I am writing to ask some advice on any preventative measures that you may have on avoiding the possibility of food aggression in a puppy. We lost our last dog to old age earlier this year and just as he was a darling of a dog by most accounts, he quickly became the hound from hell when it came to dinnertime. He was EXTREMELY food possessive and no one escaped his wrath should they get to close while he was eating – he was frightening.
I can’t recall when it started, and because he acted like that for as long as I can remember I guess we all just learned lived with it. We now have a new 8 week old puppy of mixed origin called Rowdy and although he is not showing any signs of being food possessive at this stage, there is absolutely no way I could go through with that again. What do you suggest?
As the saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’ and whilst you had a bad experience with your last dog and his food, it’s great that you are setting both yourself and your new puppy up for success, right from the start.
The theory behind training your pup against food possession or resource guarding, is having him understand that all interaction between you, your family, him and his food is good.
The key to success is creating a solid foundation right from the start that incorporates trust and positive reinforcement.
It is really important that the whole family gets involved in this exercise, taking turns to feed him this way so that he associates good, with ANYONE that touches his bowl.
Start by dividing each of his daily meals into two equal portions and put the first portion into his bowl. Once he has eaten the first portion, drop a couple of pieces from the second portion into his bowl and wait until he has eaten it. Repeat this until it’s all gone. This simple exercise teaches him that when your hand moves toward the bowl, it is to give – not to take away. If after a week or so he is eating happily and without incident, continue to divide his daily meals into two equal portions, and put the first portion of his meal into the bowl as you’ve been doing. Once he has finished, pick the bowl up, put a few pieces of the second portion into in and replace the bowl on the ground. Wait until he has finished and then pick the bowl up and put another few pieces in, then place it on the ground. Continue this process until he has finished. You are now teaching him that picking up the bowl doesn’t mean taking it away, but rather, more food is coming.
After doing this every day for a month or so, and provided there has been no inappropriate reaction from him throughout the course of the month, you can drop it back to every second day, then once a week and so on. I also suggest that you continue to manage this throughout his development from puppy hood to adult and beyond by randomly going over the above process every so often just to reinforce the positive principles of having people around him when he is eating.