How did dog fights start at my house? Dog food aggression. Please use this proper mealtime leadership protocol and avoid my pitfalls.(cute pun?)
Note, this is not dog food aggression. This is play and there is a difference. I just don't have any pictures of fighting.
Remember, dogs do not growl or bite out of anger.
Ninety-nine percent of the time its a control issue you can fix.
It's all about communication. If you communicate what you expect, they won't be talking with their teeth.
Mealtime is often the first sign that you are not running the house and its a perfect time for a canine mental exercise.
Preparing your dog's food is more than filling the bowl and setting it on the floor. It sets the stage for everything else.
I don't care if it seems like a huge pain in the butt to change your habits, this is an important ritual worth ever extra minute a hundred times over, so do it every day for your long term sanity.
Here are some things this can help with. Are any of these familiar to you?
Here's what can happen if you don't follow this meal time protocol
Dog food aggression can lead to other unwanted behavior such as:
I believe it all starts with feeding because it's a main focus of life for most dogs. It's a daily (or twice daily) ritual you can easily control.
After all, isn't it you who should be head of the house? The pack leader? Yes!
By controlling dinnertime, you have the power to create harmony
in your home. It's a fundamental part of your role. By the way, a few
other great tips for correcting dog behavior are at How to Greet Your Dog, and
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Miss Helen waiting patiently for dinner. Eyes should always be on you - not on the food
This can be frustrating at the start but once they get it, you will be proud of them and you will be proud of yourself.
You will probably notice that they listen better to you at other times because of these dinnertime rituals. Remember, this is a mental exercise. It is not mean. Your dog knows he's actually working for his food by doing this, making it all the more appreciated!
Now change it up a bit by making them wait different lengths of time so you know they are waiting for your okay. Otherwise they will second guess you and dig in.
With my dogs, the one who's the most quiet and calm gets to eat first so I say the name first, then the word "eat" or "okay". Sometimes I don't talk at all but use hand gestures instead.
Ah! I almost forgot. Raising your dog's bowl can help with dog food aggression too. Go ahead and read Elevated Dog Food Bowls. I talk about the psychology of raising their food off the floor. This is especially useful if your dog growls at YOU.
You should be able to take food from your dog, put your hand in his bowl while he's eating or even take food from his mouth (if he gets something dangerous) and he should trust you to do so.
For more help on having the dog of your dreams, here's a book I think you'll appreciate.
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Okay, that's the lesson for today. Wish I'd started it eight years ago. I promise you, it's worth your time to do this and the sooner the better. Bad habits and dog food aggression take longer to stop after they become a real problem.
Oh, and what else did I do wrong? I started separating them at mealtime because of the dog food aggression issue. Because that wasn't handled by me properly, it escalated over most of the things I mentioned.
I didn't realize that dogs don't hold grudges and I didn't understand that by separating them I was making it worse because I didn't resolve it and they no longer felt part of the same pack.
If you are having real problems with this and your dogs fighting is a result, keep this in mind. Dogs don't bite out of anger or hatred. They are trying to get their way. The calmer you stay, the sooner things can get back on track.
Why do dogs bite? Because you are not in control so they are trying to decide between them, who is in control. Dogs need a leader. It's just how their mind operates. Once they truly know you are in charge, they can relax and enjoy being a canine member of your home.