Food Aggression – Dog Barker

Notice to all my readers: I will be starting to take sign-ups this month for training at the Athens Pet Depot for the month of February. My days when I will be at the store will be random because there is a need for my classes in the Hartselle Pet Depot as well.

1-3-2014 6-29-15 PMIt’s feeding time for your “Canine Family Member” and he/she is doing the chow dance. If they could speak I would bet that they would say, “Ooooh oooh! Give me! Food! Food! Food!” Of course, there is the silly slight turn of their head, the raised ears, and the look as if they are smiling. In my case, I see a lot of front paws stamping excitedly and when they look me in my eyes. I also see the thankfulness. Each slurp or chomp in their bowl makes me imagine I hear the “Ummmm, good! Thank you, Daddy.” A dog promises man one thing: to give their life to us.

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Now, let’s get to the matter I wish to discuss and the need for everyone to understand what to do in the event of food aggression. Recently, I had a case of food aggression that was unexpected. The dog showed no warning and just in a blink of an eye she bit my hand when I reached to adjust her bowl. Two things became clear. One, Ollie Girl (a silver merle Great Dane) was not trained from the time she was eating out of her dish not to fear someone taking her food. Two, when she bit me she did not break my skin nor did she bruise me. It was a deliberate attempt to scare me away from her dish. As a Dog Trainer, I must warn that what I am about to suggest should be carried out with caution and respect to the dog. So, be warned do not attempt to train a dog not to be food aggressive without first consulting a professional trainer. Every trainer has different methods and I would suggest more than one opinion in the matter.

1-3-2014 6-29-33 PMHere is what I did. I immediately made my body larger in stature and looked Ollie Girl in her eyes. Did she challenge me? Yes, but this is where we establish who is in charge. When I stared her down because we were in my territory and she broke eye contact I growled low and said, “No!” She at first responded with her teeth bared but I knew I had won. She stepped back and I stepped forward. Once she was back I picked up the dish and held it. Then I called her to me and presented the dish to her. I did not set it down. Talking to Ollie Girl calmly and holding the dish I tried to persuade her to eat. She refused but there was progress. I let her watch me set the dish down again and patiently waited for her to approach her dish.

Ollie Girl finally approached her dish and began to eat. I deliberately began to touch her spine and to massage her shoulders. She growled a little and after a while I was able to massage up to her neck. Each dog will respond differently according to their personality so remember to be creative and compromising when mimicking what I have done. The growling ceased and to this day I am able to handle her food in front of her. It took two feedings to accomplish this safely.
So, let us be safe when we have this circumstance arise. Especially if we have small children that do not know they are not to stick their hands in the dog’s dish. Always remember to train your dogs to know children and to teach the children to respect the Family Canine.

“Remember to love your dogs because they love you. Maybe not the way you want them to, like chewing up your favorite shoes or what not, but that is just love chewing. Be thankful for the time you have with them always.”

Joel and Zues Allen
ABC Certified Dog Trainer