An important topic and one I am frequently asked about is food guarding. Owners are keen to make sure their pup is safe around food and rightly so as it is one of the main reasons for dog bites.
I find that few people look at things from the dogs perspective and in this case it is extremely significant.
By removing a dogs food bowl we are in effect stealing his meal!
If someone approached you whilst you were tucking into your dinner and took your plate would you be happy?!
Many owners tell me that they can take their dogs food with out a problem, all this tells me is that they have not got a food guarder. If it is not in your puppies nature to food guard then this won’t matter, he or she will never be a food guarder.
However, if your puppy is showing possession or is predisposed to being possessive ,but has never exhibited the behaviour, by stealing the food you can inadvertently escalate the unwanted behaviour. In fact, you actually teach your puppy to be aggressive when he is approached whilst eating. The key issue is, unless your puppy shows the behaviour you will not know whether he is likely to be aggressive with his food until you have taught him there is a reason to guard it!
In the film I demonstrate with Poppy, an 8wk old Cocker spaniel , how to teach a puppy to form a positive association with people approaching the food bowl. This method works really well and will prevent food possession aggression from developing.
If your puppy already shows aggression around food don’t try to address the issue yourself, instead seek professional help immediately.
A few weeks ago an owner brought her 14 week old collie puppy to see me as she was really worried about the aggression it was displaying around food. When she first brought the puppy home at 8 weeks the pup would growl when they fed her. This continued for several weeks until a friend, who was a self proclaimed dog expert become involved and decided to smack the puppy then hold her by her muzzle pinning her down. The owner was rightly horrified and the puppy literally screamed with terror.
The result was a puppy who now had MORE reason to guard its food! I am sure you won’t be surprised to learn that the aggression escalated to a level where it had bitten people. The owners kindly allowed me to film their puppy in action so that others could benefit and learn from it.
The good news is that by following the behaviour modification programme I devised, the owners are seeing a huge improvement. Although not cured at this point I am confident, if they keep following the programme they will be successful.