Generally the higher quality of food such as fresh bones, pig's ears or rawhide chews, the more pronounced the aggression. However, the tendency to guard varies from dog to dog but some breeds do have a higher inclination to guard than others. It can also run in families and it can be learned by pups by their mother or by having to defend food in the litter. Most importantly they can learn it from us
WHAT DO YOU SEE
Every dog is an individual so so may see different responses from each dog and not all are obvious so you need to record and watch carefully to see them. You may only see one or two behaviours or all of them:
- A low level growl , often very quiet
- Lip curling or/and mouth tightening
- The behaviour may proceed to snarling , snapping, lunge to bite
- As you approach they stiffen and 'freeze'- can be a split second or longer
- Sometimes as they look sideways you can see 'white eye' as they stare at you without moving their head
NEVER EVER take Food away from your Puppy or dog as a 'training exercise' as this tends to teach them TO GUARD
Aside from socialisation, there are other high-priority exercises for puppies that are crucial. These are food bowl exercises involving getting your new puppy used to human involvement around their food from early days. Left to themselves, a significant proposition of dogs will become resource guarders and be difficult to be be near when they are eating. This is because they are 'normal' animals, and most definitely not because some canine individual is stubborn or vicious.
So, when feeding your puppy, hang around while he eats and add a small amount of something tastier mid-meal. . Also practice walking up to your puppy while he is eating and dropping a nice morsel in as you walk past . The goal is that your approach reliably predicts something good for the puppy. In other words your presence is really good news as something scrummy is coming! All the family can do this but so be careful with young children so that they add the food in easily and that there is no teasing.
At all costs do not remove the bowl when the pup is eating as this will only increase any food guarding tendencies.
There is a lot that can be done through a wide range of behaviour modification techniques but prevention is definitely better than cure. As their is a high risk factor in many cases of adult food guarding, we advise that you ask your Veterinary Surgeon to refer you to a qualified behaviourist.
Never ever punish your dog in any way , physically or mentally for food guarding. The behaviour for many dogs is related to a FEAR of the food being taken away. Threatening behaviour from the owner ( including taking the bowl away or even grabbing the item from the dog) will increase the fear, consequently resulting in the high likelihood of the aggression rapidly escalating.
Contact your Vet or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org for specialist help if you are concerned
Sandra Raw BA(Hons), Dip Ed, MRes, APBC.