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Hi, I have a 6 month old puppy. I was out of town for 10 days and her dog walker stayed at my house with her. I came back two days ago, and since I've returned she's been displaying very scary food aggression. She now growls at me when she is eating if I walk near her, and she growled at me and bared her teeth when she was chewing on a bone. I took the bone away from her and she tried to bite me. As soon as the bone was out of her sight, she was back to her normal self again. I take things from her mouth all the time (she's a puppy so often has something in her mouth she shouldn't) and she's never growled at me before. I'm really distraught that she would threaten me like that, and I want to get this solved before she gets any older. I should also mention that I live in Bangladesh (I found the pup abandoned in a trash pile when she was about a month old) so hiring an animal behaviorist is not an option for me right now. Please help!
 

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Try hand feeding your dog, and when you want to take something away, trade it for another high value item. Over time, your dog will learn to trust you. Right now (to the dog) it just looks like you are taking something very high value to them away from them.

Aaand I am pretty sure someone else will give you more detailed advice soon lol. My dog came with resource guarding issues too. He wouldn't let me take any of his food/chew toys away from him. Now I can take it away without any problems (only after three months!). It definitely can be worked on without a behaviorist ^_^
 

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^ this. Hand feed him the entire meal, they will learn to associate your hands with yumms not punishment (taking the bone away). And always always always praise/reward when you take away something he wants or is guarding.

And kudos to you for rescuing a puppy =)
 

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Thank you! I hand fed her tonight...she was confused but ate it without any problems. Will continue to do this until she's nicer during meal times ;-)
 

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Food aggression isn't a dominant behavior. . .it's really a fear behavior, even though it doesn't seem like it. For some reason, she's now scared that you're going to take everything away from her, so she's protecting her belongings. You need to help her trust that you won't take all her stuff, and that you won't take anything without a good reason. So keep it up with the handfeeding, every now and then toss something super tasty into her bowl while she's eating, or drop it near her while she's chewing a bone, when she has a bone and you need to take it, trade her for something super yummy (that she likes more than bones), that kind of thing. Just so she knows that you're not out to steal all her yummy things.
 

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The behavior is called resource guarding, and it's very common but also relatively easy to work with IMO. The suggestion to hand feed meals is a great one, I think. The other thing that helped my resource guarder a lot was to give him super awesome things when he was eating, so that FOOD BOWL + HUMAN = YUMMY TREATS instead of FOOD BOWL + HUMAN = SCARY THIEF. Start by just dropping high value treats like tiny pieces of chicken while you just walk by, then when your dog starts to happily anticipate you walking by instead of tensing up or growling, start handing them to your dog directly.

There's a good book called "Mine!" by Jean Donaldson that has a good discussion of resource guarding. It's short and inexpensive, and a really valuable resource IMO.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks everybody! Just a follow up question- she is not spayed yet. She will be next week (was supposed to be spayed yesterday, but got an ear infection so now is on antibiotics and so the vet wants to wait). Will spaying her lead to a decrease in aggressive behavior?
 

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Thanks everybody! Just a follow up question- she is not spayed yet. She will be next week (was supposed to be spayed yesterday, but got an ear infection so now is on antibiotics and so the vet wants to wait). Will spaying her lead to a decrease in aggressive behavior?
In short, no. What little evidence we have on spaying and aggression seems to point to an increase in aggressive behavior post spay, rather than a decrease. That said, it's unlikely spaying her will create new aggression, but you should have no expectations for the surgery other than sterilization.
 

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You've gotten good advice so far! I would also suggest that you do a search for "trading up" or the "trade up" game. Although it is termed a game in some of the info you'll find, it's really a way of training your dog to give something up willingly with no problem, because you are offering something good in return.
It STARTS with a trade. Then, you can add a word/cue to it (like "drop"). So, you are giving the "trade" a name/command. Then, you start giving the cue word/command first, but, still giving the trade. Then, you can hopefully start to fade out the trade, so you are asking her to "drop" and she does, because she's gotten so good at doing that naturally, and at trusting you.

Of course, I've just given a short description and this takes lots of time and practice, but, it's a good way to work with our dog on this.
And, remember, as others have said, it's a fear issue, so be careful about labeling her "aggressive". That has such a negative connotation, and, it might change the way YOU look at your dog if you consider her to be aggressive.
 

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I think there's been some progress...today I was able to take her bone away from her with no problems by offering her a small piece of cheese instead...and we've had some lovely hand feeding times. Thank you for the advice...will stick with it and hopefully the improvement will be permanent!
 

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I suggest the same "hand feed", I can take anything from my dogs mouth without her growling at me. She's well trained dog never got growling issue with her.
 

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I think there's been some progress...today I was able to take her bone away from her with no problems by offering her a small piece of cheese instead...and we've had some lovely hand feeding times. Thank you for the advice...will stick with it and hopefully the improvement will be permanent!
Awesome! Yay for progress ^_^
 

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Bumping because I've tried everything mentioned here. My mutt, Momo, is 4 and I've been working with him for the last 2 years on food aggression. He gets better and then he'll just decide, meh, enough - grrrrrr! He's taken nips at me and I've decided he simply cannot have rawhides or bones - he's just too aggressive with those and only I'm safe . . . 90% of the time.

