trying to get the food out from under your food, say “good boy” and let him have the food under your foot.  If done early in a young puppies life, this stops dogs from ever developing dog aggression issues.The reason this technique is so powerful is it teaches the dog that there is an APPROPRIATE way to get the things he wants, and that he doesn’t have to growl or bite to prevent you from taking things from him… he just has to obey.If you’d like to see video of exactly how this behavior is trained, I dedicate a video on how to teach the “Leave It” command  in my course, Hands Off Dog Training program.
  2. Train your dog the “Drop It” command. The drop it command is easier to teach then most people realize, and is another MUST train behavior if you want to prevent your dog from developing dog food aggression.  It is also based around the philosophy that you just need to teach your dog an appropriate way to get what he wants, instead of biting.Here’s an example of how this works:Let’s say you have a dog who is chewing his bone and will growl, or nip at you when you reach down to take it.  The reason the dog growls is because he values that item HIGHLY.  Most pet owners will yell, swat or tell their dog that they are bad for growling or biting.  But this is not a very effective strategy, and only makes the dog try to protect “His” property harder… often escalating the aggression.Instead of making our dog feel like he has to protect an item we want to take from him, or he’ll lose it forever… we need to change his thinking.  We need to teach him that giving up things he loves means he gets even more rewarding things.This is done in a training environment where we can control what the dog receives.  To start, give your dog something that he only ‘kind of’ wants like a ball for example.  Tell your dog to ‘drop it’ or reach down to remove the item from your dogs mouth while saying drop it and take the item from your dog.  Because we’ve chosen an item that your dog values very little, your dog shouldn’t be  bothered that you’re taking it from him… and as soon as he lets you take it say ‘good dog’ and give your dog a treat.

    Done repeatedly this teaches your dog that giving up things in his possession means he gets MORE good things!

    As your dog becomes better and better and giving up items he likes, start asking him to give up higher valued items.  By teaching your dog to give up higher and higher value items every day, always getting a better reward, you can reprogram your dogs brain to respond to your drop it commands instead of feeling like he has to protect what he has and keep you from taking it.

    If you’d like to see a wonderful video on how this is done, I’ve created a step-by-step training video for how to do this in the membership section of my website.  To get a free 30 day trial of my dog training video membership site you can sign up here: http://thedogtrainingsecret.com

  3. The third and final technique for reducing your dog’s food aggression is simple and often VERY effective.  Get your dog fixed.  There are many studies out about how many behavior problems, as well as health problems can be fixed or avoided all together by getting your dog fixed before they reach puberty around 6 months of age.  It doesn’t always fix the problem but it’s a very good idea.

For more information on how to fix your dog’s behavior problems, check out my Hands Off Dog Training program at http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/tips

There are 18 Comments

  1. Gail Arnold says:

    I tried the technique in your video re. hiding the treat and only givingit when the dog stays in her bed.
    I have agranddoggy I inherited from my daughter. She was not well trained and is now a 5 year olf cocker. I love her dearly but she displays every bad behavior you ever mention.
    She will wait a few moments after I cover the treat, but I have to give her a verbal command and popint to get her back in her bed.
    Any suggestions.
    Gail

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  2. Chelsea says:

    I’ve got two cockers and they’ve been fixed and know both of those commands. Both have been completely fine with one another and their food sharing but lately when it comes to human food my female has become aggressive. Everyone in my family spoils her with scraps when I’m not looking and because of that I believe she has become greedy. She stole a loaf of bread from the pantry tonight (someone left the door open -.-) and when we tried to take it from her, she whipped herself around and used her body to shield it while continuing to wolf it all down. Then my male got too close and she snapped on him. She left the food and attacked! I was completely shocked! Generally my male shows a bit of dominance and my girl is more than happy to submit but tonight…Wow. It was a full on dog fight and my mom had to wrestle my female away before anything serious happened. I don’t know what to do right now. She’s been through loads of obedience training and is generally a well behaved pup. And she isn’t aggressive when it comes to dog food. In fact, she waits until my male has eaten his fill and THEN she eats. What can I do?

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    kris Reply:

    My 9 mos old puppy has been food guarding lately. We make sure never to give food from the table, but only his dish. He does though like to snack on the things that spill from my kids lack of coordination. I think what Chet said about swapping out one thing for something better is great. We are working on that with toys my pup gets that aren’t his. There is a book called “Mine!” about food guarding that I am starting to read and will follow for my guy. Slowly letting him know that I am the giver of food. Sorry can’t think of anything else other than the book and make sure your family stops giving food from the table. Bad for dog on many levels.

