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Raquelwyck

Food aggression normal?

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Not sure if this is the proper place to ask, but I'm seeking some suggestions for my border collie mix. We rescued him about a month or two ago and haven't had many issues. He's about 6mo old and seems to be completely house broken and knows simple commands such as sit/stay. However, he's been showing some aggression towards my 20 months old son, particularly around his food and one of his tennis balls. He's snapped (at his face) twice now and gets very skittish before/after feeding time. We've tried having our son feed him and hand him treats, we make him wait before approaching his food and we've tried to make him feel as if his food is secure. Nothing seems to be working and the aggression towards my son seems to be getting worse. I've contacted a few trainers and am still waiting to hear back from them.

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Any sort of resource guarding (which is what this is) is NOT normal.

 

I'm glad to see you've contacted trainers. Hopefully they are positive folks, and can help you right now.

There are many websites that can give you good information about dealing with resource guarding.

However, it might be hard to glean the good from the bad, so a personal trainer (behaviorist) is much better.

 

Meanwhile, DO NOT leave your son and your dog together unattended - EVER.

This is just a recipe for disaster - for both.

Use baby gates, fences, x-pens, doors, whatever you need to do.

Please do this NOW

 

You are definitely to be commended for reaching out for help. I hope you get it.

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I didn't think I would find this readily, but here is an article. It's kinda long, but also describes some ways to deal with this problem - and none of it is an overnight fix. Good luck.

 

Well, heck. The link won't work.

Try googling this: w-d-j resource guarding

 

There was an article in October 2011 on this subject.

(w-d-j is Whole Dog Journal)

 

diane

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He is telling you that he considers himself as the leader in your household. Dog food aggression sometimes called is a dominance issue, it is serious and needs to be addressed immediately. It won't simply just go away. Food or toy aggression in dogs should never be tolerated as you never know when it can escalate into something more dangerous for you or a family member. I’ve worked with rescue groups that would not even take in a food aggressive dog because of the underlying problems. Find someone who is an expert on this, not just someone who thinks they know the answer. This can be a very dangerous situation and I would keep your son away and not force him into the picture with the dog.

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I don't see how food aggression is a dominance issue, it's well known that subordinate dogs and wolves will defend food from more dominant animals. It's not a sign of dominance.

 

Agree with the others that professional help is needed.

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Dominance theory is outmoded and inaccurate. Even the person who originally proposed it (Devid Mech) in wolves has backtracked on it, says he was wrong about it and says it should never have been applied to dogs.

 

Agreed that professional help is in order . . . but don't let someone who's still working off dominance theory near your dog. There's too much chance it'll just make the issue worse.

 

Instead look on line and in the archives here for instructions on trading up.

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I think resource guarding is very normal. Watch how puppies interact, the bigger most confident aggressive ect get the most space at the food bowl at 5 weeks old. Normal yes - acceptable NO!

 

I teach my pups What Mine is Mine and What is Yours is MINE. I teach them that whatever I want I can take, whatever I want or need to do to you - you will just have to take it even if you dont like it. The people that can not brush their dogs or clean ears or trim nail is incredible. They say 'he doesn't like it" My reply is " That is too bad, but he doesn't get a vote"

 

Avoiding the issue by separating or crating will not Fix it. Each dog is different as to what gets the point across that growling or biting is unacceptable, but needs to understand it is. Some just need a correction and voice reprimand some need more but do not ignore it because odds are it will grow.

I had a great Pyrenees pup 6 to 8 mo old grow Once while he was eating and I scolded him walked toward him backing him up about 25 feet. That was first and last time he ever growled. I tell you this because guarding/ growling can lead to other issues and the correction needs to be enough so he thinks long and hard about his transgression and never repeats it.

 

Is he neutered?

I would start by having him understand every good thing he has to ask you for. He asks to go out, does not charge out doors, he has to sit and wait for his food and to to be given the ok to eat, He asks for time with you or to sit close or to be petted ect. Make him work for things. Some dogs get the idea we are they for their pleasure instead of the other way around.

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Thank you all for your responses! He is neutered and we've been keeping a close eye on him and my son together. We have another 4 yr old son who he's had NO issues with, even in the same exact situations. (For example, my 4 yr old can stick his hands in Trooper's bowl and not be growled at.) We've also made sure to feed Trooper only after everyone else has eaten to really drive home the fact that we are the alphas and he is not. My husband had given up on him and wants to find him a new home- I'm committed to fixing the issue, but also not willing to risk my son's well being. And honestly, keeping an eye on them 24/7 is stressing me out 😓

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I would also hold off on having your son give him anything or even really interact much with him until a trainer can come in and assess the situation. I'd be really cautious about doing things that bring the dog close to your son (such as him eating out of his hand) in case the dog gets close and decides he's unhappy and snaps. The more they ignore each other, the better. Good luck, and I hope the trainers call you back soon.

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We've also made sure to feed Trooper only after everyone else has eaten to really drive home the fact that we are the alphas and he is not.

 

This is exactly the kind of thinking that's total hogwash. It's not going to teach a dog anything about people being "alpha." :blink:

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Sorry, we're definitely not dog experts over here! This is the first dog we have owned as a family- we previously lived with my parents who have a huge and very aggressive (towards strangers and dogs) Belgian shepherd but he never ever even so much as growled at the kids. So this is all new to us!! I also feel like I should mention- my 20 months old and Trooper get along perfectly well when his food/bowl are not involved. They play and run around like best buds 🤔

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Resource guarding is absolutely normal behaviour but obviously not acceptable and rather than punish a dog for ding what comes naturally it is far better to let him realise that there is no need to do it because he is going to be left in peace to eat.

