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Dogs have a natural tendency to guard their possessions from other animals or humans. It is a part of their survival mechanism from their days in the wild. However, it is an undesirable trait in domestic pets, especially when it is directed towards people. Often times, it is benign, but there are cases where it turns into full-blown aggression. Here are a few exercises you can try to prevent aggressive food guarding behavior in dogs:
- Stand a few feet from your dog as he eats food from his bowl. Ask him in a conversational tone “what do we have here?”, and toss a treat into his bowl at the same time. Continue to do this till he finishes eating. Repeat this each time you feed him till he begins to eat in a relaxed way.
- Once you are past the first step, but this time take a step towards his bowl each time you toss him a treat. Once you throw in the treat, step back. Repeat this till he has finished eating. Each day, go one step closer to him before you toss in the treat. Do this till you are at least two feet from his bowl. If he continues to remain relaxed for ten continuous meals, you can move on to the next stage.
- Repeat the first step till you toss your dog his treat. Then, turn around and walk away immediately. Repeat it for every few seconds till he has finished eating. Do this for ten meals.
- Once you are past the third stage, do not toss him the treat. Stand next to him and hold the treat in your hand. Bend down a bit and hold it out just an inch toward his direction. If he eats it from your hand, turn around immediately and walk away. Repeat it every few seconds till he has completely finished eating. Each day, make sure you bend down a little more towards him, moving your hand closer to the bowl. Once you are near it, hold the treat right next to his bowl. Repeat this for ten meals till you are ready to move on to the next stage.
- Once you have crossed the previous stage, approach him and ask him “what have we got here?” in a conversational tone. Stand next to him and touch the bowl with one hand while you offer him food with the other. Repeat this for ten meals in a row.
- Once you are past stage five, repeat the conversational cue and lift the bowl just six inches off the ground and drop a special treat in it. Then return the bowl to him immediately so that he can eat peacefully. When you repeat it the next time, raise the bowl a little higher, till you take it all the way to the counter or the table before you drop a treat in it and return it to him.
If everything goes well, have all the other members of your family go through the same steps and make sure that your dog remains comfortable through the exercises. With enough practice, you will have trained him to be more trusting of his fellow humans without him realizing it.