How To Prevent Food Aggression With Your New Pup

When pups or adult dogs guard their possessions against humans, we can generally consider that to be normal behavior. Dogs in the wild need to protect things such as food, mates and territories, and those that do so successfully, are more likely to survive. However, when talking about domesticated pets, those sorts of traits are not welcomed and can give pet owners many problems.

How does resource guarding usually manifest itself in dogs?

There are several ways in which dogs can display guarding behavior, and they range from running away with a prize item such as a treat or toy, growling at humans when they have a resource that they want to protect, or even biting when approached or when the item is about to be removed from their possession. In many cases, dogs will display such behavior only to individuals that they have never met before, or do not know well, but some dogs will act in such a defensive way to everyone.

How much of a problem can food aggression be?

Guarding food is a common behavioral trait among pet dogs, and in a lot of instances, this is relatively harmless and owners simply need to take a number of precautions when feeding, such as leaving the pet alone to eat, giving plenty of food so they don’t feel the need to guard it quite so much, and not attempting to remove stolen or scavenged food. However, if there are small children or vulnerable adults in a home with a dog who has food aggression, it can become more important to tackle the behavior and try to prevent it from happening.

Teaching your new puppy not to guard their food:

Puppies are generally born in litters, sometimes with large numbers of siblings, and so competing for their food is naturally instinctive to them. Those who breed dogs often tend to feed all puppies from the same bowl, so it’s easy to understand how the puppy who manages to eat the most will become the strongest, and how the weaker pups may suffer as a result. In some cases, pups are even rewarded for aggressive behavior and this can quickly take hold and remain with the pup until they are adults, especially if the behavior is never challenged and no attempt is made to correct it.

There are some very simple techniques that you can use with your new puppy, to try and prevent them from aggressively guarding their food or even their toys and other items:

  • Hand feeding – as soon as your new pup comes into your home, make sure that you feed them some of their meals from your hand. Take the time to sit with your pup and gradually feed him/her, all the while talking in a calm manner to them. Try stroking with one hand and feeding them with the other.
  • After hand feeding, hold the bowl in your lap – once your little pup has managed to eat the food from your hand in a way that you’re satisfied with, switch to putting food in a bowl and keeping it in your lap while they eat from it. Continue talking to your pup and stroking them while they eat.
  • Drop a tasty treat into their bowl – move on to placing the bowl on the floor, and as they eat, every now and then you can bend down and drop something tasty into the bowl.

If your pup continues to show food aggression or even develops it since being under your care, then you may want to seek further help from a professional dog behaviorist, who will help you to safely train your pet.

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