Dog Food Aggression steps
Hello! I first would like to say that I love your site. It is great to have so much information in one place.
I have a 7 month old Frenchie named Buddy who has food aggression.
The problems occur when you put your hand too close to the bowl or kneel down while he is eating. An otherwise docile and calm dog will growl, snarl, and on rare occasions air bite.
I have tried having him eat his food, waiting for him to be done, then giving him a small piece of chicken while clicking a clicker then taking the bowl away. I did that for about a week then began to show him chicken while he was eating then he would lift his head out of the bowl, eat the chicken then go back to his kibble. This was huge! Usually he would be so fixated on the food he would never look up.
A couple of times when I approached he actually stopped eating lifted his head out of the bowl expecting chicken (Which I gave him), but those were few and far between. About a week ago I was following the formula above and tried giving him chicken from his left side during his meal. He lifted his head, ate the chicken then became very rigid and started growling.
I stopped giving him the chicken during his meals for the next couple of days and would only give him chicken when he was done and I took the bowl away. When I tried it again he did the same thing. I don't know if I was moving too fast or what. At no point did I ever give him chicken and remove the bowl while there was food in it, but maybe he associated the chicken with me removing the bowl even if it was empty?
Right now, He lies down, I pour 1/4 of his kibble into his bowl and I say "Eat" and he eats. Once he's done he'll look up at me, I'll give him a small piece of chicken, and say good boy then feed him 3 more portions.
Your steps look great! I am going to try these steps and keep you updated on his progress, but I do have a few questions:
I know I am doing the activities with an empty bowl, but when do I do those activities in relation to his normal eating. Do I do it an hour or two after he eats? Does it matter?
Answer:I would recommend you do them when your dog seems to be more relaxed. The idea is always to work with a stress-free dog. A few hours after eating is a good idea. When he is extremely hungry might not be a good idea.
Do I use the same bowl that I use for his other feedings?
During a desensitization protocol it is VERY important that your dog NEVER shows any signs of stress or anxiety. If he does, it's because you are moving too fast. If you notice that your dog reacts too much when you practice with his bowl, then start with a different one. If, on the other hand, he is able to stay calm and do the exercise, then you can continue with his own food bowl.
Do I continue to feed him the same way I'm feeding him at dinner during this process?
Answer: Yes, keep the feeding routine as usual and do not try to push him too much during this time. As you progress and he starts feeling more and more comfortable, you can try some of the easier steps.
Remember that it takes a LOT of repetition, you might be stuck on a step for weeks until you see any progress.
As a side note: Dog food aggression is a fairly common behavior problem. The root of it comes from "dog behavior". In the dog world there is a rule: If I have it in my mouth, it's mine! This is a golden rule and applies even if you are the youngest puppy or the omega dog. I don't mean that it is OK for dogs to do this, but it is in their nature and that is why it takes a lot of training to help them understand.
Thanks for all of your help and I look forward to updating you on Buddy's progress.
You are welcome John! Hope my answers help and thanks for sharing your story and questions with us!
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