Food aggression issues in desired dog at shelter. Is it too risky to work with?

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Barked: Sat Jan 5, '13 11:31am PST 
For a while now my fiance and I have been wanting a second dog ever since adopting our beagle/basset hound in 2011. There is a 1 year old Norwegian Elkhound at a local shelter we have fallen in love with, except for the fact that we think she has some food aggression issues towards other dogs.

We brought our dog by and they played well in the shelter's yard together, sniffing around and not minding each other's company. However, once we brought them back inside the shelter the volunteer pulled out some treats and the Elkhound started snarling at my current dog. She did not lunge or growl at him, just showed her teeth every time he looked at the treats.

I have fostered 2 dogs before and am used to separating them at mealtimes. I will also be enrolling her in obedience training as soon as I can if we go through with adoption. We're willing to work with her, but is it even a good idea bringing in a second dog that is showing food aggression issues?

Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Sat Jan 5, '13 11:58am PST 
Good question, and thanks for asking.

I would keep your emotions in check. Is this a presumed NE, or pretty much a purebred? The answer can be important. She's young yet at a year old, and has some developing yet to do. These issues you speak of can certainly be worked on....that's not the point really, as clearly you are a responsible thinker and willing to put in the time and effort. The larger concern is this show and what it may indicate about her personality. A lot of dogs don't show their full self at a shelter, and given that she has shown this behavior and the NEs are not beyond being tough with other dogs, if I were in the position of counsel I would advise you against it.

Simply because your existing dog needs to be your number one concern. Working on issues is fine, but bringing in a dog whose issues may target on your existing dog....that's a slightly different kettle of fish. I attempted an adoption of a young adult who did in time attack one of my dogs back when I was a young adult, and years later one of my Cockers had his world fall apart when he was attacked by a foster. Both of them girls, who I trust less in terms of doggie social politic. When that happens, words cannot express how crappy you feel.

There are many, many dogs who need saving. You are the one with the big brain, the guardian of your dog and so on. This certainly has the potential to go ok, but it also has the potential to not go ok, and if she is a purebred she is a lot tougher minded than a Beagle, who can be a little naive.

I have good all breed knowledge and also am the adoptions person for a rescue. I pull dogs all the time and they don't need to be perfect. Many of them I work with. It's not the behavior I am red flagging to you near as much as the age, the breed and knowing full well that there are plenty of dogs out there for you to fall in love with. What you owe to your own dog is to set things up for success as best you can.

Barked: Sat Jan 5, '13 1:30pm PST 
Thank you so much for your thoughtful response, it was great to see someone else's advice on this.

The Elkhound IS a purebred, surprisingly. The volunteer said she was surrendered because the guy who bought her from a breeder gave it as a Xmas gift to someone who didn't have time for it (that time of year, right?). However, some of the breed standards are all wrong with her. I'm an avid NE lover, which was also one of the reasons I hope to adopt her, but her characteristics go completely against everything I've learned about the breed. She is EXTREMELY quiet, not a peep since she entered the shelter. Her markings are pretty off too. But she's very calm, sweet, loves attention, and is food motivated. Perhaps a bit too much.

Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Sat Jan 5, '13 1:46pm PST 
One of the things to keep in mind....just trying to keep you grounded, although VERY pleased this is a breed you know! wink....is that what a dog presents in a shelter may be subdued. Is there any way you could try a foster-to-adopt?

ETA: Sometimes shelter who don't offer this publicly may be willing if it is proposed. As she's already shown some slight food aggression, they might be thrilled at the premise of a dog savvy person, fully aware of this, interested in taking her and might be quite willing to work with you.

Edited by author Sat Jan 5, '13 1:48pm PST


Barked: Sat Jan 5, '13 2:05pm PST 
By the way...I just want to note, your comment on beagles being naive made me laugh. SO true, especially with mine who is a beagle/basset mix smile

And yes, they do foster-to-adopt. I did that with my dog I have now. The shelter was pleased to know that I didn't just walk out with her today after seeing her food aggression. They said they wish they had more people that thought these things through, which was very nice to hear. I filled out all her paperwork but said I wanted to ask the internet, aka Dogster (hehe!) and do some research on food aggression before possibly bringing her home on Monday.

