I was finishing up my initial training session in Gainesville with a new Home Dog Training client and his American Bulldog, Boo. I had been called in to help with general obedience problems such as sit, stay, come, walk, etc. Our initial session went very well and Boo was doing wonderfully with all the initial commands. We looked forward to having a great second session in a couple of weeks where we would expand on many of our current obedience commands and start to add some more advanced exercises. As I was finishing up and completing the paperwork, my client had another question. It seems that he has two other dogs that we weren’t training, but appeared to have a rather large problem. Whenever there was food present, they would turn from being loving and calm into crazy and aggressive.
Even though they were not part of the training program, I was happy to help my client fix this problem with his other two dogs. I explained that food aggression could be a result of many things. If they were rescue dogs, it could be the result of being bullied for their food by larger dogs or going for long periods without food. If they were separated from their mother and other siblings very early and spent most of their life as “single dogs”, they may have no “idea of sharing” and any approach by another dog could be seen as an aggressive act. If they are older “and slower”, it could be their natural way of protecting their dinner.
I asked my client how long he had noticed their food aggression and he really could not give an exact time that it started. He also could not think of a reason why the aggression might have been triggered.
I explained that we had experienced the same “food aggression” with our Belgian Malinois. We got here as a rescue when she was three years old. She had been abandoned in the Everglades after having given birth to a litter of puppies. Whenever she is around food, she will often, but not always, lash out at any dog that approaches. Other than that, she is a quiet, playful lover.
I explained that sometimes the best solution to a problem where you don’t have enough information to create a logical lesson plan for correction is to simply focus on the dog’s natural needs. All dogs want to be safe and part of a strong group with respected leaders. Since he clearly understood that food was a trigger that often created an unsafe environment, he should establish their environments where this did not occur.
- I recommended that he feed the two dogs separately in different rooms with someone with them. This assures their comfort in the food/eating situation and also shows that the person with them is protecting not only them, but their meal.
- They should remove all food toys from the house to remove the problem of a “forgetful act” by a family member.
- Be very vigilant when the dogs are around and family members are eating. I suggested that they put the dogs in other areas when family members are having snacks on the sofa watching TV. Even the food is not directly available to them; it can be in their vicinity if they come over to sit next to the family member with a plate of nachos.
- Keep the dogs on leashes when guests are over. It is very hard to make sure that the guests won’t drop a piece of food or give one of the dogs some food. Having the dogs on leashes gives him the opportunity to stop and redirect them if an errant piece of food drops on the ground.
- Always have their favorite toys available and encourage them to play with them whenever food is being served or available.
- Make sure they get plenty of energetic playtime in the back yard so that they are more focused on relaxing and sleeping than focused on a piece of food on the ground.
Since it is next to impossible to determine the root cause for the aggression, the next best thing is to remove the action that triggers it. In so doing, my client is providing the safe environment his dogs naturally require. Also, decreasing the active triggers presented to them, over time, may decrease or eliminate their aggressive behavior.
Sometimes the best answer lies in following the old Vaudeville joke when the patient tells the doctor that it “hurts when I do this” and the doctor replies “then, don’t do that”.
Please call us at (770) 718-7704 it you are in need of any dog training help. We have a lot of good dog training advice at Best Dog Trainers Gainesville Georgia. Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Gainesville Georgia.