If you haven‘t seen a dog guarding its food, probably it is difficult to understand this problem. Food guarding cases do not reflect a dog‘s personality or level of training – it is an instinctive behavior. This problem is common not only in dogs with aggression problems, but also in well-behaved dogs. The dog‘s posture changes completely when a bowl of food appears nearby and it can be a sign that dog is guarding its food, especially if there are people around him. it is very important to avoid or correct this problem, because sometimes something really unpleasant or even painful can happen.
What is it called when a dog guards his food?
It can be very easily observed that your dog is guarding his food. Give your Australian Shepherd something to eat and try to get closer. If your Aussie:
- Began to eat faster
- Shrunk, as if he wants to obstruct food
- Frozen and careful, tense watching you
- Compressed his ears
- Began to growl quietly
- Bites the air as if threatening you
- Wants to bite you
If you encounter such a situation, it means your dog is guarding his food and if you or someone else accidentally comes too close (not to mention the situation if you try to take food from a dog) – it could all end painfully and sadly.
A dog that strongly protects food can be dangerous to anyone who approaches when he is eating. The cause of such behavior is instinctive, so you must take action until the relationship between you and your Australian Shepherd is affected and the dog does not injure anyone.
Food guarding can be classified into several levels:
- In the first stage, the dog freezes when a person approaches to the bowl while he is eating. The dog may continue to eat, but his body language will show his dissatisfaction.
- Without correcting this behavior, food guarding increases: the dog‘s eating pace increases, aggressive direct eye contact with the owner which can lead to a next level – aggression.
- Aggression: silent growls, intimidation with a raised lip, followed by single nip and often a real bite.
The last three symptoms indicate a very serious aggression in food guarding that can result in injury to another person or animal. In this case, we recommend that you consult a dog behavior specialist and do not endanger your health.
A Dog Can Act Like a Lunatic After Receiving Food
The dog guarding the food behaves confused. The dog does not acknowledge that you are giving him food (which partially shows the position of leader) and sees you as a threat to absorb the dog‘s own food.
The problem of dog food guarding is difficult to understand, especially when we talk about pets that live at home and constantly gets food. But the dog is an animal, when he receives food, the instinct to survive is activated. Food is one of the greatest pleasures in a dog‘s life, do you agree? Dogs are carnivores by nature and eat everything that gets in their mouth, they simply love to eat.
However, when your pet begins to misunderstand the situation, for example, fearing that you or any other person may take his food, the dog may begin to defend it.
Dogs can start guarding food at any stage of life. However, usually from an early age dogs start sending signals, that he doesn‘t like certain things when he eats. But the owners do not notice the mini-signals and continue to deepen the dog‘s fears. And then after some time the owner suddenly declares – my dog bitten me when he ate his food.
The first signals are barely noticeable. The dog starts eating, and as you get closer, it increases the speed of eating, freezes, no longer lifts its head from the dish, and tries to finish the portion faster. These are mini signals that you will see and reduce the tension at such a young stage, you will solve the problem very quickly and easily.
If these signals were missed and the problem deepened, stronger signs would appear. As you approach the eating dog, it freezes again, compresses his ears, begins to eat faster. And if you approach anyway – the dog may stop eating, watch you carefully, and possibly will begin to show its beautiful teeth.
But what if the dog didn‘t showed a signal? If the dog did not really show such signals and bites immediately, let us dive a little deeper. Try to answer these questions and maybe it will help you understand what at some point happened between you and your dog. How old is your Aussie? Was he trained? If so, by what methods? Have painful corrections with pins, spikes or chains been used in the course of his life? Has the dog been physically punished for showing one of the above mentioned signals? Does the dog trust you? if not, why not? Lets discuss about how to deal with such a situation in the next section.
How Do I Stop My Australian Shepherd From Guarding Food?
Since aggression in food guarding can occur at any time in life, the best way is to prevent it. Whether you are raising your Australian Shepherd from an early age or taking it from a shelter, you must make it clear to the dog that you can approach the food while eating.
To solve this problem, you must first show your Australian Shepherd that only you are the owner of all the food that the dog receives and you give it to him. it is very important for the dog to understand that the kitchen and the delicacies stored in the refrigerator are yours.
You may have heard some advice, such as „leave the dog and do not disturb it“. This is really not a solution and doesn‘t protect against anything because it doesn‘t happen in situations where dog aggression occurs. What if a toddler comes to a dog and reaches a bowl?
It‘s an instinctive thing, similarly to the wolf gang, the dog wants to be a leader that eats undisturbed. That‘s why our pets can start guarding the food. It is best to try to be more frequent and closer to the bowl from an early age. However, try not to give your dog a negative experience with these obstacles, as you can cause more problems. Just from time to time on the first days, approach the eating dog and put some small and very tasty piece of food in the bowl. This way your Aussie will understand that the person appearing near the food bowl is a „good news“!
Why Is My Dog Suddenly Guarding Her Food?
If your dog already has this problem, of course, you won‘t solve it in the way mentioned above. You will need to adapt in a completely different way.
Hide your Australian Shepherd‘s bowl for a week or so. At the moment, you are feeding the dog by hand – one bite at a time. This will take longer than usual, but understand that the risk that a dog can cause is high. Do not give food from your hand when the dog is roughly grabbing or nipping you, the dog only receives food when it is calmly taken from the hand.
When the week has passed and the dog is already accustomed to taking food from the hand, re-introduce the dog to the bowl: place an empty container nearby during feeding. Drop one piece of food into the bowl every minute, when the dog leaves the bowl no sooner than a minute later, put another small piece in the bowl. Continue until the dog has eaten the entire food portion. The waiting procedure is very important for the dog, so this exercise is useful both for correcting the problem and creating a connection with the dog.
Once the dog is already quietly eating the individual bites from the bowl, move on to the next stage. Start working from a half-filled bowl. Just don‘t let the dog attack the food right away, the dog must wait quietly until you let him eat. Do not place the bowl on the ground if your Australian Shepherd has not met your requirements. When the dog starts eating, continue the previous exercise – one bite at a time, until you give away all the food.
The last step in this exercise is to give the dog a full bowl of food. Again, it is very important not to let the dog attack the food. Your Aussie has to earn it, so he or she should be sitting and waiting for your command. After waiting, you can say the command „eat“ and give the expected bowl. To further strengthen your leadership position, invite the dog from the bowl to himself at least a few times a week during meals, using „valuable“ treats for the dog.
If the dog starts storing food again, take a step back to be completely safe and continue working until the dog will perform it 100% reliably. Stay at this stage for a couple, three days before starting a new stage.
If you face such a problem, do not worry to much, a lot of people already faced it and there are methods to solve it. Always better to teach your dog right behavior from an early age, but even if you got this problem later on, with the right methods and time, it will get better. Also, it is always good to discuss with your veterinarian or dog behavioral specialists to decide what would be the best method for your dog.