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  3. Sarah says:

    We have two dogs a female and a male. Our female has dominate traits so she gets everything first. Our male also has some dominate traits (i.e possession of all the toys and our female can’t have anything. He also challenges her for her food/treats. Our female has never (at least in my presence) challenged our male for his food. I don’t mean to make light of the situation, I understand this is a serious matter and would like some insight as to how to handle the situation and correct thing. They are both the same age and have fight with each other at once a year and it usually involves food. Our female guards her food/treats and our male yields without a second thought. I just don’t understand why he challenges our female.When they’ve gotten into a fight our male is usually the one who gets the brunt end. He gets cuts. Could you help explain who has the aggression problem?

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    Minette Reply:

    You 😉 ha ha I am mostly kidding; but when you have a dog with serious food aggression then they just simply need to be separated to eat.

    I have one of these dogs too and he has to be in his crate or outside alone for him to be able to eat. Even if I feed him in his crate he will go nuts if a cat comes near.

    My other two are fine with their boring dog food, but they will fight over good stuff. And, sometimes my female guards the food left on the counter when we are eating, so if that is the case she too needs to be crated.

    It is just not worth the risk. At some point they could kill each other and I am not willing to deal with that!

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    Sarah Reply:

    Perhaps I should have stated that our female was the resident dog before our male.

    They are given their treats in different locations, but not in protected areas where the other doesn’t have access. What I was hoping to find out was who starts the fight? Is there a way of knowing? I have successfully used your technique to break the fight up. I guess I was hoping to find a way to help them get along. Like I said, this only happens once a year, but I think it shouldn’t happen at all. Am I wrong to think that? I have been working with our female to yield her food like you’ve outlined in your blogs. So are you suggesting that I should keep her protected until she has been successful with yielding to me without growling etc and they try associating the two together?

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    Minette Reply:

    I have no way of knowing unless I see them.

    But does it really matter? Is it worth risking their lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars to know, even the the advice to feed them separate (yes, probably for the rest of their lives) is going to be the same?

    All it takes is a few extra steps to put them in their crates and they can both be happy with no bloodshed.

    I don’t care who is the instigator at my house (sometimes they both can be). I do care that they stay alive.

  4. Minette,

    I have a very intelligent 2 year old Sheltie who I raised and housebroke since he was 8 weeks old. Now mind you, that even at 8 weeks old before he was finished with all his vaccinations I was very afraid for him to pick up a stick in his mouth which he did all the time, & he would chew & actually swallow them if they were small. When I tried to take them out of his mouth (due to lack of completed vaccinations) he snapped, growled and actually bit my hand many times & drew blood. Perhaps sticks were harmless but I wasn’t sure–especially those with green tree fungus growing on them! He had plenty of toys inside & outside the house but he preferred small sticks even at that young age! He has outgrown his passion for sticks, but now if a piece of human food falls from the table which I know is not good for dogs not only will he have a tug of war with me or will NOT let me open his mouth, but he will bite my hand every time–even to this day at 2 yrs old–and draw blood which I disinfect & cover with Bandaid. I am afraid to swat at him even with soft newspaper to correct him for fear he will only get more angry at me. When he was being housebroken I did use soft rolled up newspaper and slammed it on the wall to make a very loud noise & even used fly swatter only on wall for scary noise when he had an accident in house. He did not get aggressive toward the newspaper and flyswatter—only if I tried to take human food or even a pill which I accidentally dropped and I still get bitten to this day. It is a good thing he’s not a bigger dog with bigger teeth or I could really get seriously hurt. Just 3 weeks ago he got very sick to his stomach & it could have been much worse–such as he could have died from what I will tell you: I am only looking out for his health because once he swallowed about 3 or 4 Advil human pain killers when I accidentally dropped the pill bottle on its side and a few rolled onto floor. He vomited every 10 minutes then every 15 min. and I took him to the Vet when I saw it continued. She gave him Pepcid (famotidine) intravenously to stop the nausea and saline solution under the skin to rehydrate him & told me to only give 5 or 6 kibbles & ice cubes every 2 or 3 hours to give his stomach a rest. Also I was instructed by Vet to continue 1/2 human Pepcid pill twice a day. In about 5 days he was back to normal. If not for the food aggression with delicious human food he is a very highly intelligent, affectionate Sheltie who sits, shakes hands, downs, plays “leaveit” with doggie treats, but who can not resist human food…I guess because it tastes much better. He has never been to a training class because I could not afford it. He gets along very well and plays with other dogs on the block.
    Minnette, what would you suggest I do to train him out of his biting my hand and drawing blood–even ever so slightly because of his small teeth? I had 2 other Shelties and 1 big Collie in succession & none of them acted like this. I could take anything out of their mouth without getting bitten. I treat this dog the same as I treated all my other dogs. I am now suspecting that his parents may have been inbred with siblings or with their parents or puppies to produce such a hyper Sheltie!! I purchased him from a professional Sheltie breeder who let me in her home and I met his great grandparents, grandparents & parents or so she says. Her 21 year old son took care of the puppies and I also suspect that he mistreated them for him to be so nasty at 8 weeks old!!!
    Minette, sorry for length of this question but I am just heartbroken and disappointed in him. He even sleeps next to my bed in his doggiebed on the floor stays there all night without being tied. I know he loves me. I put his crate in attic after he was housebroken. My problem is only food aggression when he has something he thinks is delicious—but the Advil incident was very frightening!!! Thank you in advance for your reply,–Prudence

