by Kimberly LeMaster
Those of us who have more than one dog in the home know that small squabbles or even major problems can develop when it comes to food. Food aggression, better described as resource guarding, can become a real problem and even lead to injuries to either your pets or yourself if you try to intervene during a canine argument. There are some simple steps and changes in your daily lives together that you can make to bring peace and quieter dining habits between your dogs, no matter how many you have!
What Is Food Aggression?
Food aggression is a very poor description of a natural behavior that dogs, and even cats will partake in. This is an instinctual behavior called resource guarding. Dogs can guard food, and other items, from humans and other pets. As a human, you can back off if you sense your dog is upset. Another dog, though may see that guarding behavior as a threat and retaliate. This can create a very dangerous situation for everyone involved and even the sweetest little dog can bite hard.
Resource guarding dates back to the primal instincts of the canine. Dogs are descendants of wolves, and even thought to come from a mixture of other wild canines as well like foxes and coyotes. Protecting their food, water, bones, and sleeping quarters was all a requirement for survival. In dogs, this protection is called resource guarding. While it is natural, it is also inappropriate in a domestic setting.
Stop You Dogs From Fighting Over Food
A variety of options are open to anyone who is struggling with food related resource guarding in a multi-dog household. The very first, and easiest step you should take is feeding your dogs only at specific meal times and from separate dishes. Those who free freed their dogs, or always keep a full dish of food, with more than one pet in the home is just asking for trouble! If your dogs are fed at the same times every day from different dishes, they will be too busy eating their own meal you have provided to care about what the other dog is doing. By the time one dog has finished eating, so has the other. There is no longer any food to squabble about!
Specific meal times may seem overwhelming for someone who has free fed their pets for many years. There are products on the market today that can help with this issue, that helps to make sure your pet gets a quality meal two or more times a day, even when you are not home. This can provide each dog with his own place to eat at the correct time, and with the correct amount of food he needs per meal.
One such product is called the Catzenpup Automatic Wet Food Feeder. If each dog in the home has his own feeder, in his own space, food aggression or resource guarding will not be a problem, even when they are home alone.
Training is always available for any type of behavioral problem you have, even food aggression. If you are inexperienced in training or behavior modification, then seeking help from a certified professional is a great idea. Don't be afraid to ask for help! Meanwhile, other training options you can do at home on your own is the teach your dog the “training game” to curb resource guarding against you and other people. It is quite simple, and starts with giving your dog a low value toy, while you have high value treats in hand. While your dog enjoys the toy or chew item, show him that you have something that he may want more. Try giving him the treat, slowly, while saying “Let's trade!” and picking up his toy with the other hand. It may take a few tries and a few sessions, but eventually he will love the trading game!
Take Action Now!
Don't wait to start feeding your dogs at proper meal times in their own spaces. An automatic feeder can help busy or forgetful owners to help keep peace in the home. You can stop food aggression between your dogs simply by giving them their own food dish, separate spaces at meal time, and a little training. Consistency will curb those problems quickly!