 

All my 7 dogs came with the potential to guard food and the first time it manifested itself it was met with a "Pack it in" but it was just a sign that the dog should not be put in the position of feeling a need to guard.

 

It never lasted more than a could of days of being fed on their own in a quiet place.

 

Never, ever let any child bother a dog while it is eating. There is no reason to do it and your child could get bitten. Allowing your 4 year old to put his hands in your dog's bowl is very dangerous.

 

Growling is not a sin, it's just the dog's way of telling you how he I feeling. Respond to the message appropriately by finding a non confrontational way of getting what you want and the growling will stop.

 

And if your dog is getting possessive over toys, remove them and only allow him to play with them when you say so. Keep him away from the children' toys.

 

Young children and dogs are an accident waiting to happen without close supervision and education. I have a 20 month old granddaughter and a 19 month old collie that have grown up with each other and treat each other with respect but they are still watched very closely when together. Of my other dogs, one isn't allowed anywhere near children and three prefer to ignore them.

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Not sure if this is the proper place to ask, but I'm seeking some suggestions for my border collie mix. We rescued him about a month or two ago and haven't had many issues. He's about 6mo old and seems to be completely house broken and knows simple commands such as sit/stay. However, he's been showing some aggression towards my 20 months old son, particularly around his food and one of his tennis balls. He's snapped (at his face) twice now and gets very skittish before/after feeding time. We've tried having our son feed him and hand him treats, we make him wait before approaching his food and we've tried to make him feel as if his food is secure. Nothing seems to be working and the aggression towards my son seems to be getting worse. I've contacted a few trainers and am still waiting to hear back from them.

 

Resource guarding is totally normal in dogs - but it is not desirable. He's at an age where lots of things are going on in his clever brain and my advice now is to keep him away from your toddler completely.

 

Others have already given you good advice. So I'll just add that toddlers can be disconcerting to many dogs. They don't act, walk, move or sound like "normal" humans and I think dogs can find them almost impossible to read. A 6 month old pup is at a stage where lots of things can happen, from unexplained fear periods to testing boundaries at home and yes, sometimes aggression towards things they don't know how to deal with. Your older dog is mature enough to accept that your child is just a human "puppy," but your younger dog is still a puppy himself. A small child is probably just more than he knows how to cope with at this stage.

 

Please ignore the outdated balderdash about it being dominance. Food aggression can stem from fear or anxiety as much or more than any desire to dominate anyone, and I'd say your young dog is somehow fearful of, or uneasy with your child. It could be nothing more than the fact that your toddler is changing as he grows. The erratic movements and noises of a child still learning to walk aren't like the ways grownup humans behave. ;)

 

If you observe your dog closely, you might notice other signs of stress when he encounters your child, such as rolling his eyes so the whites show, panting when he's not hot, turning his head away or leaning away from the child's presence and so on. All those are signals meaning that your dog is extremely uncomfortable. The aggression may be because the other creature - the child - did not read his signals to go away.

 

Both your dog and your child are little kids! I'd guess they just need time to grow - separately - until they are old enough to understand each other's language. Remember, not every dog is good with small children and it's not at all common for border collies to find children scary and unsettling.

 

Bless you for reaching out for help! :)

 

~ Gloria

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I will just add to the other great advice. Stop now letting the kids put their hands in the dog's bowl. It is showing the dog that he is right to want to guard his food. In his mind, at any time a kid is going to come in and mess with my food so I should be on guard. I would not want a kid reaching on my plate either and there is no good reason a dog should have to put up with that. Crate the dog for his meals so he feels safe and calm to eat (and so your son is safe too) and get a professional in the home to assess the situation. Make sure the trainer has actual behavioral experience and not just obedience type work.

 

I also wanted to add to Gloria's post that yawning is also a sign of stress. Levi is quite fearful of young kids under 8 years old. He will lick his lips, turn his head sideways, yawn when he is near a small child. These are all signs he gives before moving to growling. Look for these signs and move the kids away from the dog so the dog learns that his signals work.

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I will just add to the other great advice. Stop now letting the kids put their hands in the dog's bowl. It is showing the dog that he is right to want to guard his food. In his mind, at any time a kid is going to come in and mess with my food so I should be on guard. I would not want a kid reaching on my plate either and there is no good reason a dog should have to put up with that. Crate the dog for his meals so he feels safe and calm to eat (and so your son is safe too) and get a professional in the home to assess the situation. Make sure the trainer has actual behavioral experience and not just obedience type work.

 

I also wanted to add to Gloria's post that yawning is also a sign of stress. Levi is quite fearful of young kids under 8 years old. He will lick his lips, turn his head sideways, yawn when he is near a small child. These are all signs he gives before moving to growling. Look for these signs and move the kids away from the dog so the dog learns that his signals work.

I totally agree. It is not acceptable for children (or adults) to be putting their hands in the dogs food dish while a dog is eating and the food dish shouldn't be left out after a meal as free feeding is not reccommeded. Children should be taught to respect dogs at all times: not pulling, poking, touching food, getting in their face. If the dog learns it is respected it is much more relaxed in stressful situations because it trusts you to be its advocate and protector.... It also keeps the children safe around other people's dogs who may not be used to children.

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