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Why does Food Guarding Happen and How to Respond

Does your pup take on a certain guarding behavior around their food? Food guarding is fairly normal behavior that stems from animals protecting their food for survival purposes.

Typically pet owners begin to notice this guarding behavior when their dog is between 6 and 18 months, though the behavior can develop at any age. This problem can be alleviated in puppies fairly quickly as long as it is addressed immediately. Food guarding behavior that begins in dogs over 3 years should notify their vet, this may be a medical issue. Since food guarding is instinctual, and may not be cured, a couple tips to decrease the behavior include:

* Teach your puppy from the beginning that people approaching the bowl means something good by giving them a tasty treat such as a small piece of cheese or dog treat.

* Don’t free-feed your dog. Make sure your dog is aware of meal times. By leaving the food bowl out all day they are constantly protecting their bowl.Offer your dog a treat when removing the bowl.

* All dogs should learn drop it with food items, treats, toys, etc. Start working on this valuable skill when your dog is a puppy.

* Problems with children and food can occur, since neither dog nor child understand the threat they hold in regards to the food, make sure you feed your dog away from children in a comfortable area. This also teaches the child not to bother the dog while it is eating.

* Don’t remove your dogs food in response to growling. This reassures the dogs fears that their food is constantly in jeopardy.

Make sure you contact your veterinarian if the food aggression becomes worse or randomly develops.

Tynes, Valerie. “Is it normal for a dog to growl when someone approaches its food bowl?” Healthy Pet. Fall 2010.

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