Friday, August 7, 2009

Rehabbing food aggression: part 2

Once you’ve made some positive steps and notice your dog is a bit more comfortable with you around the food dish, there is still more to do.

• Rather than giving the dog its meals all at once, divide it into three portions. Give the first portion, let the dog eat, then ask it to back away from the dish, sit, and stay. Then, give the dog its second portion of the meal. Repeat.

• Practice hand feeding often. At first, you may want practice tossing kibble or treats to your dog. Work your way up to extending an open hand towards him, holding kibble, and allowing him to eat directly from your hand.

• Give the dog an exchange at feeding time. Have something delicious on hand, perhaps a little wet food or some cooked chicken. When the dog is eating, wave the other dish with the more delicious food near enough so he can smell it. Once you’ve got him begging for that food, put that dish down on the floor. When he begins eating from it, pick up his other food dish. Of course, when he finishes his tasty little treat, give him his regular food back.

• Get the rest of the family involved. Just because the dog is learning that you are not a threat to his food source does not mean he’ll assume all family members are non-threatening. Dogs don’t generalize, so get everyone involved in the training exercises you are working on — just be sure not to involve children until the dog has loosened up a bit, and be very cautious. Use common sense. Do not let children do any exercises that could put them in danger, and be sure to supervise every second of the training.

Object guarding
Oftentimes, food aggression goes hand-in-hand with object guarding. If your dog is growling at you when you walk near his food dish, he may also growl at you when walk near his bone or stuffed animal.
After all, the dog views both food and toys, especially real bones or rawhides, as resources.
The greatest way to overcome and proof against object guarding is the exchange game. Whenever the dog gives up a toy, he gets something better — a treat or another coveted toy. You are teaching him that releasing toys to you is rewarding for him.
Check out this article, which offers valuable insight to rehabilitating both food aggression and object guarding.

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