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  • Marcy Santos

Preventing Food Aggression in Dogs

It is not uncommon for dogs to display a certain degree of aggression when it comes to their food. In fact, some studies have shown that up to 20% of dogs show signs of food aggression at some point in their lives. Food aggression causes dogs to become protective of their food or treats, and it is a common territorial reaction that a dog experiences while eating.

Typically, dogs will display some sort of hostile behavior to guard their food from other humans or animals in the household. Certain breeds are genetically predisposed to these aggressive tendencies, which can be picked up during puppyhood or learned later in life. Aggressive food behaviors your dog may display include growling, snapping, lunging, or even injuring other people or pets.

Luckily, food aggression can be reduced by managing your dog’s behavior. If your dog has severe aggression that puts you or other members of the household at risk, you should consult with a Certified Animal Behaviorist or Dog Trainer. Otherwise, try some of these tips and tricks below to reduce or eliminate your dog’s food aggression.

Multi-Step Conditioning

One effective method of reducing food aggression is using a multi-step process that will slowly condition your dog to be comfortable with your presence over time. With this method, you will begin by standing a few feet away while your dog eats her meals and talking occasionally while she is eating. Repeat this exercise every time your dog is fed, until she begins to feel relaxed in your presence. Gradually you can move closer to the bowl during meals. As you move closer, give your dog special high reward treats to encourage her to accept your presence closer to her bowl.

Eliminating Cause for Aggressive Behaviors

Sometimes your dog may act aggressively because of other circumstances. Feeding your dog on a consistent and routine schedule can help reduce aggression, as the dog will not be anxious or uncertain about where and when it will get the next meal. You can also encourage your dog to work for it’s food, such as performing simple tasks such as sit, stay, or lie down, before they are fed.

No matter what, don’t punish or intimidate your dog for guarding his food. It’s a natural reaction, and if he is punished it can cause the resource guarding to get worse.

Have you had any luck helping a dog stop being food aggressive? What worked for you?


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