When your dog becomes overprotective of its food, starts to growl, bark, and snap at you it means the canine is guarding its resources. This is also called food aggression, and sometimes the owner can get seriously hurt if they try to feed the dog while the animal is defensive. Therefore, it’s good to know why your four-legged friend is behaving violently in the first place, so that you could do something about it.
Why Do Dogs Guard Their Food?
It May Begin Early in the Development
According to experts, food guarding may begin very early, when puppies are faced with limited food supplies and they have to fight for their own share of the meal. Resource guarding is usually the result of dog’s insecurity. They don’t feel like they’ll be able to get enough food unlike other litter-mates, so they fight for it aggressively. On the other hand, if the puppies are taught to protect their food so that someone doesn’t steal it, the dog will also practice resource guarding later in life. Some of the training methods include giving the food to the dog and once it starts to eat, taking the bowl away from them. This training method is highly stressful for the dog, so they tend to develop food aggression.
The Effects of the Environment
For dogs who spend most of their lives in a shelter, food guarding will be a common behavior. Since they don’t know whether the next meal is going to happen soon, or at all, they’ll be very anxious and protective of their food. However, many shelters have recently worked on lowering the dog’s anxiety by developing a feeding programm that encourages free-feeding and constant food supplies. Therefore, if you plan to get a dog from a shelter, be sure to provide them with their own dog bowl and enough food to make them feel secure. Getting a nice bowl from Peter’s of Kensington or a similar store is always a good choice.
Genes can highly affect the behavior of the dog. For example, genetics is the reason for Border Collie’s herding instinct. Additionally, dogs have an innate need to guard their property from other predators. Many dogs who were faced with the life in wilderness have the urge to fight for their food, and guard it from other animals in order to survive.
It’s All Natural
Resource guarding is, after all, a natural behavior. It’s an instinctual reaction that helps animals survive in the wild. This behaviour can vary from mild ‒ when a dog just gets a bit stiff ‒ to severe, in which case your canine friend will growl or maybe even bite you as you try to reach its food bowl.
However, you could do a couple of things to calm the dog down, and stop them from acting out. Be sure never to tease the dog. Sometimes children consider it as a way to play with the dog, but it will only make the things worse. Furthermore, instead of putting the food in a bowl, you may opt for hand feeding. What’s more, feed the dog a small portion of food as a regular meal, and use the rest as a reward for playtime, inhibition training, obedience training, and other exercises. Finally, make the dog feel at ease with other people and let your friends or neighbors feed them. Not only will this reduce food aggression, but also help the dog associate people with positive events.
Resource guarding can be the result of numerous situations the dog has been through. From having to face low food supplies to genetic factors, the reasons are truly diverse. However, with some training the aggressive behavior can be controlled.