I can handle him when he's aggressive. We have 'leave it' and when he's super aggressive I have 'back up' which means for him to take a few steps back. We've traded up, I use leave it, hand feed, take food away (after telling him to leave it) when he starts growling and given it back with praise when he stops growling and, when I just have nothing left in me I'll feed him in his crate. It's an exhausting process and sometimes I just can't do it, I'm mentally drained over the constant fight.

He's a very energetic dog. He runs from 9 am to 9 pm in our yard chasing squirrels, birds and lizards (we're on a little more than 1 acre) with little down time so I don't know how much other exercise I could give him. He's inexhaustible! The only time I've been able to tucker him out is when he was used at the boarding place as the 'go to' guy for play time. He's got a great temperament and can play with just about any type of dog so they used him all day for five days. He was down for the count for one day, then he was back to his hyperactive self.

Okay, so there's background on what I've tried and how much exercise he gets (common questions asked). My concern isn't for My welfare, it's for others. I'm normally the one to feed him, but when we visit my niece (8) she might wander too close to him when he's found something interesting and I want to ensure her safety, for example.

I did hand feeding every day for two months and I go back to it when he gets snarly because it does work, but surely the aggression has got to stop permanently at Some point, right?! Or do I have to hand feed forever? He knows I'm in charge. He doesn't get to win tug of war, humans and other dogs go through doors first, he has to sit, then wait to be invited in or allowed to go out, not allowed to beg, etc . . . . He sits, stays, lays down, shakes, high fives, plays dead, submits, 'stands', goes to his mat, patiently waits while I wipe mud off his feet and I can put a treat on his nose and have him hold it until I say 'break' so it's not like he's lacking discipline or training. It's just food or super special meaty treats that make him forget all that training. I haven't noticed anything that would kick off the behavior, either.

Here's a normal feeding routine for us now: Break! He eats a few bites. When he starts wolfing it down, Leave it! He stops to chew, practically choking because he's trying to eat it so fast. Upon swallowing, break! Rinse, repeat, until the food's all gone. Should I just let him wolf it down? From what I've read that's one of the tell tale signs of resource guarding / food aggression and when they eat at a reasonable pace you're in good standing.

Sorry it's long, I just want to give a full understanding of what I'm doing and what he's doing so we skip suggestions we've already tried. If we can get this addressed he'll be a perfectly mannered pooch.
 

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I think I might get snarly if someone kept making me stop eating. . .just let him have his food. If he chokes you can put some big rocks/balls/etc. in his bowl to slow him down or get a slow-feeder bowl. I've always felt it was natural for dogs to wolf their food down---hence the term "wolf it down", LOL. But, yeah, since resource guarding is a fear that you'll take it away, help him see that he doesn't need to worry about that. Bugging him while he eats is probably not the best way to convey that his food is safe from marauders :p.

Have you just tried calmly tossing yummy treats in his food bowl as you casually walk by?
 

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If someone was messing with my food I'd be snarky...but then again I also tell people I'm more likely to bite than my dog.

I would go the slow feeder/bowl route for the gulping to prevent choking but also show him that hands near food can be a good thing. When he has something he likes to guard and you don't mind him chewing on. Offer a yummy treat but don't take away the chew/food. For things you don't want him to have then trade up to something super yummy.

Right now he fears having his food taken away, and by taking it away you are reinforcing that fear.

As for kids and dogs, I'm under the train of thought that kids should be taught to leave sleeping and eating dogs alone and give them plenty of space. And on top of that a kid should never be unsupervised around a dog. The best bet there is to never feed the dog around a kid (feed in a closed room or crate when there's kids around).
It's mostly management when there's kids involved because kids often forget how to properly behave around dogs (not all kids but the vast majority)
 

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Thank y'all. I do 'train' the kiddos. Adults are tougher. :p

I do have a ball that I throw in there, but he's too danged smart and gets around it. I'll just let him be at dinner time. It will be less stressful for Both of us.
 

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If someone was messing with my food I'd be snarky...but then again I also tell people I'm more likely to bite than my dog.

I would go the slow feeder/bowl route for the gulping to prevent choking but also show him that hands near food can be a good thing. When he has something he likes to guard and you don't mind him chewing on. Offer a yummy treat but don't take away the chew/food. For things you don't want him to have then trade up to something super yummy.

Right now he fears having his food taken away, and by taking it away you are reinforcing that fear.

As for kids and dogs, I'm under the train of thought that kids should be taught to leave sleeping and eating dogs alone and give them plenty of space. And on top of that a kid should never be unsupervised around a dog. The best bet there is to never feed the dog around a kid (feed in a closed room or crate when there's kids around).
It's mostly management when there's kids involved because kids often forget how to properly behave around dogs (not all kids but the vast majority)
See, I've never understood the 'getting the dog used to having its food taken away' technique. To me, if I was hungry and some person started taking away my food randomly I would just become MORE protective of my plate, and more likely to lash out the longer it went on.
 

