Food aggression is fairly common among dogs, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a serious problem. You may be tempted to think that it’s just one way for your dog to try and assert its dominance, but that’s not always the case. Wild alpha male dogs do eat first in their pack, but your pup may be showing signs of food aggression for a very different reason. Here’s what you should know about your dog and food aggression.
Why your dog may show signs of food aggression
Domestic dogs can learn food aggression from a young age. Pups who have had to fight siblings to nurse, learn early that being the ‘top dog’ gets them fed faster. Some breeders inadvertently cause food aggression by feeding pups from one bowl at feeding time.
If your dog was a stray before you found it, a lack of food could have made a lasting impact. Former strays often show signs of food aggression even when there is adequate food supplied later on. Oddly enough, even dogs with plenty of food can show aggression if the food is not nutritionally sufficient. Your dog’s brain can trick him into thinking he’s starving if he’s not getting all the nutrients he needs, and this can lead to food aggression.
Like people, dogs can also show signs of food aggression if they are stressed or feel threatened. Anxious, nervous, and fearful dogs can all become aggressive over food as a way to try and control their environment and keep potential threats away.
Correcting bad behaviours
Stopping a dog’s aggressive behaviour around food takes knowledge and good management. Start by ensuring that you feed your dog a diet that’s nutritionally sound. A food with adequate protein and no added grains is a good choice. Ask your vet for recommendations if you aren’t sure about what to feed your pet.
Eliminate distractions around your pet’s mealtime. Provide a quiet space out of the activity of the household where he can eat in peace and away from where your family eats. If you have more than one dog, feed them in separate areas so they can feel relaxed about the availability of their food.
Some dogs enjoy scatter feeding, which allows them to forage for their food. Not only is this stimulating for them (helping stave off boredom which can lead to anxiety), it can help them avoid overeating simply because they have to work for their meal. It also takes away the need to guard the bowl. If food is everywhere, there is nothing to guard or feel worried about.
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