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    Minette Reply:

    Whenever I have a dog that is showing aggression or biting I suggest a veterinary behaviorist. I can’t see him so I can’t ensure the behavior won’t get worse. A vet behaviorist can see the behavior and put you on a behavior modification program specifically for you.

    We do have an aggression program starting soon that goes over resource guarding, but again I worry about you. If you are interested in our program (8 week program with videos) email customer service at info@thedogtrainingsecret.com to find out if you can enroll

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    Prudence Rumore Reply:

    Minnette: Thank you so much for responding to me about my 2 year old Sheltie’s human food aggression by his bing my hand and drawing blood when I accidentally drop any human food on the floor which I absolutely know is not good for dogs and would be bad for his health. As I stated in my long question to you the most scary incident was when he must have thought the few Advil pain killers I accidentally dropped on carpet were “doggie treats” and he had a terrible
    vomiting spell few hours every 10 minutes. I got him to the Vet immediately as I already stated and she made him well within a few days.
    I most certainly will email: info@thedogtrainingsecret.com
    to find out if I can enroll in the aggression program which goes over resource guarding. You told me it is starting soon — an 8 week program with videos — and I do understand that you can’t tell me what to do without seeing him.
    But, Minnette, is there a difference between a veterinary behaviorist and a dog trainer? Is there a difference? Thank you and appreciating in advance my last question…Prudence Rumore

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    Minette Reply:

    I believe we start the new session April 1

    And, YES!!!!

    A veterinary behaviorist is a veterinarian who has gone to vet school and is now specializing in behavior. They can prescribe medications and have done all the training your regular vet has gone through and then some!

    I recommend them over just any trainer because there is no real guide when it comes to dog trainers. Some are very good and some have no experience or use bad methods that could make your problem worse.

    A veterinary behaviorist is up to date on all the latest information and is not going to risk you or your dog’s health.

  5. Dawn Sasser says:

    I have a pit/rot mix 1 that has just recently become food aggressive with our pit/beagle mix 1 1/2 to the point where she attacks they are both females and have had no problems until this past week. I don’t know what to do she even attacked her today while I was pouring their food into the storage container. Please help! I don’t want her to start this with the puppy we also have although she shows no signs of aggression toward the pup.

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  6. Lynette says:

    I have a 5 year old Basset Hounds and just adopted a year old Rescue Basset and ham having a horrible time with Food Aggression. The 5 year old won’t let the 6 year old eat. I feed her separately now, but even raw hide bones are a battle.

    Help

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    Minette Reply:

    Resource guarding can be very serious and result in bites or even a mauling if the dog is serious.

    And, since I can’t see your dog, I can’t give you training advice when a bite is possible. I suggest you contact a veterinary behaviorist to help you so that they can see you and the dog and the dynamics and put you on a safe training program. http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/recommend-veterinary-behaviorist-dog-trainer/

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  7. Kim says:

    I have 4 large breed dogs. The 3 males have food aggression durning feeding. We have separated where they eat at (all in different rooms). However if one finishes before the others they go after each other when the dog is walking by. How can I correct the behavior in the males?

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    Minette Reply:

    I would feed in crates and wait until everyone is finished before letting them out

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  8. vinnie says:

    I just adopted a 2 yrold pit terr mix how and what can I do about his food aggression toward my other dogs in need asap

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Contact Dana at customer service to find out when our next aggression course will start info@thedogtrainingsecret.com

    [Reply]

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