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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 13 year old Queensland Heeler and an 8 year old rat terrier mix. With my Queensland getting older and my kids asking more and more for a puppy, I recently brought home a pup from a rescue that I’m told is lab/Queensland mix(jury’s still out). I got him at 10 weeks and he is now 4 months, and he and my terrier are getting into full blown brawls over food lately. The terrier is not at all a snappy little dog or resource guarder type. She and the Queensland would once in a while get into it if the Queensland tried to butt her way into the terriers food bowl, but it was mostly harmless and over quickly. They’ve always ate right next to each other. The short fuse she has with the new pup with the food is something new and it’s becoming dangerous. It was mostly him just being a dumb pup and trying to eat out of everyone’s bowl, but now it almost seems like he intentionally goes to her bowl soon as he’s done with his and he’s ready for a fight. As it’s gotten bad with him, the terrier now gets aggressive with my Queensland around food and it’s far more intense than it’s never been. I’ve been working hard on keeping them calm and patient during feeding time and also separating the terrier now. We’ve been without any fights the past few days, but today I was feeding them a couple treats, the terrier dropped hers, new pup went for it, and it was game on. It’s nearly impossible to break the two of them up as they are relentless once the fight starts. I’ve always been told it’s bad to separate dogs after a fight but if I let them anywhere near each other within 5 minutes of breaking up the fight, they will go right back at it whether there’s food present or not. As my terrier is only about 25lbs and my new pup is about 35lbs at 4 months, you can imagine how worried I am for the terrier as she refuses to back down. My concern is also how uncontrollably aggressive the new pup seems to get at such a young age. Can’t tell if that’s just fear or genuine aggression. They normally coexist just fine and will play and rough house without any problems, but will become worst enemies over food. Not sure what more I can do or if it even can be fixed. Also maybe worth mentioning my new pup is not yet neutered because we wanted to wait until 6 months, but the older dogs are spayed
 

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Separate all three dogs completely whenever food (meals or long lasting chews) are in the equation. Different rooms, crates, whatever - physically & completely separated (& out of sight of each other, preferably)
As far as small, bite-sized treats go, what I do is say each dog's name very clearly as I hand him/her the treat. They learn that ONLY the treat that is connected to their name is for them to have (so no one makes a random grab for something that falls on the floor) This needs to be systematically trained with the dogs all separated several feet apart in a sit/stay at first, and slowly working to closer proximity. Also, training to include NOT eating something that is dropped on the floor (unless released to do so) is important.
 

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Even dogs who play together just fine and are otherwise non-confrontation can become aggressive when it comes to food. It is not at all uncommon. The only way to completely eliminate the problem is separate the dogs when they eat, and pick up the food bowls when they're done. Food should not be left out.

As Bkaymuttleycrew said, you will have to teach the dogs some impulse control about not going for food on the ground, and that they don't get to go after dropped treats. For now, though, I wouldn't feed treats until they are physically separated. You might try putting the puppy in an ex-pen nearby to feed the treats to further eliminate their ability to fight over food. Once the pup is older and has learned some impulse control, you can try keeping them a good distance apart and feeding treats.

You might try doing Doggy Zen with the pup (or all of your dogs, it won't hurt). Here is the instructions. It is the first post on the thread (if you scroll down there's more fun exercises). Do with each separately, of course. You can do with a clicker or marker word (Yes!, Good!) I found this helpful when I was teaching my dog a good "leave it", as well as simple general impulse control. The instructions kind of make it sound like they did the whole thing in one day, but when I started I only added one exercise per day (and not every day) until he mastered each one, then I stuck them all together and occasionally do "refreshers". I think it teaches them to actually think, haha! You'll notice your dog doesn't immediately jump on dropped food anymore, either. They'll at least wait for instructions!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you guys for the responses. I do believe the lack of impulse control of the puppy is the biggest trigger. Also a lot of this is probably my fault as both my older dogs are impulsive to dropped food(They make great vacuum cleaners when you have young kids) but I never really stopped it because the older dogs wouldn’t fight over food.
My other concern is should I be worried about how wild the puppy goes when the fight starts? The noise he makes is like nothing I’ve ever heard. Last week they got into it and when I grabbed him, the terrier came up with him dangling by her ear that was in his mouth. Is it fear or aggression? I always though dogs under a year old didn’t really possess or understand that type of aggression
 

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You would need a behaviorist or a trainer who specializes in aggressive behavior to say for certain. I will say the minimal noise fights are the ones you need to be more concerned about, though. The ones where there's lots of barking and growling and howling are basically lots of noise in an attempt to intimidate the other with little real damage. Neither of them likely really wants to fight. Has the puppy ever broken skin on the terrier? Or vice versa?

It's not fear or aggression per se...it's a dog's genetic drive to defend food. So kind of a fear of losing the food, I suppose, and a willingness to get into a confrontation about it. It is unusual for young puppies to show any type of aggression, but not unheard of, especially where food is involved. Even a dog who loves playing with other dogs and is confident and outgoing in general can become aggressive and get into fights over food. And some dogs, like your two eldest, don't care. Genetics is often the deciding factor in that, although sometimes a dog who otherwise wouldn't be food aggressive might begin to defend food if his dinner or special chews is frequently stolen.
 

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When I get a new dog/puppy, they eat alone in the kitchen for several weeks. After a couple weeks, I introduce a mat, that becomes that dogs "spot" to eat. At meal time, each dog goes to their spot, sits and waits until I set down all bowls and have eye contact from each dog, THEN I release them to eat. They don't leave their spot until all dogs have finished eating. It takes time to train it, but it's worth it. My 3 currently eat about 5' apart from each other with no issues, BUT they are supervised.
If I'm giving a super yummy treat, it does in their bowl with the same rules.
If I'm just giving a biscuit, they all have to sit before getting their treat.
 
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