Fearful Dogs: 4 Tips For Handling Food Aggression

13 Nov

Don’t be lulled into believing that Sofie likes Charles, even just a little, she doesn’t. I know she can really hurt him (55 pounds vs 15 pounds) and I am very watchful. Charles will be with us a year next month and it has been a learning for all of us. Even though all 7 of my animals have all learned to live together, it does not mean they are bonded to each other or are a pack. Sofie would probably throw Charles down the stairs if I wasn’t watching. The challenge I have with the two of them is mostly due to resource guarding.

When a dog is resource guarding there are 3 levels of escalation :

  1. Low level guarding: Dog growls and bares her teeth

  2. Medium level guarding: Dog snaps and lunges

  3. High level guarding: Dog bites

After years of trying counter conditioning and all the lovely things that behaviorists and trainers have taught me to do, I have settled on the following methods to keep everyone safe.

  • Avoidance – I care less about what causes the behavior and more about keeping everyone safe. Charles eats in a pen (he’s aggressive towards animals and humans). Cats eat up off the floor. Sofie eats with a leash on. (Sofie is not aggressive toward Louise or humans).

  • Exercise – I try to walk everyone before dinner (never after because of bloat). “A tired dog is a happy dog.” More importantly, I believe that dogs like to work for things and this way they work for food.

  • Training – I make them all sit/stay when I put the bowls down until I give them the release word (Let’s Eat!). I like to think I have taught them a little control and this keeps them focused on the meal and less on each other. I also have trained them to ‘Leave it!” when I don’t want them mouthing something, whether food or not. This doesn’t change the anxiety or fear-based aggression tendencies but training should always be part of any program.

  • Don’t feed while humans are eating and don’t feed from your plate. Alpha’s in the wild do eat first and also scraps are just bad for dogs. I lose this battle at home often, so don’t feel bad if you do too. I am better at training animals than people.

In my multi-animal household, I don’t try for bonding or love or anything like that between the animals. The number one rule is to keep everyone safe. I respect that each animal has its own temperaments and quirks. I accept that animals will be animals and I don’t expect them to reason or to change certain anxiety or fear-based behaviors. Never trust that a growl won’t turn into a snap which then turns into a bite.

How do you keep your furballs safe when they are eating?

Just another DogDaz morning at the zoo ❤


Posted by on November 13, 2017 in Dogs


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10 responses to “Fearful Dogs: 4 Tips For Handling Food Aggression

  1. Jeanne

    November 13, 2017 at 04:22

    Excellent advice!

  2. Genevieve Petrillo

    November 13, 2017 at 21:57

    I’m all alone here, but I gobble my food so fast, nobody would be able to get any anyway!

    Love and licks,

    • dogdaz

      November 13, 2017 at 22:03

      You need a puzzle bowl. 😀

      • Genevieve Petrillo

        November 16, 2017 at 09:39

        I had one. It slowed me down some, so then I graduated back to my regular bowl. I love food!

        • dogdaz

          November 16, 2017 at 13:55

          I thought that was the point. Bark Out Loud

  3. pibblelife

    November 14, 2017 at 12:59

    This is such a great post!!! My humom is also very careful when she feeds us or gives us chew treats because I resource guard too.

    • dogdaz

      November 14, 2017 at 17:18

      Thanks. Good to be careful.

  4. sassybrat1904

    November 17, 2017 at 19:38

    My elder girls BabyGirl and Midnight have a weird way of eating. Whomever is at the bowl eats and the other sits behind waiting until the one eating is done. I put 2 bowls down but they have their way. Each always save about 1/2 for the other. My other 2 are newer to the home and I did not know if they would fight for the others food so I feed them on opposite sides of the room. They are fine with each other but I didn’t know that at the time. They came to live with me from a death in the family. They are also bonded. Athena just sits before I give her ,her food, Samantha has to do a spin around, sit and give paw. Sam always has to do things with flourish. I noticed Athena is starting to give the paw sometimes and I think she is watching Samantha.
    The bird well she just demands her food and sometimes throws it at me or the dogs.

    • dogdaz

      November 17, 2017 at 21:30

      Sounds like a blast at feeding time.


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