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My dog is very friendly and social and has never shown aggression pertaining to toys, and has received treats with another dog in a training class before without a problem. However, on two occasions now he's gotten aggressive and snapped at another dog when given treats.

The first time happened a few days after I got him, he was given a bone and my dad's dog was also given a bone, but he was more interested in the other dogs bone and tried to sniff it. The other dog snarled and my dog suddenly started snarling too and a scuffle broke out for a few seconds. No one was harmed but we separated them after that.

Today, three months since then, he had another incident at the dog park. He was in a group of dogs, some familiar, some new, but they were all playing and getting along. Then one dogs owner started to give them all treats, and sort of spread them around to eat up. My dog suddenly started snarling and snapped at another dog. I pulled him away and held him until it was all gone, and her was able to go back without problems and played with the dogs for the rest of the evening. No one was harmed.

So my question is, is this resource gaurding and how can I fix it? He's an only dog so we never have this problem at home, and it's only cropped up twice in the 4 months I've owned him. He never demonstrates aggression or resource gaurding in any other instance, like with toys or balls, so I'm very alarmed by this behavior. Is it just the free-feeding of treats that should be considered a trigger? I'm so stumped and I don't want him to get into a serious fight and get hurt or hurt another dog.
 

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I should also note that he never guards when people are taking things from him, it's possible to take a treat or food right out of his mouth and he won't even flinch.
 

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Yes, attacking other dogs for proximity to food is resource guarding. Dogs often will RG against other dogs but be OK with people taking their things. It doesn't necessarily mean he will ever RG against people. It is possible it will only be a problem with treats or bones around other dogs, it's possible it may become a problem with toys/balls as well.

While it's just a problem with treats/bones, I think you have to ask yourself whether or not it's something you want to change or whether you can just manage it. Like I said, there is a chance it may become a problem with other things if left alone, and working with him now to overcome this issue would mean it probably would not be a problem in the future, but from the sound of it it's not really a huge issue now.

If this were my dog, I would probably just keep an eye on it for a little while before I took any drastic steps. If it happened a few more times or escalated I would then take action. I would go over preventative measures to prevent resource guarding against people- take his food bowl in the middle of the meal and then give him some treats, give it back, and then let him eat for a little before doing it again. Give him a bone (without other dogs present) and take it, give him a high value treat, give him the bone again, let him chew, and then take it and give him a treat again, etc. Teaching him that people taking things means he gets something even better and then often gets the object he wants back anyways.

To me, resource guarding food against other dogs isn't a huge deal because it can be managed, especially if he is the only do in your household. Don't allow bones out around other dogs and if you choose to go to dog parks keep an eye out for food. If there is food, call him back to you and move away from the food, keep him attentive to you/away from other dogs until the food is gone. If he doesn't have reliable enough recall to come to you in this situation then I would say he isn't ready to be at a dog park for safety reasons. Dog parks are relatively risky places (especially for smaller dogs) and I don't like to go to them until I know that I can call my dog back to me quickly and safely if I need to. It is generally bad etiquette to have food out a lot at a dog park unless you know the dogs there, or at least to be giving dogs treats without asking their owners (for reasons of food allergies and for this exact reason: it may create an unsafe situation), but people are often idiots.

Look into counter conditioning for treating resource guarding in dogs. I think this issue is still mild enough that you might be able to work on it without a trainer, but the only way to work on this issue is if you have a second dog that is trust worthy, stable, calm and well trained and doesn't have issues with resource guarding against other dogs. You will also need 2 people- one to handle the "trigger" (other dog) and then one (you) to handle your dog. Treating Resource Guarding against people with counter conditioning is not that complicated and much easier than working on the same issues with other dogs simply because in the first scenario humans are the trigger and it is easy to work with a human because we can say "ok, stop doing that, that isn't helping" while with a dog we simply have to have a dog trained well enough to listen to us and ignore the other dog. Often trainers will have access to a stable, trust worthy dog to use in this exercise that either belongs to a client that they know well (possibly even a friend) or is their own dog. You can't really work on this issue if all you have access to is dogs that also resource guard, because you want to start with the lowest possible stressor, which would just be the presence of the other dog that is ignoring him.
This is an example of Sophia Yin, who was a great behaviorist/trainer explaining this issue and working with a dog who has this issue while using her own dog (the Jack Russel) as a "trigger". You can see how focused her JRT is on her, completely ignoring that there is another dog in the room- that is what you need:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1a6BF1pExZQ&nohtml5=False
In your case the "treat and train" machine would be you or the person handling your dog.
 

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Keep in mind that it is primal instinct for a dog to get aggressive regarding food, sex or illness/injury, so 'training' to subvert natural instinct is quite a long process (assuming proper training...not abusive tactics which I would nobody should use). From what you described, I wouldn't worry about it much, as long as the behavior doesn't expand and you take simple measures to with that behavior in mind). I have four large dogs, and they all exhibit that same behavior on very rare occasions (unfortunately I do have one of them whose behavior is starting to grow beyond that and I opened up a topic here for it seeking help).

What I do to combat this is when I offer treats, pills (pills are issued with peanut butter), or any other food item, I make sure that I have all dogs' direct attention. They don't have to be necessarily sitting down, but looking straight at me. I then call whoever I am going to give a treat to and start to reach for them. If even a single dog even turns their head to follow the food item, I pull back and start over (calling the name, slowing reaching forward, etc....). Also, if the dogs are bunched up like that, I would NEVER toss the treat to them (ricochet or missed treat opportunities/problems). I would only toss them a treat if they were at least three feet apart. This insures that missed treats or ricochets do not cause a riot, and if one is missed, and another dog moves toward it, you have to be assertive (not mean) to stop their progress toward the food. If it bounces at dog B, let them have it and re-issue the treat to Dog A. In my case, it also helps that all the dogs like each other. If the dogs have personality conflicts (like people do), make sure that dogs don't get bunched up at treat time.

Hope that this helps.
 

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Thanks for the suggestions! Thankfully it's not too severe and not something we encounter all that often, so I think I'm going to opt to manage it by avoiding situations when there are treats in an off-leash situation. Oddly enough he was around when someone else whipped out some treats at the dog park the other day and didn't react badly at all. I pulled him away, but no RG behavior... So weird. Our local park does have a rule posted against this, but people sometimes bring them anyways, so I guess I will just have to keep an eye out when he's out there to make sure he doesn't get get the opportunity. Thanks! :)
 

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I have the same problem. I rescued my dog as a young puppy, but he had been fed from a large bowl that he and his other siblings had to share, and I think it permanently hardwired him to guard his food. I handfed him consistently for the first few months and played take it-leave it games and he's fine for me, but can be iffy with strangers and definitely not good around other dogs. I tried my best to prevent/treat it, and at this point he just has to be managed around other dogs. He gets chews and food in his crate. He used to get snappy about treating involving other dogs, but lots of repetition on leash has helped and he's not as bad anymore.
 
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