Not Sure about Food Aggression

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Not Sure about Food Aggression

This is a discussion on Not Sure about Food Aggression within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Tonight, I decided to see what my Pit Bull mix puppy would tolerate when it came to her food. I played with and tugged (lightly!) ...

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Old 05-12-2018, 11:41 PM
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Not Sure about Food Aggression

Tonight, I decided to see what my Pit Bull mix puppy would tolerate when it came to her food.

I played with and tugged (lightly!) at her ears, pet her on her head, stuck my hand in the bowl and touched the food and took some. Through all of that she was totally fine and didn’t react much besides trying to move her head so I couldn’t get her ears which was understandable. No growling or snaps or anything - she just kept eating.

However when I started to pet her cheeks and closer to her mouth, I got warning growls and then she snapped at my hand. She gave me enough warning for me to know that she didn’t like that before the snap and almost as soon as she bit, she went back to her food. She didn’t hold on long enough or hard enough to do anything but stun me a little bit.

My question is whether this needs to be corrected or if this is acceptable behavior.

Thanks!
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Old 05-13-2018, 01:09 AM
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I advise that you do NOT do any forms of correction or punishment. This will only worsen the behavior.

She is likely resource guarding. She feels unsafe in regards to you being near her mouth/food in that situation. She's learned that she has to resort to biting. (Side note: If you end up punishing her for growling, she may learn that it's ineffective and will skip straight into biting).

You said she's a puppy - signs of biting in regards to guarding resources is serious and can worsen. Please contact a local trainer who does behavior modification based in positive and reward based training.

Punishment and correction is not the answer here. You must gain your puppy's trust so that she doesn't feel as if she should need to protect her stuff from you.
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Old 05-13-2018, 11:14 AM
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It honestly sounds like you were being very annoying and rude to her and she tolerated a lot and gave appropriate warnings before going to bite. How would you feel if someone came up to you while you were eating dinner and started touching you and your face and your food? Dogs are individuals with feelings and autonomy too.

Dogs become aggressive when they feel threatened or in danger and I attended a seminar on fearful dogs where the trainer presenting (Debbie Jacobs) theorized that possessive aggression is the dog feeling its survival is threatened because they often become possessive of things they feel is important to their survival. If you don’t eat, you die. It’s a pretty common instinct. Your dog has to trust you and trust that you won’t steal the food that is important to her survival.

I would just give her space and let her feel safe and relaxed while she eats. You can have training sessions with treats, kibble, or chews to teach her to feel more comfortable as well. Jean Donaldson has a great book on resource guarding called Mine! that’s is pretty cheap to order online and has several different exercises you can use to modify resource guarding behavior.

You can also try handfeeding as explained in this video by Victoria Stilwell:

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xjpP5EZC7HI

Hopefully this post is easy to read because my phone always adds in weird symbols when I post through the PetGuide app.
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Old 05-17-2018, 06:21 AM
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Personally, I would never do what you did. IMO, that teaches food aggression. If you want to prevent it, put 1 or 2 small, yummy pieces of treats in her bowl while she's eating. Since she's already showing some aggression, just toss it next to her bowl to start. She'll start viewing your hand as sort of a "Treat Pez-Dispenser", which is a good thing. After a week or two, as long as she doesn't show any sort of aggression, you can reach down and just matter of factly pick up her bowl. Put more yummy treats in it and give it back, immediately. Only do it once a feeding or once a day. After a while of doing this, hopefully, you can reach down and just put a treat in her bowl. If she still shows aggression, you might need a good trainer who is experienced in dealing with aggression using positive reinforcement. Good Luck!

Last edited by Koby; 05-17-2018 at 06:29 AM.
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Old 05-17-2018, 08:14 AM
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I would personally never push the dog to the point where they feel threatened about their food. I’d sometimes play with cosmos food in my hand when he was a puppy but I’d never touch or push or harass him, only touch his food or sometimes pet his back but that’s really it. There is really no reason to touch or bother a dog while they’re eating. If you’re worried about their reaction to kids touching them while they eat, essentially what you’ve just done is you’ve taught the dog that it’s necessary to react in order to be left alone. It sounds like you didn’t even stop when he was being polite and growled to ask you to stop so he resorted to biting.

I’d stop messing with him while he’s eating and just reinstill the idea that you bring around while he’s eating is a good thing but dropping treats around his bowl and tossing them into his bowl (like cheese chicken etc)
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Old 05-17-2018, 04:54 PM
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How would you correct something you created? We create patterns of action reactions with our dogs/children. You doing as you were was setting the pattern that the dog will have to be defensive over food. As everyone else stated stop unless that is what your are choosing to teach him. Testing a situation is different then egging it on.
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Old 05-27-2018, 02:03 PM
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I’m not sure that I worded what I did and why I did it correctly.

As soon as I got a reaction, I stopped. I left the room, I let her eat her food on her own and even now when she’s eating I consider that to be time for her to be alone.

Obviously I’m not going to continue pissing my dog off. Her reaction (in my mind) was totally justified - I would’ve done the same thing she had if someone was messing with my food but I figured that if she did have some food aggression it would be better to know about it than to have something go wrong, especially since we have another dog in the house.

Thank you for those of you who have given me ideas on how to work with her on this!
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