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Discussion Starter #1
(New to the forums- it's been a great resource so far!)
My 7 year old hound dog has been high-strung most of his life. He often chooses goodies to 'guard', and is very aggressive when another family member (human or feline) comes near. We've solved this problem when it comes to everything...except food.

He has very little interest in eating his food, but will sometimes sit nearby and 'bay' (that lovely hound dog bark- "Woo!") until someone comes in the room. If that someone is a human, he may wag his tail and walk away. If that someone is a cat, he'll bark and chase them away.
However, if he does decide to actually eat the food and someone (human or feline) walks in to the room, sporadically, (I would say 10-25% of the time) he lunges at them- barking, growling, baring his teeth, and frequently biting. (He's drawn blood on my brother, father, and one cat during these incidents)

Barring these neurotic episodes, he's a wonderful, friendly, sweet dog.
We've managed to reduce the encounters dramatically by taking him on more outdoor outings and doing 'tricks-for-treats' more often; I believe a lot of this is because he gets bored and frustrated in the house.

I have a new idea about how to address these issues further (fighting his boredom helps, but we still feel mistrustful of him). I'd like your input.
-Take some time to practice calling him, asking him to sit, then putting down the bowl with a small 'goodie' in it. This utilizes the 'Nothing in Life is Free' and shows that good things come from us.
-Add something yummy (like gravy) to his food, encouraging him to eat it right away, rather than leave it for later, and repeat the process above (call, command, give).
-Pick the bowl up after a half hour/he leaves it (never before he leaves it!) leaving nothing for him to get upset with the cats over.
-As time goes on and he learns to eat the food when it's given, slowly faze out the gravy- that stuff's expensive!

I know it's a long post, but I'd love some input. I love him to pieces, but it's hard to trust him sometimes.
 

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Really, what you describe IS pretty common food aggression. I would hand feed for a while. Asking for a behavior before you drop a few kibbles into the bowl you are holding. Then ask for more behavior, then add a few more. I would never leave the bowl down. I would teach a strong "leave it" and I would teach him to go to a bed on cue. I'd never try to take his food away while he's eating. And if he warns you, believe him (cuts down on getting bitten) and change the subject (have someone ring the doorbell to get his attention, or scatter treats so you can pick up the guarded object) A useful book to read would be "Mine" by Jean Donaldson.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I guess I've only seen food aggression as shown by Cesar Milan (head in the bowl, snarling). My mistake. (For the record, I did attempt to learn his techniques for a time, until I realized that using them on my dog were excacerbating the problems)
We've never taken the food away (except for a time when we took it as a consequence to the aggression. It was a mislead effort, but we've been learning for a while), and there's literally no time between the growl and the bite, so unfortunately, if he's going to hurt us, there's no way to avoid it.
 

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I guess I've only seen food aggression as shown by Cesar Milan (head in the bowl, snarling). My mistake. (For the record, I did attempt to learn his techniques for a time, until I realized that using them on my dog were excacerbating the problems)
We've never taken the food away (except for a time when we took it as a consequence to the aggression. It was a mislead effort, but we've been learning for a while), and there's literally no time between the growl and the bite, so unfortunately, if he's going to hurt us, there's no way to avoid it.
Unfortunately, Cesar Millan's techniques tend to get people bitten (why there is that disclaimer on the show about not trying it yourself). If you learn to watch your dog, you can probably notice his discomfort before he even gets to the growl. He will probably lower his head in the direction of the guarded object and freeze. That's a clue. If you take his food away from him, you've just told him that his anxiety (which is what resource guarding actually is) is well founded. You ARE out to get his stuff. And if you don't notice or ignore his lower level signs of anxiety, he'll learn that there's no sense in giving subtle signs. Biting is what gets you to back off. Your goal is to change his perception so he sees you being around the food as a good thing that leads to getting what he wants.
 

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Please listen to Pawz. She knows what shes talking about and has given you some solid advice.

I also recommend watching your dog more closely, in everyday life but especially around meal time. Look at his posture. Are his ears relaxed? What about his mouth? Is it open in a loose smile or closed? How is his tail positioned?

The easiest clue for me to see in dogs that I don't know well is the 'freezing'. It may be very quick, but its there. If your dog stops what hes doing and stands still as a statue with his mouth closed, you better leave him alone. Once your dog realizes you are starting to understand/respect his signals, he will be more apt to keep giving you more signals instead of biting and aggressing immediately.

I also want to strongly encourage you to not reinforce your dogs fears by taking his food away. Hand feed him so he begins to recognize that owner=food. If you do put food down, respect his boundaries.

Although they are not about food aggression in particular, have you read Patricia McConnells The Other End of the Leash? Or Turid Rugaas Calming Signals?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I forgot to mention that I have done some hand-feeding recently, but not consistently.
As I said, a lot of these things we have tried in the past, due to our own misguidedness, and have long since stopped. I will readily confess that these mislead methods have probably contributed to his insecurities. I feel bad about that, and I wish I'd known about other methods from the start, but I can't undo it.
 

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Pick up the booklet Mine by Jean Donaldson(the author of Culture Clash).

The two best things I did for my resource guarder:
1. Object exchanges. I offer her a high value treat(or two or five) while I take the object. Eventually, I didn't have to wave a treat in her face. I just say "Can I have that?", she wags her tail, and may or may not get treats or whatever value.
2. Open bar, closed bar type thing. In the beginning, I'd toss treats if I just happened to be walking by while she was eating or chewing whatever. When she began to associate my presence with a jackpot, I started wlking toward her and tossing the treats. Nowadays, I still randomly walk over and put cheese cubes straight into her bowl because I do not want her to regress.

But kudos to you for coming around to new methods.
 

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Pick up the booklet Mine by Jean Donaldson(the author of Culture Clash).

The two best things I did for my resource guarder:
1. Object exchanges. I offer her a high value treat(or two or five) while I take the object. Eventually, I didn't have to wave a treat in her face. I just say "Can I have that?", she wags her tail, and may or may not get treats or whatever value.
2. Open bar, closed bar type thing. In the beginning, I'd toss treats if I just happened to be walking by while she was eating or chewing whatever. When she began to associate my presence with a jackpot, I started wlking toward her and tossing the treats. Nowadays, I still randomly walk over and put cheese cubes straight into her bowl because I do not want her to regress.

But kudos to you for coming around to new methods.
Yes, object exchange is great. Make sure you're always trading up: if the dog is chewing on a raw hide, you're going to want to offer a meaty bone to make him want to give it up. If you're uncomfortable taking something away, start with low value stuff that the dog won't guard, and then work your way up to high value stuff.
 

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Yes, object exchange is great. Make sure you're always trading up: if the dog is chewing on a raw hide, you're going to want to offer a meaty bone to make him want to give it up. If you're uncomfortable taking something away, start with low value stuff that the dog won't guard, and then work your way up to high value stuff.
Yes. And I think it is important to work on this stuff as a training situation - when you are ready to respond with the good stuff. As I tell my students, you don't want to wait until you REALLY need these behaviors to try to teach them. Because when you need them, sometimes it's very important. And you should be able to depend on the dog's response by then.
 
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