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Food Guarding in Dogs

Managing Your Dog’s Behavior

Apart from your treatment sessions, you need to manage your dog’s behavior carefully to avoid aggressive encounters. Do not allow others to go near your dog while he’s eating. If he guards food from children in the family, DO NOT attempt these exercises with any child under 18 years of age. Instead, seek help from a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB), a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB), or a Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT) with education and experience treating aggression.

If your dog guards food from visitors to your home, it might be easier to manage his behavior than resolve it. If your dog and guests are in the same room, just remove all food items from the area. Alternatively, you can keep your dog confined in a separate area of your home while guests visit. Be aware that dogs sometimes guard food intended for people, even if the food is situated on a table or countertop. If food is going to be present when guests visit, you’ll want to confine your dog to ensure everyone’s safety.

What NOT to Do

  • Do not “free feed” your dog (leave out bowls of food all the time). If he guards food, he should not have constant access to it. Only feed your dog meals at regularly scheduled times.
  • Do not punish or intimidate your dog when he guards food. Remember that when a person approaches a food-guarding dog, the dog will react as though the person intends to take the food away. This makes sense because dogs naturally compete for food. Some people insist that “dominating” your dog and showing that you’re stronger and able to take away his food will make him stop guarding it. On the contrary, doing so is dangerous and unnecessary. It can sometimes cause resource guarding to get worse, and it can damage your relationship with your dog. It’s easier and safer to simply change the way your dog feels about people approaching him when he has food through desensitization and counterconditioning.
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WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

The ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist specializes in the resolution and management of pet behavior problems only. Please do not submit questions about medical problems here. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact his veterinarian immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk. If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary care, please read our resources on finding financial help.

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