Post # 1
I’m not new to having dogs but I’ve never had a puppy show such extreme food aggression and frankly it is scaring me. I have an appt with a behaviorist next week but in the meantime I could use some advice. She is a pure bred Labrador retriever.
I thought I was doing the right things. We noticed she was growling when we came near her food bowl and would full out attack if we attempted to remove her from it or didn’t immediately back away the second she growled. I stopped feeding her from the bowl and only hand fed her. Her attitude completely changed and she was back to being an eager sweet little puppy gratefully inhaling food from my hand.
I keep her on a leash in the house because I have young children. She is constantly surpervised when out of her crate and has a set schedule of crate time, play time, walks, etc. she is rough just playing so I keep her on the leash so I can stop her from nipping and jumping on the kids. The food issue seems to be resolved. I fed her from a slow feeder bowl today and was able to remove the bowl and she just looked at me and sat to ask for it back.
She earns every treat and meal she gets. But I bought a bone type treat called Nylabone Healthy Edibles long lasting chew. She followed commands and laid down for it and took it gently from my hand. Went into the living room to chew it. Kids are playing around her by themselves. I’m holding the leash and watching her intently just in case. Several minutes go by without incident. My 2 year old gives her a pat on the lower back, all fine. They’re walking around her, not paying attention to her. 2 year comes back to pat her again and give her a kiss. Same thing, all fine. Happens a couple more times and I have the leash from the other direction ready to remove her if necessary. But she showed no distress. Until 2 year old came over again and kissed her again and for some reason she growled that time.
So I pulled her leash firmly and I said no (back to the crate). At this point she lost her mind and sounded possessed. Full on attack mode snarling lunging snapping at me. It was just a ball of teeth and frenzied snarling. I managed to get her to her crate but had to leave her leash on for several minutes before going back and removing it when she calmed down.
Everything I read says puppy aggression isn’t “real” aggression but I’ve had dogs throughout my life and this was real and scary considering I have small kids. I have to make this stop, it’s simply not an option.
Working with her food was much simpler because I had her leashed and could pull her back to remove the bowl if I had to. With a bone it’s right in her mouth and I don’t know how I would apply the same methods. Any advice is appreciated. We are dedicated to making this work but I need her to be safe. She’s rambunctious all the time and also very sweet, but this is something very different and it’s like she’s a different dog.
Just looking for some pointers in the meantime to get us to our session with the behaviorist. If there’s anything I’m doing that I shouldn’t be or if I’m not doing enough, I’d love suggestions. Do I just not give her those kinds of treats? Or is there a good method for stopping this behavior(which is what I’d rather do)? I’m not going to lie, she scared me. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I didn’t have the leash on to hold her away from us. It scares me that she’s this aggressive already at such a young age- 15 weeks.
Post # 2
What was her body language like when the kids were around? I’m guessing there were actually a few signs that may have been ignored with her getting increasingly more aggitated with them bugging her while she was chewing on the bone. Ex, tail stops wagging, body freezes, staring etc. So for sure look for some of those signs in the future. You can usually manage it before it gets to full on growling/biting.
For now, I would work on “trading up”. Just taking the toy/bone away is not great, and can reinforce their need or want to protect it. But if you need to remove the item, offer a different treat or toy and trade it.
Preventing Resource Guarding: The Protective Puppy
Post # 3
Her tail was still wagging up until the moment she growled,she never froze. I definitely watched for both of those.
I did trading up with her food so I could try with the bone. It’s more the simple point of wanting her to be relaxed if someone touches her gently when she has a high value treat like that. No one tried to take it away.
Post # 4
Just wanted to offer some encouragement. Our dog went through a rough patch as a puppy with food aggression and we were able to train him out of it.
We are hyper vigilant with high value treats, because maybe a year after we had seen the last aggressive behavior he acted out again with a bone (christmas present). It took two adults to remove it and get him in his kennel and we threw the trigger away and won’t allow that type of treat again.
Food aggression can sound AWFUL. But beyond snarling he’s never once acted out.
We found teaching gentle, hand feeding, and having our older kids train the pup for his dinner (after the behavior is under control) have helped.
Any aggression gets him immediately removed to his safe space – kennel – alone until he chills.
His lasted maybe a month as a puppy, and like I said we’ve only witnessed one incident since then. So there’s hope!
Post # 5
Also this was around when he was 16/17 weeks too! I think it may be a developmental thing.
Post # 6
Thank you that makes me feel a little better. I’ve raised quite a few puppies and never had this level of food aggression, it never went past some mild growling so maybe I’ve just been lucky.
Did your dog ever snap? She snaps and was actively trying to bite me the entire time I was taking her to her kennel in our bedroom.
Post # 7
I would highly recommend puppy socialization classes ASAP – as in, playtime with other puppies of similar age. You’re at the tail end of the key socialization period, and a lot of these skills (such as not resource guarding) they learn not just from us, but also from other puppies. We have a new rescued puppy ourselves, and on my sister’s recommendation (she is a vet), we’ve had her in puppy socialization since 9 weeks old. She goes twice a week and plays with puppies her age for 3 hours. I’ve already noticed a big difference in her typical puppy behavior and she’s only on week 3.
