A dog that has food aggression, also known as canine possession aggression (CPA), can be a potentially dangerous, or violent one at meal time. While they may be sweet as pie otherwise, the introduction of food, treats or a tasty rawhide suddenly transforms them into a snarling beast. You, as the alpha dog, should be able to approach their food bowl without any glaring, growling, or snapping. If your pup tends to snatch up their treat and run away with ears and head hanging low, it's probably a good idea to start correcting this behavior before it exacerbates. So, what's the link between dogs and food aggression?
You've Lost Your Role As Leader
More often than not, a dog develops food aggression because they don't view you as the leader of the pack. Why is this important? Out in the wild, wolves and feral dogs roam in packs. The leader, or alpha, gets their fill of a meal first. The remaining pack members get their share afterward. If Fido doesn't view you as the alpha, they'll instead view you as the thief who is trying to steal their meal away.
Tips to Correct the Problem
Any kind of aggressive behavior exhibited by your dog should be corrected immediately. While it's always a good idea to keep any toddlers away from the dog while they're eating, you should never have to fear your dog, whether they're eating, playing or gnawing on a bone. If your dog is very aggressive, it's probably best to get in touch with a local trainer that can work closely with you. Otherwise, here are some tips on how you can reverse the behavior:
Establish a feeding time and stick with it. Choose a time of day that is quiet to allow the dog to eat in a peaceful, calm environment. Trying to feed the dog while the kids are rushing off to school will only create stress and put Fido on edge. If they can relax, and eat in peace, they will be less inclined to be aggressive.
Start by leaving the dog bowl empty at feeding time. Ensure that food only touches the bowl because you put it there. Let your dog see that you're the one who provides the kibble! Start with small handfuls, adding more only after the previous handful has been eaten. At this point, they should be more than happy to have you around their bowl.
Now that your dog is comfortable with you handling and being near their food, you can attempt to give them a full bowl. Only do so after you've instructed your dog to sit or stay. Be sure that the food is left untouched until you give the command. A simple, "Okay" is all you need.
Routinely call your dog over to you while they are eating. Reward them with a treat each time they follow through with your instruction.
Remember, it takes time to change a dog's behavior. Give each step two weeks before moving on the next. Some dogs may need more time, so don't rush the process. Be patient and diligent! If things get out of hand, or you have difficulty resolving the situation, contact a certified dog trainer for help.