Honestly, I'd let my current dog pick out one from the shelter but he tries to get along with EVERYONE. I had to narrow the choices down for him smile
Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Sat Jan 5, '13 2:32pm PST 
Aha! Well then you are all set!, lol If you can have her for a little bit to settle in, see what she is all about, then that does change things somewhat. As I said, dogs in the shelter don't always present their full selves while in there. Sometimes, they even paint a false self laugh out loud Or, sometimes, they present as a big stinking mess in the shelter and as soon as they are out are angels. Given the breed, if she is angel girl with everything but the food aggression, you really owe it to your family to do the foster-to-adopt and see what she has on offer for you. I'd not even press the food issue. You know it's there, feed her separately. I would also be cautious to get all dog toys off the floor for sometimes that possessiveness can transfer. Then just give her the time to show if out of the shelter she shifts on you at all.

Just speaking from experience....I have pulled a lot of dogs through the years...a breeder purchased one year old dog showing up as an angel? I am not saying it is impossible, but it is something I am inherently a little suspicious of if the dog seems perfect. The woman who founded my rescue, Dawn Taylor-Church, has an article up on shelter dogs acting differently once they out HERE recently published on Dogster. That talks of Dagmar....beautiful GSD, acted like an angel girl, well trained. Perfect picture! I fostered her, just a-waitin for some shoe to drop, and five-four-three-two-ONE, enter not only separation anxiety, but I could find no crate to contain her.

I am not trying to be a negative vibe merchant....just keeping you grounded...but with the foster-to-adopt, the world really is your oyster way to go

With the breed, you can work on the behavior and also, just to be reasonable, expect some longterm management possibly as well, as they can be tough-minded, so sometimes it is a point of getting them to be the best that you can and managing, not getting complacent. Most Beagles are foodies and somewhat naive, as I said and you appreciated laugh out loud, but the GOOD part to the equation and is that most Beagles are also very soft and dog social, happy to be followers of a stronger natured dog, so it potentially could be a good breed mix.

The ability to foster-to-adopt really does change things.

Barked: Sat Jan 5, '13 4:15pm PST 
Ah, I didn't think about the toy thing. I'll be sure to move anything like that out of the way beforehand, thank you. And yes, it is a little strange that she came from a breeder but is without too many issues. I'm not sure. I've come to terms based off of your feedback and by research that I really won't know anything until I try foster-to-adopt. In the meantime I'll be reading that article tonight.

You don't sound negative, all this advice is really giving me other things to consider besides food aggression smile

Member Since
Barked: Sun Jan 6, '13 8:32pm PST 
I found it cute that your current dog is getting friendly with every dog he meets. As for that second dog who seemed to have food aggression, it's a good thing that the shelter offers the foster-to-adopt thing. I've seen many people jump in and adopting any dog that they seem to like only to find out that that same dog isn't for them. smile
Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie"

My Little Dog, a- heartbeat at my- feet.<3
Barked: Sun Jan 6, '13 11:48pm PST 
I've had a few dogs I've fostered or rescues with food aggression issues. My worst, was probably my foster Beagle, who had severe resource guarding issues(food, bones, crate, furniture, etc). I had him in my home with my other dogs with management, without issues.

This was a dog that couldn't be contained by crates either(he could work at the crate door of ANY crate until he busted out). To say the least, I had to get resourceful.

Anyway.. The foster-to-adopt sounds like a fantastic idea because it gives you a good idea of how much management and work is needed to work through her issues and live peaceably with her.

With Beau, I often kept him tethered to me when I was home because it gave me a good way of managing his behaviors - particularly the furniture guarding. Or, he would drag his leash so I could safely grab the end of it without provoking his aggression, while still guiding him away. It worked wonderfully, actually and I was the only person to foster him that didn't get bit, ever because of the ways I learned to manage his behaviors safely.