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Bumping because I've tried everything mentioned here. My mutt, Momo, is 4 and I've been working with him for the last 2 years on food aggression. He gets better and then he'll just decide, meh, enough - grrrrrr! He's taken nips at me and I've decided he simply cannot have rawhides or bones - he's just too aggressive with those and only I'm safe . . . 90% of the time.

I can handle him when he's aggressive. We have 'leave it' and when he's super aggressive I have 'back up' which means for him to take a few steps back. We've traded up, I use leave it, hand feed, take food away (after telling him to leave it) when he starts growling and given it back with praise when he stops growling and, when I just have nothing left in me I'll feed him in his crate. It's an exhausting process and sometimes I just can't do it, I'm mentally drained over the constant fight.

He's a very energetic dog. He runs from 9 am to 9 pm in our yard chasing squirrels, birds and lizards (we're on a little more than 1 acre) with little down time so I don't know how much other exercise I could give him. He's inexhaustible! The only time I've been able to tucker him out is when he was used at the boarding place as the 'go to' guy for play time. He's got a great temperament and can play with just about any type of dog so they used him all day for five days. He was down for the count for one day, then he was back to his hyperactive self.

Okay, so there's background on what I've tried and how much exercise he gets (common questions asked). My concern isn't for My welfare, it's for others. I'm normally the one to feed him, but when we visit my niece (8) she might wander too close to him when he's found something interesting and I want to ensure her safety, for example.

I did hand feeding every day for two months and I go back to it when he gets snarly because it does work, but surely the aggression has got to stop permanently at Some point, right?! Or do I have to hand feed forever? He knows I'm in charge. He doesn't get to win tug of war, humans and other dogs go through doors first, he has to sit, then wait to be invited in or allowed to go out, not allowed to beg, etc . . . . He sits, stays, lays down, shakes, high fives, plays dead, submits, 'stands', goes to his mat, patiently waits while I wipe mud off his feet and I can put a treat on his nose and have him hold it until I say 'break' so it's not like he's lacking discipline or training. It's just food or super special meaty treats that make him forget all that training. I haven't noticed anything that would kick off the behavior, either.

Here's a normal feeding routine for us now: Break! He eats a few bites. When he starts wolfing it down, Leave it! He stops to chew, practically choking because he's trying to eat it so fast. Upon swallowing, break! Rinse, repeat, until the food's all gone. Should I just let him wolf it down? From what I've read that's one of the tell tale signs of resource guarding / food aggression and when they eat at a reasonable pace you're in good standing.

Sorry it's long, I just want to give a full understanding of what I'm doing and what he's doing so we skip suggestions we've already tried. If we can get this addressed he'll be a perfectly mannered pooch.
All of that underlined stuff is bogus. Dogs do not care who goes through the door first, who wins at tug o' war, who's allowed on the bed, etc. etc.

I would probably get so rude with someone who kept getting in my face and not allowing me to eat. If I were your dog, you would've already been bitten because I don't have the patience for that nonsense. Lol

He's probably eating his food so fast because he knows you're going to take it from him, and this is exactly why dogs guard their stuff. The point of dealing with a resource guarder is to make them feel like they don't have to guard their stuff. The best thing to do is leave them alone unless you don't have to. Don't bother them.
 

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If someone was messing with my food I'd be snarky...but then again I also tell people I'm more likely to bite than my dog.

I would go the slow feeder/bowl route for the gulping to prevent choking but also show him that hands near food can be a good thing. When he has something he likes to guard and you don't mind him chewing on. Offer a yummy treat but don't take away the chew/food. For things you don't want him to have then trade up to something super yummy.

Right now he fears having his food taken away, and by taking it away you are reinforcing that fear.

As for kids and dogs, I'm under the train of thought that kids should be taught to leave sleeping and eating dogs alone and give them plenty of space. And on top of that a kid should never be unsupervised around a dog. The best bet there is to never feed the dog around a kid (feed in a closed room or crate when there's kids around).
It's mostly management when there's kids involved because kids often forget how to properly behave around dogs (not all kids but the vast majority)
Yes!!!
Exactly!

The method of taking the food away if in 15mins if Roman don't eat will never fly with Roman.
Nor will removing the food to show who is boss is going to work with him.
Like above .. If it happens to me, that waiter "playing tease" with my food will result in zero tips and probably a major complaint to the establishment.

Many dog advice I read also tell you never to "tease" the dog.
Which could also result in a defiant dog who will never be food motivated again (treats to not work).

Roman pretty much since little have free access to food (lunch kibbles).
Hand feed (or mouth to mouth if I feel like it) at least ten - twenty times a day (treats).
Sometimes even hand fed breakfast & sometimes dinner.
Food is never "thrown" to him... Always hand to mouth....
And Roman knows he is spoiled too... Via his own observation.
(Neighbour's dog/s)

And he never once shown any resource guarding issues at all.

I think even Roman's dam (dog themselves) when its time to feed, they don't remove the food unless they want to "fight" over that food.
So... Think, even dogs what are their behaviours that you the humans are observing from dogs themselves.
 

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Update: I've been filling his bowl and just letting him scarf it down since the first response to my post. Life is good.
 
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