Good luck – that must have been so scary! My old dog never had people aggression issues, but she did have dog aggression issues and it was absolutely terrifying at times.
Post # 8
He did the snarl and snap (sounds god awful) but never touched us at all. Physically got tense and crouchy. Jump-snap-snarl. I haven’t ever seen him do it to the kids, just me ans my partner.
We do keep him leashed in the kitchen if the kids are eating where he could reach, not because of fear as much as he’s a sneak and will table surf if I’m not looking. He’s gentle as a lamb 99.9% of the time with the kids.
Post # 9
It’s good you’re consulting with a behaviorist about the issue so early. Since she’s still a puppy, there’s a greater chance of successful behavioral modification.
My dogs have always eaten their meals and gotten their high value food treats in their crates. I have no kids, but I do have four dogs. While none of them are particularly food aggressive or resource guarders, we set them up for success. This may be a good solution to keep everyone safe until your behaviorist appointment, and they can give you more guidance from there.
Have you spoken to your puppy’s breeder about this? They may have background on your particular puppy or the bloodlines they breed that could help your behaviorist approach the issue.
Post # 10
It’s always been a rule in our house that if and when a dog is eating or has a treat to respect their space. Maybe your rule is she only gets bones while in her kennel if the kids can’t leave her alone. It doesn’t seem like she was resource guarding, she let her pat her and give her kisses multiple times and then got annoyed and voiced that. To me, the dog was put in a position to fail. I would never let a child give kisses and get in any dog’s face when they have any type of food no matter how loving and sweet the dog is.
Growling is the only way your dog knows how to communicate. “Hey, leave me alone.” It’s the same way they would communicate with other dogs and puppies. You aren’t supposed to punish growling as it’s a warning, and doing so creates a dangerous dog that gives no warning and bites or lashes out without letting anyone know they are upset. The dog was communicating that it wanted to be left alone in the only way it can. Maybe next time encourage the dog to pick up the bone and take it to her kennel or the other room. Give her a coping strategy and let her know what the appropriate behavior is when she is irritated. Annoyed that the kids are bothering you, leave. But also teach the kids! My dogs are in zero way resource guarders and love children and I would NEVER let a child get in their face and kiss them when they had a bone. It’s just not a safe or smart thing to do. 999 times out of 1000 it might be fine but there is a always chance with any dog that they will get upset.
You know she is highly food motivated and highly values her food so you should put her in situations that are set up for success.
I think you handled the food aggression well and are doing the right thing but in this instance, I think the people involved are the ones that need behavior modification.
She wasn’t guarding when she had the bone and only growled after someone was repeatedly up in her personal space. If a requirement for her is that she has to be okay with that situation then you need a dog that is less food motivated. But personally, that’s a situation I don’t put any dog in ever.
Post # 11
I’m not usually one to say rehome, but in this situation I would probably return the puppy to the breeder. This dog does not seem like a good fit for children who cannot be trusted to never drop a morsel of food.
Post # 13
You keep saying “in her face” but she was never in her face. She was by her tail. I encouraged her to gently pet our pup because I’ve always been told to correct and desensitize not ignore the behavior and isolate the dog. Accidents happen. What happens when I need to get something from my dog and can’t because I’ve never trained her not to guard?
I don’t know. There seem to be very different schools of thought on this issue. I just don’t want to end up with a 2 year old full grown dog that will full on attack anyone who touches her. That’s not okay.
I promise you my daughter was not being loud or rough in any way, they are very quiet and gentle with the pup as I’ve taught them. I’m trying hard to do the right thing.
Post # 14
I didn’t get her from a breeder. I got her from a friend of a friend who couldn’t keep her due to “moving.” We’ve only had her 2 weeks. Her previous owner said she was born in and lived in a barn on a farm.
Post # 15
When I was a kid, we had a golden retriever who was food and toy aggressive. He never grew out of it. The only time he stopped showing aggression was when he was dying of cancer. We stayed away from him while eating or chewing on his bone–basically, as elodie29 suggested, we gave him his space. When I was a kid, dogs were typically put down when they showed even the slightest aggression, but thankfully, we learned to respect his space, and recognized when he was getting irritated. He was an otherwise sweet and playful dog. He would have been euthanized with anyone else. I was bitten a couple of times when I didn’t respect his space, and tried to pet him while chewing, or take his toy or food bowl away. My mom was the only person in the house who he didn’t show aggression to. She remained alpha, and didn’t let him get away with anything. Your pup’s behavior sounds exactly like how my dog started out as a puppy. For now, instruct your kids to stay away when she’s chewing and eating–wait for the behaviorist to show you proper techniques in working with your pup. Hopefully your dog behaviorist can work with you to correct the issue. If not, I would rehome the dog to a child-free home, and with someone who has experience rehabilitating aggressive dogs. You and your kids may be able to coexist with the behavior like we did; however, we never allowed our friends or neighbors around our dog. A worst-case scenerio would be for your dog to bite someone else’s child. I’m hopeful you can get her behavior sorted out.