All play time was supervised(if I wasn't home, the dogs were crated separately). I did manage to find a way to rig his crate so he couldn't bust out of it, lol.

All bones, toys, chews, and food were given separately, either in the crate, or with the dogs tied up separately. This prevented either one from invading the others space.

Of course, I worked for months on Beau's food aggression with people FIRST, because that was my biggest concern and the biggest safety issue. I only ever had one scuffle break out between him and Charlie and that was because a lady walking by my yard tossed treats into the yard, WITHOUT permission, just because my dogs were barking at hers. I dealt with that situation quite quickly however, and she never did it again after I explained the issues not just with feeding dogs with potential health issues(Charlie's epileptic), but also of my foster dogs food aggression.

I had him for several months before he had to go to another foster home(a behaviorists home, actually), because I was having issues with my landlord. I was sad to see him go, but the behaviorist happily informed me of all the changes I made happen in his behavior. He no longer bit, but instead would bark if he was made uncomfortable. He was finally okay with having people around his food and to trade things with(I taught him an automatic sit when others went around him when he had anything and a firm leave it command), and she could even have him eating WITH her seven other Beagles without issues, as long as feeding time was supervised. Although I personally don't ever feed my dogs together anyway and am against that just for the potential issues alone, I was very, very pleased that many of his issues were worked through so well. Would he ever be fully trusted with small children because of his bite history? No. Would he forever need supervision and management? Absolutely. But he became a lot easier to manage and he learned to be secure too.

These issues, I find, generally easier to deal with than say dog/people aggression, or extreme fear issues. But that may be just me.

I would absolutely take on a dog again with the same issues as Beau, assuming I could manage and work on it with my child that's on the way and dependent on my child's age at the time of course.

If the two dogs get along otherwise, I will say that it is worth trying out, but you may not just have to manage the NE, but also your Beagle too(let's face it, they love to get in your face for that treat in your hand and even that can start a scuffle between the two). I think chews/bones, dropped food(whether your own or not), and treats will be your most difficult issues to work through because dog food itself is easy to manage and feed separately. Do you know if she resource guards toys or not? That may be something to try to find out too, so you can prevent anything happening from that too.

I agree with all Tiller's points, btw, and hope my story wasn't so much long and boring as inspiring and motivating, lol. It wasn't meant to turn you off working on the dog, so much as give you an idea that if I can work through it with a Beagle in the household(and a dog with much worse resource guarding), you may well be able to too, as long as you're realistic about it and can manage it safely otherwise.

ETA - Phoenix is ABSOLUTELY gorgeous by the way! What a cutiepie!

Edited by author Sun Jan 6, '13 11:48pm PST


Barked: Mon Jan 7, '13 3:19am PST 
Rigby had some pretty severe food aggression when we first brought her home, especially with our beagle Oz.
You are fortunate in that the shelter is already aware of the issue, so you can be prepared. We weren't so lucky unfortunately.

Feeding separately for the first while anyways is a great first step.

As for obedience classes, I would recommend that you find one that is partial to working with shelter/rescue dogs. My go-to obedience trainer has been running a large rescue for over 25 years, and provides a training program with each adoption. This worked out well as she had experience with food aggression as well as many other behavioural issues common in rescue dogs.

Anyways, with Rigby I enrolled in her obedience classes in April of 2012. By the end of the 8 weeks, she could sit next to another dog in close quarters with food in my hand, and not be driven to be aggressive with them.
By August, she became my star obedience drill dog on our demo team. Now this involves distance recalls and downs with the dogs sitting next to each other. Sometimes the dogs are not familiar with each other, and she is still fine.

Anyways, I guess my point is, food aggression can be workable in many situations. And once Rig started to see that she was getting a regular supply of food, and that she has "home" she started to calm down.

I also found that if I was doing in-home training with the both of them, if we gave Oz his reward first then Rigby's second, it tended to work out a lot better shrug
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