How to help food aggression with new dog

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How to help food aggression with new dog

This is a discussion on How to help food aggression with new dog within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Hi everyone, I’m new! I apologize if this isn’t the right forum or if I do something incorrectly, but I’ve been looking for help with ...

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Old 05-05-2018, 10:10 PM
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How to help food aggression with new dog

Hi everyone, I’m new! I apologize if this isn’t the right forum or if I do something incorrectly, but I’ve been looking for help with my new dog, Luca.

Some background to help; I currently own three dogs, Sadie, Milo and Rocky. I made the mistake of rescuing two intact boys, Milo and Rocky, that were the same age at the same time and they had constant fights growing up. However, now that both are fixed, they’re fine. They are both terriers and a year old. Sadie is a collie and is a great dog all around, aside from her food aggression. As a pup, she was fed out of a bucket by her breeder (along with six other puppies) and I believe this went into developing her food aggressive behavior. We still have issues with her, but isn’t as severe as it was when she was younger (she’s currently 3). Namely, it pops up when my parents visit and sneak human food. That issue aside, she no longer has food aggression with my other dogs so long as it isn’t human food and only dog food is available. She will let them eat and they coexist well.

However, I recently took in another collie that needed a home. He is a little older, probably around six. I slowly introduced him to Sadie, on neutral ground and tried not to give him special treatment. Although I believe he was abused, and is somewhat timid, he is a fantastic dog with a great personality. He’s about the same size as Sadie. They play great together outside, and we didn’t have any issues until food got involved. I tried a schedule when Sadie was younger but it made her food aggression worse, as she couldn’t wait to settle in with the schedule and was too fearful of when her next meal would be. So, when I did feed them on the schedule, she would gobble everyone’s food down and become defensive. As a result, my boyfriend and I “free feed”, as in keeping food out constantly. The dogs only eat when hungry and this has worked well. We also have multiple food bowls around the house in case someone tried to block all of them (though it hasn’t been an issue yet).

With Luca now in the picture, Sadie will not let him eat. Ever. If she hears him eating, sees him eating or thinks he’s bending his head down to eat, she attacks him. While he tries to jump away from her, she aggressively pursued him to the point he bites back. They’re both so thick with fur, so far there was only one small cut on Sadie’s ear (or maybe it sounded worse than it looked, but I doubt it). She isn’t doing this with Milo or Rocky, only Luca. It has gotten to the point I have to put her in another room or in her crate until Luca feels comfortable enough to eat. I know it’s stressing him out, especially because he peed on his food bowl last time he ate.

Even in a crate, she snarls at him but will eventually calm down into a whine, as if she’s upset she’s missing out on something. I show her that it’s the same food but it doesn’t reassure her in anyway. I don’t know if she’s afraid he will take all her food or if she thinks he’s eating something special. Sadie is a great dog, despite these new horrific incidents, and it’s very unlike her. Though she did have it as a young dog, it’s been cleared up mostly for years now. I’m afraid someone is going to get hurt and if I can help in anyway, I’d like not to have to rehome Luca. Sadie stays with the neighbors too, and she hasn’t, recently, had any incidents like this either when they feed their dogs and mine. It’s just Luca, new to her environment, that has someone turned her into a grimlin.

If anyone has a solution or maybe knows what might be causing this, please let me know. My boyfriend has tried yelling at her, but I read some places that makes it worse. He then wanted a vibration collar we could trigger when she becomes aggressive, but I also think that’s the wrong direction. I tried feeding them outside out of my hands but soon as I went to feed Luca, Sadie viciously tore at her leash (that my boyfriend was holding) and moved to hold him down... even after taking the exact same food minutes before.

Thanks, I’m sorry for the novel.... LOL
Have a great weekend!
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Old 05-16-2018, 12:30 PM
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Sorry for the late response.

For some reason certain individual dogs can trigger other dogs more than usual. It may be their size, age, gender, personality, arrival time (since Luca is the most recent addition), etc.

You mentioned trying to feed on a schedule but that Sadie became stressed. What did that look like? Did she pace or whine? Did she become aggressive before the food came into play? If not, you may just try feeding them all in separate rooms (Sadie first so she is out of the picture with the others) and than picking up the bowls before letting them all out.

It can be hard to find the right trainer for your dog, but if you can find someone your comfortable with and who seems to know what they are doing they can assess the situation and help find solutions as well.

I do believe that free-feeding is leading to the guarding behavior. Dogs naturally want to protect food (some more than others) even when full. Since she had to learn to defend food as a puppy, its even more ingrained in her brain that in order to always have enough to eat protecting food is the best option. Probably your other two dogs were introduced young, and you mentioned they were terriers, so they are probably smaller as well. Their size and age probably influenced how she acted towards them.

It may just take time, but if the stress is too much, considering finding Luca another home should not make you feel ashamed. Sometimes dogs aren't the right fit (with the owner, other dogs or household/schedule), and the stress isn't fair on them. I would certainly try some other options first, but know that finding him a wonderful home where he can relax is not a bad thing if it becomes necessary.

I hope this helps!
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