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Dog Training

How to Stop Food Aggression in Dogs in 8 Steps

When a dog growls when you approach their bowl, they are showing a clear sign of food aggression. However, this doesn't mean yours will be on the offensive forever! We'll show you how to stop food aggression in dogs in 8 simple steps!

We'll show you how to stop food aggression in dogs
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Food aggression is common in both puppies and adult dogs. Usually fear and insecurity are behind it.

Why Does My Dog Show Food Aggression?

In short: your dog is simply protecting its resources. Feeding mistakes are usually to blame for this behavior. Your pet thinks that you're trying to chew on their bones or eat their treats when they see you approaching their bowl. They fear that you will steal from them. 

How to stop food aggression in dogs means to fix this misinterpretation.

Your dog should learn that you are not taking anything away from them, but bringing them something much better instead. Once your pet has understood this, food aggression will cease. However, how to stop food aggression in dogs practice. Take as much time as you need when training with your pet. 

Very important: be patient and loving in the process. It's the only way for you to train your dog properly.

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Typical feeding mistakes

Food aggression often develops in puppyhood. Certain feeding mistakes are to blame for that.

1) Eating From the Same Bowl

Some breeders let the entire litter eat together from one bowl. Others feed the puppies very close to each other. This indeed looks cute. However, none of the dogs will feel relaxed while eating as a result. 

Each puppy is forced to assert themselves against their siblings. They are competitors. Fearful of not getting enough food, the younger ones gobble down the food. This can cause digestive problems such as flatulence.

2) Taking Their Food Away

Another mistake is to take the food away from a puppy. The reason for this is that some owners believe this is a show of dominance. Mistakenly, they believe you're seen as the alpha of the pack for doing that. 

This is not true at all: in a pack, dogs - regardless of their position - defend their prey.

Your pet is deeply unsettled by the removal of their food: they feel watched while eating and fear they can lose their food to you at any time. Your dog can no longer trust you.

As a consequence, most pets show three reactions:

  • Rush: they gobble down the food as fast as they can.
  • Fear: some dogs may not eat from a bowl again. 
  • Aggression: they show typical threatening gestures to keep you away from their food. 
This is where a dangerous chain reaction begins: at first, your pet may be protective of their food. Later, their defense stance may stay even when the empty bowl's empty. After that, their eating area becomes a zone to protect; they might feel the need to protect the whole room, even. Finally, your dog will conclude that they need to protect themselves form your unpredictable behavior.
 
This is why it's so essential for any owner to learn how to stop food aggression in dogs. It could take a turn for the worse at any moment.

3) Ignoring Your Dog's Background

Maybe you've adopted a puppy or an adult dog from a shelter. It is wonderful that you give a loving home to a pet in need! 

Unfortunately, dogs with a sad background have often starved. If your pet had this experience, it may happen that they now defend their valuable resources quite intensively. 

Make sure they get enough high-quality food, which should be adapted to their age, level of exercise, breed and state of health.

How to Stop Food Aggression in Dogs: 8 Steps to Achieve It

It's best to prevent food aggression from occurring in the first place. But, even if your dog already shows food aggression, it's still possible to change that behavior.

1) Make Feeding Time Stress-Free

Your dog should be at peace when eating. Avoid chaos and noise.Ideally, no one should walk around or past them during mealtime. Leave your pet alone and undisturbed while eating.

2) Set Up a Feeding Time

For many dogs, the meal is the highlight of their day. Set mealtimes to give yours an idea of when to eat. Your pet will look forward to it and learn that the food will reliably come into their bowl at a certain time. 

3) Always Feed Your Dog in the Same Place

This can be a separate room or a fixed place. Dogs are This can be done in a separate room or any other place. Dogs are creature of habit: you can teach them where and when they should expect to eat.. Your four-legged friend learns to trust you in this way. 

They know: you take care of the food. At the feeding place, they feel safe and relaxed. 

If you have multiple pets, feed them separately. Either you choose different rooms or you separate them enough. They should not compete for the food.

4) Fill up the Bowl While Your Dog Is Eating

If your dog trusts that they will get enough food from you, food aggression won't appear. You can promote this trust, in fact.

Proceed as follows:

  • Give your dog half of their usual food ration in the bowl. 
  • Keep refilling a little bit of food while your dog is already eating from the bowl.
In this way, your pet loses the fear that you will take something away from them. Instead, they develop the certainty that you will always put something new and tasty in their bowl. 
 
This strengthens their trust in you and strengthens your bond.

5) Feed Your Dog Yourself

It is important that your dog initially has a fixed person who is responsible for their food. If you can't do this yourself due to time constraints or other reasons, you can ask another adult to take care of it.

6) Don’t Let Children and Other Pets Interrupt

Food aggression in dogs usually kick in during critical situations. Small children have loud voices. They run around, are hectic, active and impatient. They may even touch a dog's bowl. 

In that case, your dog will see children as competitors that want to take over their most important resource. Your pet may fear that food will be taken away from them and will react aggressively in tow. 

A simple fix is in place, then: don't let children or other pets in the room while your dog is eating. It usually only takes a few minutes for them to empty their bowl, anyway. 

7) Train With a Prey Dummy

With a prey dummy, you build up trust with your dog very quickly. 

Fill a prey dummy with treats. When you go for a walk, throw the dummy away. Let your dog run after it and bring it back. You can use, or train, the command 'fetch' while doing so.

If your pet has mastered this task, he may get a treat from the dummy. Hold the prey dummy tightly while doing this. 

8) Practice With Other People

If your dog now understands you feed them without ill-intent, then it's time to teach them that other people are not competitors either! Brief the people that will train with your dog beforehand and give clear instructions.

Your dog should have a positive experience from this: if a human comes to my bowl, there'll be even tastier food. If your dog has plain kibbles in their bowl, your friend or relative can add a spoonful of your pet's favorite food.

If all the family members have been training with your pet, you should involve a new person in the training, too!

Food Envy

How to Stop Food Aggresion in Dogs: How Long Does It Take?

It depends on the age of your pet. A puppy learns very quickly that there is no reason for food aggression. This usually lasts only a few days. 

An older is another story. If their bad habit never got fixed, to correct it takes considerably more time. Weeks or months can go by here.

Important: it's crucial that you consistently train your dog a lot by approaching their bowl and refilling it, or adding treats, even. Make sure to make this as frequent as possible. 

Conclusion

Food aggression usually arises because of feeding mistakes. This often already happens in puppyhood. How to stop food aggression in dogs properly require two of the most important virtues: love and patience. With these, you'll change your pet's behavior in no time. 

Practice regularly with your dog and make sure they gain trust in you. You can do this by showing your pet that you are not taking away food, but are rather giving them tastier snacks!

You can also use these tips on how to stop food aggression in dogs if yours vehemently defends not only its food, but also its toys.

Written by Anja Boecker
Written by Anja Boecker

My name is Anja Boecker and I am a dog trainer and behavior consultant (IHK certificate). With these articles I would like to help you understand your dog better and build an inseparable bond.

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