When we brought our pitbull home from the shelter, she was not interested in sharing a food bowl with our Newfie mix. With a bit of training, we were able to stop our dogs fighting over food. Now, we want to share how we did it, so you can do the same for your dogs.
About Food Aggression
Food aggression is defined as becoming aggressive when there is food nearby. It’s also called resource guarding. The food is the resource and a dog guards it.
Food aggression can lead to dangerous aggressive behavior, including serious dog bite injuries requiring surgery (a great time to use dog insurance by the way).
The reasons for food aggression are many, but most of them have to do with a pack mentality. The alpha dogs are often the ones having food aggression, especially when a new dog is introduced. Alpha dogs believe they should not have to share dog food with any other dogs.
Despite the natural instincts to fight over food, dog owners can stop dogs fighting over food.
Stopping Dogs Fight Over Food
There’s no signal way to stop dogs fighting over food. The below tips on stopping dogs from fighting over food are just some tips to try. Not all of them will work on all dogs.
Introduce a New Dog Slowly
When introducing a new dog to your pup, be sure to do it slowly. Leash both dogs and start with the two dogs very far apart. They may look at each and growl or they may want to get closer to one another.
Allow the dogs to introduce themselves in the way they feel most comfortable. If one wants to get closer and the other is growling, keep them both apart for a while.
Put the dogs in separate rooms for a break and then try again later.
Watch Body Language
Dog bites often follow aggressive body language. Aggressive body language includes wide eyes, a hard stare, stiff composure, and showing teeth. When you notice a change in body language, separate the dogs before a dog fight breaks out.
Read More: Stop a Dog Growling Over Food
If it’s feeding time, remove the dog food bowl. When your dog calms down, replace the dog’s food bowl. By repeating this process, your dog will relate the aggressive body language with a negative consequence – losing the resource (food).
Feed in Separate Rooms
Many dog owners find it easier to stop dogs from fighting over food by putting the food bowl in different rooms. Unfortunately, people with multiple dogs may find it inconvenient to have dog food bowls all over the house.
Different Feeding Times
Feeding your multi-dog household at different feeding times can prevent food aggression. For instance, you may feed your puppy at 8 AM and feed your older dog at 9:00 AM. That way, each dog understands when its food is available and won’t fight over it.
The only problem with this way of stopping dogs fighting over food is that if the dog not being fed wants to eat, a dog fight will likely break out. It can also be inconvenient to feed multiple dogs at different times throughout the day.
Distract the Food Guarding Dog
Some people have found success with giving a special treat to the dog that isn’t eating. This can help relieve the eating dog from the duty of protecting his/her most valuable resource.
As the dog that isn’t eating receives tasty treats while the other dog is eating, he/she will learn that the eating dog is off limits during that time.
Keep Dogs in Separate Areas
It may also help to put dogs in separate areas while one dog eats. For instance, when you’re feeding one dog, put the other dog in the living room or bedroom. That way your eating dog will be less stressed about the other dog.
Seek Professional Help from a Veterinary Behaviorist
A dog’s food aggression is a behavioral problem. When pet parents can’t seem to get their dogs fighting over food to stop, they often turn to someone for professional help. A veterinary behaviorist will assess your dogs’ behaviors and come up with the best plan of action to correct your dog’s food aggression.
Learn More: Dog Guarding Food But Not Eating
It Is Possible to Stop Dogs Fighting Over Food
While it can be frustrating to stop your dogs fighting over food, it’s not impossible to do. Start slowly with introductions. If you’re past that point, remove the food bowl or food items whenever you believe a fight may happen. Feeding in separate rooms or having different feeding times are other ways to resolve food aggression issues.
For many pet parents, it’s not only food that sparks a fight between their dogs. A high-value treat, such as a yummy bone or jerky, can cause a huge battle. The good news is that when you work on the food aggression issues, you’re also working on other aggression issues such as with a special treat or toy.
Take your time with your training and reach out for help if you need it. If you have any tips for other dog owners dealing with this situation, comment below.
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