Hello all. Thanks for reading my post. My dog is a rescue animal, german shepherd/cane corso mix. He's 2 years old and is relatively intelligent, definately an alpha type personality. He is very easy to train and understands well all of the basic commands along with some advanced ones like going downstairs when I tell him. He understands most things I say but there is one behavior I haven't been able to stop in the year that I've had him.
Occasionally someone in the family will give him some table scraps. If anyone pets him more than a passing hand on the back while he's eating he will stop eating, tense up ever so slightly and emit a low growl. It seems that approaching him with your body turned towards him and reaching down to pet his back while he's eating is what triggers the behavior. If you walk by and give him a quick pet he doesn't do anything.
Even after he growls we can stick our hands in the food, move it around, feed him by hand, the aggression does not escalate. It's as though he's not guarding the food itself but just uncomfortable with being petted while eating.
A few months ago I started feeding him scraps by hand again, crouching next to his dish, picking pieces up out of it and feeding him myself to try to get him to relax. I've tried walking up and dropping something better in his dish to get him to want humans around him while he eats. I've tried many of the things from books that are everywhere, all in combination. The end result is that now he does not want to come to eat at all when we get done and call his name. He just sits there, looking uncomfortable. When I coax him to come get it, giving him plenty of reassurance along the way, he will start eating. But the minute I pet him he will stop eating and growl.
Does anyone know how to solve this? I'm well aware that a dog should not be growling at humans, ever. I don't know how to get him to relax. Thanks in advance.