What is Food Aggression and How Do You Stop It?

Small Brussells Griffons Eating in Kitchen in a Line

Food aggression is a useful response in the wild, but an undesirable and dangerous behavior for domestic pets to display. In the wild, a dog will protect his food, mate or den from others within the pack to protect what is his and claim his dominance.

However, a domesticated dog that shows food aggression poses the risk for the owner, children and even other pets to be bitten. If not dealt with food aggression can worsen over time and your dog can begin showing aggressive behavior towards everything he owns.

Food aggression in pets is dangerous and it is crucial for the pet owner to learn how to stop it.

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Recognizing Food Aggression:

There are three levels of canine food aggression:

1. Mild Aggression: the dog displays his teeth and growls.

2. Moderate Aggression: the dog will lunge towards the approaching person and snap at them.

3. Severe: the dog will bite when approached.

Pet owners can recognize food aggression by observing the way the stance of their dog as he eats. He’ll  appear stiff, hovering over his food bowl with his head down. The ears of your dog may be laid back, his hackles will be raised and the tail will be lowered. This is all his way of saying, “this is mine, stay back!”

How To Stop Food Aggression:

The first step in seizing your dog’s aggressive behavior is to assess the dog overall. Is your dog naturally dominant? A dominant dog will show aggressive behavior towards toys, bedding as well as his food, and assert himself as the “Pack Leader.”

Or, is your dog naturally timid? A timid dog acts aggressively towards their food because he is afraid his food is not safe or someone will take it from him.

Lastly, determine what level of food aggression your dog is displaying. Is your dog’s food aggression mild, moderate or severe? If your dog has a severe food aggression, consult a dog specialist to prevent personal injury.

Two Dogs Eating on Concrete Outside

However, if your dog has a mild or moderate food aggression, here are some steps you can take to stopping canine food aggression:

Step 1:

Feed your dog at the same time, in the same place every day. Dogs are pretty good at knowing when it’s time to get fed and a timid, aggressive dog will feel safe in knowing his meal will be there every day for him.

Step 2:

Always feed your dog after you have eaten, never before or while you eat. In a pack, the alpha leader always eats before the rest of the dogs to assert his dominance.

As the pack leader, you must show your dominance over your dog and eat first, or Fido will claim his place as the dominate alpha in the household.

Step 3:

Walk or exercise your dog before he eats. Food aggression could be linked to your dog’s natural hunting instinct and without that need to hunt, aggression could be the result.

Wear that aggression out of your pooch by taking him on a long walk before dinner, instead of after a meal.

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Step 4:

Make your dog wait for his meal. Tell Fido to sit or stay outside the room in which you feed him. Do not let your dog come into the room until you have filled his food bowl.

Tell Fido to come into the room, while you stand beside his food bowl and remain by his bowl until he has eaten his food for a while.

By standing by the food bowl, you are showing your dog that his food is safe around humans and he should not feel the need to show aggression.

Small Dog Eating Alone in Kitchen

Stopping food aggression requires training and patience. It is important to get your dog to stop his aggressive behavior to keep your family and other pets safe.

By using the steps listed above every day, your dog’s food aggression will become absent in his behavior and you can feel safe feeding your dog around others.

For your safety, always consult a professional if you feel your dog’s aggression has become too severe for you correct.


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