Dogs are possessive by nature, and, in fact, many hate it when you touch their belongings, especially the food bowl, and more so even when they’re eating or enjoying some especially tasty treat. And they are not all in the wrong! We’d get pretty upset too if they took our plate of lasagna out from under our noses while we’re eating! Sometimes, however, this behaviour can go overboard and so it’s best to correct it before it becomes a real problem.
It may have happened to you: out of niceness you decide to give the dog a few extra kibbles or add some soft food while he’s already enthusiastically munching away. Most dogs will respond with a growl because their atavistic instinct teaches them that food = survival, and so they have to defend it at all costs. That’s understandable. But if the dog starts to growl at anyone who simply walks by him while he’s eating, well, that’s when the alarm bells should start to ring. It’s a short step from growl to bite. And it’s a behaviour pattern that will only get worse over time, unless you do something about it before it’s too late.
Here are three tips on how to correct this behaviour:
Touch him while he’s eating: pet him gently on his back as soon as you give him his food, then leave him to eat in peace. It’s a way to relax him, even though there is food in front of him.
Take his bowl away to add more food: he has to understand that when you take his beloved bowl you are doing so not to steal his food, but to give him more. We suggest you do this carefully. Alert the dog by talking to him with a calm voice, then slowly approach him and take the bowl, add the food and give it back to him. Make sure he sees what you are doing. If he’s trained, then use the same command for leaving whatever it is he is playing with so that you can take the bowl.
Get him accustomed to leaving his food: try to get his attention with a toy, do something that will disconnect him for a moment from his bowl. We have to be able to control the dog’s aggressive tendencies in any situation, and that includes in the presence of food.
Don’t ever underestimate certain behaviour patterns: it’s always best to err on the side of caution, especially if there are children in the house. He has to understand that we are not there to take his food away, that he is safe and that no one wants to hurt him.
If you don’t feel up to the task of correcting this behaviour, then talk with your vet or go see a canine trainer who can set Rex right again with the proper training and education.