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Does Sticking Hands In Dog’s Food Ensure He Doesn’t Become Food Aggressive?

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I definitely see the intentions here are in the right place. I understand where this is coming from and how it’d be easy for someone to do this believing it would do more good than harm.

Theoretically, this makes sense from a couple of different perspectives.

  • If you get the dog used to your hand being there from the beginning, it would make sense that the dog would learn not to view your hand as a threat because it never meant anything bad, right?
  • If I communicate to the dog that the food is indeed mine, and I stick my hand in the food bowl as I please, then the dog should know that there’s no need for contention, because it’s my food and I’m “just letting him have it as I please”. The second mentality comes from the “Alpha pack leader” mindset.

The possible problems here are as follow:

You could accidentally send the message that it is not safe to eat in your presence. Your good intentions could easily be misinterpreted as harassment. Do you see how that could be possible?

When you use the “It’s mine” approach, you are in fact telling the dog he needs to eat faster or be very wary of you when it comes to meal times. Thus, increasing the likelihood of this dog developing food aggression (resource guarding).

I’m not going to sit here and say this approach will never work because obviously it has worked for some people. I just want you to accept the possibility of your dog accidentally making the wrong connection.

You need to accept something else about dogs. It’s that “food aggression” is a very natural behavior on ALL social animals. It goes back to the “survival of the fittest” way of life all organisms are subject to. Food aggression ensures animals get their fill. So it never surprises me when a dog has food aggression because some dogs are more prone to develop this behavior.

What you need to do is something different if you want to avoid food aggression. Instead of doing the “it’s my food” approach or sticking your hands in the food bowl try instead to add value to whatever they have. For example if my dog is eating, from time to time I’ll go over and add cheese or more food. Doing this I tell my dog I’m not after their food but rather my presence adds value. The dog feels no need to rush or feel stressed around you during mealtime, which is how food aggression can occur to begin with.

Please keep in mind that if your dog already has food aggression you now need the help of a professional. Also, adding value to their food can work great but there needs to be more communication between you and your dog all the way around. By that I mean there should be a clear boundary line and healthy respect for one another.

If your dog for example is a very pushy dog he may still develop food aggression wether you add value or not. Address your relationship first.

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