Food Aggression

Food aggression is a behavior common in many dogs where they can become aggressive towards other dogs or humans when they are eating or around food. This can be a very dangerous behavior which should be quickly addressed

Dog defending a piece of meaty food with aggression

It is important to note that unlike general aggression where dogs bite or attack for no clear reason, food aggression is a natural instinct so it may be more difficult to fix.

It is best to start training your dog not to be aggressive with food as early as possible. If you start giving a puppy food and then taking it away frequently from a very young age most dogs will never develop this type of aggression. If you have a puppy it is important to not only give and take food but also pet and touch the dog while it eats. If possible, have multiple people do this, including children so your dog grows up understanding that he can be touched while he is eating.

If your dog is already showing signs of food aggression it is important to act as quickly as possible to put an end to it. To avoid getting hurt with large dogs it might be necessary to find a professional to help you through this process. Please note that dogs that are aggressive around food can and will bite so if possible it is best to work with a professional on this. If your dog is not too big or you're not worried about your dog actually biting you can follow these tips to put an end to the food aggression yourself.

When first starting out it is best to use food that your dog likes, but does not love. Their regular dry dog food is often ideal for starting off. To stop food aggression you need to modify your behavior from the moment you get up to get the food ready for your dog. Most dogs know the signs that they are going to get fed and will start to get excited. Do not let your dog come close to you while preparing his food. Keep your dog sitting or lying down at least a few feet away and don't let them get excited. For many dogs this will take quite a bit of time the first few tries, but it is very important.

Once your dog is calm and you have his food in his dish you can approach your dog with the food. This is very important since you are showing your dog that the food is yours and you will bring it to him, and he should not come to get it from you. Throughout this step your dog should stay calm and submissive. If your dog is calm than set the food down and let him begin eating. After the first couple of bites step close to your dog. This step should be done confidently and do not show any fear to the dog.

By stepping into his eating area you may trigger some growling or barking, do not step back. If you are able to safely discipline the dog for barking and growling you can do that now, but don't risk getting bitten. If your dog feels you're going to take his food he will stop eating to protect it. Let him growl and bark until he gets tired of it, this can take anywhere from a few seconds to ten or more minutes. When he starts to relax he will either submit (this is what you want) or he will try to start eating again.

If he starts to try to eat again, take another step toward him. Repeat the above process until your dog submits to you or you're standing between your dog and the food. What you are doing here is claiming the food as your own. Your dog should not see the food as his, but rather as your food which you're allowing him to eat. This will also help establish you as the leader of his pack which will help in other training areas as well!

Once your dog has submitted, by either laying down and being calm or trying to walk away you can pick up the food. At this point you start the process over, only allowing him to finish eating if he is calm and allows you to be near him while he eats. This process should be followed every time you feed your dog until you are confident he is no longer food aggressive, then just do it a few times per week to ensure he does not go back to it.

When you are comfortable with his behavior with dry food it is time to move to something he wants more such as a bone with raw meat. This will trigger his natural instincts in a much stronger way. Simply repeat the process above until your dog shows no aggression no matter what type of food he has.

This process can take weeks or even months to get through for some dogs but it is very important to stop this improper behavior. A dog who is aggressive with food can be extremely dangerous and should not be tolerated. With commitment any owner can train any dog to be calm and submissive while he is eating.