Yikes! Food aggression?

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Barked: Mon Dec 24, '12 2:51pm PST 
I have never seen Casper be food aggressive. He was slightly crate protective when I got him...but food and toys don't usually get guarded. I've seen him wait patiently for a toddler to get done playing with a treat stuffed toy, mopping up the dropped bits and not even trying to take it. We worked on "trade me" for different toys and toy for treat and low value food for high value treat (I.e. dried chicken for fresh chicken) for a while early in his training. No trouble. Early on, I used to hand feed him dinner and he never objected or got grouchy about his food bowl.

Today, I ruffled his head fluff in passing as he was eating and he growled at me. I was stunned for a second. Then got a chicken heart from the fridge and said "trade me" and he was willing to let me take the chicken quarter in exchange for the heart. And I had him lay down and gave him the rest of his dinner back.

When I was younger we had a wolf-hybrid dog that we did the Nothing In Life Is Free thing with because when we lapsed she got pushy and increasingly aggressive. I never expected my sweet poodle mix to get food aggressive with me.

It can't continue, unless we resolve to only let him eat at home. Which would be a shame, no more travel or outings to friends places with me. At the moment, I take him pretty much everywhere except work and stores.

Any experiences in dealing with this?
Recommendations for ways to train him out of it or failing that, manage it when eating somewhere other than home?

The world is my- food bowl!
Barked: Mon Dec 24, '12 4:21pm PST 
Imagine for a moment that every day you eat 3 balanced meals, all very bland in flavor. All you know is bland food. Then one day, someone offers you something juicy and flavorful. It's amazing, and you want more! As you are offered more of it, how will you react?

The flavorful food is high value. You value it because it tastes better, and you would take it over the bland food any day. If someone tries to take it from you, you'd probably become angry.

Resource guarding over raw diets is very common. Please don't let this turn you away from the benefits of the diet. Both of my dogs developed it over the raw diet, but since I first encountered it, I've taken steps to make sure it never harms us or our dogs.

First, understand that your dog has the right to eat in peace. I feed my dogs in separate crates and once the food goes in, I leave them alone until they're done.

Second, never plan meals that you know you will have to retrieve mid-way, and if you must, then have a back-up plan. The only meals I had to retrieve with Charlie were whole rabbits. To do so, I had my husband assist me in a trade-off which caused Charlie to leave his crate, and then I only retrieved the raw food when Charlie was outside of the room, behind a closed door. Never risk your own safety.

If you follow simple precautions, the diet doesn't have to be dangerous for anyone.
Gray Dawn- Treader

Don't Tread on- me
Barked: Tue Dec 25, '12 2:26am PST 
With Treader, I handfed him for a bit to get him more used to the idea of me touching his food while he was eating.

Treader isn't terrible with resource guarding, but if I have to take his food away now I've started to do trades with him. I'll take a treat he likes, say "Trade?", and let him take that from me while I pick up the rest of his meal. No fuss, and he gets something good out of cooperating.

I definitely would not recommend practicing taking the food away from her forcefully and scolding her for protesting. (Even though I did do that for a while.) But, really, it just confirms the dog's suspicions and could make it worse. It can depend upon the dog. The more submissive ones MAY simply accept it grudgingly, and the less submissive ones are more likely to lash out. ANY dog might bite, though, and food is one of the most important things to them.
So, in short, don't use that method.

Edited by author Tue Dec 25, '12 2:36am PST



Barked: Tue Dec 25, '12 6:39am PST 
I handed Casper breakfast and told him to go to bed (crate) with it. We don't use the crate as a crate anymore and the door is off but he is good about staying in bed when I send him. I checked back on him in 20 minutes and he had finished eating so I wiped his face and paws and off we went. Maybe at home that will work fine.

I don't expect to *need* to take his food from him...but I don't want him to progress from Grr when he's worried I might take his food to Grr when I just walk past him to Grr when I ask him to move off of the couch to Grr when I ask him to do anything. (Which is how things progressed with the wolf-hybrid when I was a child; give that dog an inch and she'd try to take the whole pack.) Casper is so cooperative most of the time even if he is nervous/ocd about some thigs and I don't want this to be the start of a whole laundry list of issues.

But if my goal is to simply manage what is, to be fair, perfectly natural food protectiveness, how do I handle that when it's meal time away from home? When we're at Grandma's or any friend's house, at the farm or by a friends pool or at the family's beach house. Feed him in the car? Or has anyone had experience with a collapsable travel crate? I have a tiny car so his fairly large vari-kennel that we use at home for bed and grooming stand can't be easily brought along.

Barked: Sat Dec 29, '12 10:59am PST 
i can't go near my shih tzu's face when she is eating raw or i will loose a finger. she started this with raw prey food. i now pet her back when she is eating and her neck to let her know i wot take it but to get her to feel safe when eating.. my yorkie just picks the food up and runs if i come near him when eating lol

I'm triple- superior MAD- now!
Barked: Sat Dec 29, '12 2:28pm PST 
I think if you respect Casper's grrh then he won't progress to snapping and such. He is letting you know he is uncomfortable with you being so close while he is eating valuable food. I had a JRT that growled when we wanted to sit on the sofa he was on. I taught him up/off then had him get off, I sat and invited him back up. He was visibly relieved that I understood the problem and took charge diplomatically.

Since he is growling then work outside of meal time on trading. Perhaps having two equal bony bits that he trades would work. Perhaps make them huge bits and do trades when he is pretty full already.

When I gave Artie a meaty bone I put him in a low xpen. If I wanted to get it away from him I distracted him with a small goodie and quickly put the xpen over the bone. This is an emergency operation, I did it maybe 3 times while he was here and he was very suspicious after the second time!

I really don't think it is a great idea to handle a dog that is eating anytime. Set him up when he is away from home or others are around so he has a quiet place to eat where he won't be interrupted. If you need to handle him do so while you are hand feeding, not when he has a bowl to guard.

Having the dog comfortable being handled all over is good anyway. I wonder if once hand feeding is working adding in simple handling all the way to teeth checking would be worth it?

Jean Donaldson and Patricia McConnell have both written about guarding behavior, might want to look into some of them.
CGC Diego

I love my peeps!-
Barked: Sun Dec 30, '12 9:42pm PST 
Food aggression--aka resource guarding--is something that your dog has always had, it just wasn't triggered at this level until recently. Though I obviously don't know either this dog or your wolf hybrid, I feel fairly comfortable assuming those are two totally separate issues.

Most dogs who resource guard only guard in specific circumstances and/or types of things. I.e., I have one dog who guards space and food mildly. I have another dog whose bowl I can stick my hand in no matter what the value of the item, but he will guard me against other dogs. My youngest dog will guard food and/or toys against other dogs, but I can take anything away from him at any time without incident. I also feed my dogs raw. They each have their own corner and I always monitor their mealtimes. They know the routine and that mom will intervene if they finish first and decide to go check out what someone else is eating. They have learned that they cannot check bowls until everyone is done--its pretty civil and impressive that they've all worked it out.

Basically its a management issue. Now that you know about it, dont put him in a situation where he has something that is really high value where it may be threatened. Put him in a collapsible crate or feed him in a bathroom if you are traveling. Never, ever feed him around children. You can do lots of trades to reassure him its all good, but as far as I know, there is no real "cure" for resource guarding. I'd be relieved all you get is a growl over extra spectacular items, not charging or threats to bite over empty bowls or tug toys (I have seen both happen).

Guarding (at this level) is a relatively normal and common behavior. It can be scary, but it can be easily worked around, and it is highly unlikely it will morph into anything else unless the dog is continually challenged or put into unfair scenarios.

Barked: Mon Dec 31, '12 3:04pm PST 
Thanks everyone for the information and suggestions. Casper is totally confusing me with this thing.

Day before yesterday he laid in his crate with dinner for 20 minutes and didn't eat it until I came in and sat on the bed near him. He was probably not extra hungry. If he's really hungry he'll eat without me there. (Though once when I was away and he was on straight kibble he fasted for two and a half days before giving in and eating, and even then only with chicken broth mixed in).

Yesterday I was eating my dinner and he settled with his in the corner of the kitchen. When I finished and moved to the living room, he got up to see where I was going (not unusual, he's a Velcro dog) and then he picked up the remains of his dinner and laid down right at my feet to finish it.

The rest of his behaviors seem to be typical for him. And he's stopped trying to sneak bites of the dry cat food people leave around out here for the feral cats while we're on walks. He now has zero interest. smile

Barked: Mon Dec 31, '12 4:54pm PST 
is there a bit of insecurity there with the following you around? does he have seperation anxiety? my yorkie follows me everywhere. he has to be where i am at all times.. when i adopted him, he barked and howled for 12 hours when i was at work. it was 6 months of hell.

Barked: Mon Dec 31, '12 6:46pm PST 
Definitely some insecurity in general. If I close him in my bedroom when I leave for work, he does okay. My neighbor is retired and would call me if he were barking like crazy. If I leave him loose in the whole place though he gets nervous and barks like crazy or chews things he shouldn't. And he gets nervous to the point he refuses to eat except for extra yummy treats when we go somewhere new. But even with that, it's clear that he's rather be with me than stuck at home. And once a new place is "familiar" he's happy to see that we've arrived there. (The first time we go to a dog park or a particular friend's house is all training. The 2nd, 3rd and sometimes 4th times we do a few minutes of training interspersed with visiting. After that when we arrive, he trots around like he owns the place and settles right in, though always keeping tabs on where I am.)

He's almost 6 years old and I've had him since he was 18 months. Lots of remedial training (and we still do 2-3 'fun classes' a year like rally and agility and nose-work) and bonding stuff was involved and he came to me very poorly socialized with new people and places (though he's excellent with new adult dogs and new puppies, wonderful polite body language, and with new non-canine animals as well). I don't know how much of the Velcro dog thing is temperament and how much is life experience of at least three owners and one SPCA in 18 months and then me. He keep's excellent track of where I am, even off lead.

I think this is an interesting combination of "must be with mommy" and "don't want my food taken". Those must contrast pretty sharply in that little fuzzy skull.

Edited by author Mon Dec 31, '12 6:59pm PST

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