Click here to Return to Educational ResourcesResources.html

Tip #6                                Aggression at the Bowl

Whether dealing with aggression at the dog’s bowl or over a bone, the behavior is the same.  The dog perceives a threat to something he thinks he must guard. 

Why is it important to be able to take the dog’s bowl of food or bone away from your dog? 

There are many circumstances which you may need to take something away from your dog.  It is for the unforeseen and sudden circumstances that we need to know and trust that we can.  You don’t want to find yourself in a life saving situation and worry that your dog may bite  In addition, it adds an element of tension to the home if you always have to keep others safe from your pet while he is gnawing on a bone or eating his meal.

How do you safely teach your dog to give up their food bowl or bone?

Start first by hand feeding your dog.  Do this for approximately a week.  Then on the second week begin again by hand feeding but progressively lower the bowl to the floor while still hand feeding the dog.  Your dog should begin to understand that your hand represents the giving of food not the taking of it.  Continue hand feeding from the floor for a day or two.  On the second or third day, begin by hand feeding from the floor and add in an occasional special treat (such as: hotdog, cheese, chicken, roast beef.)  Now your dog is thinking, this hand not only feeds me, but brings me better morsels too!  Do this for a day or two and on the second or third day of special treats, place the food on the floor without hand feeding and occasionally offer up a special treat. Now the dog has “control” of his bowl, you are just the visitor offering him a gift. 

At this point he should not be growling or feeling the need to hover over his food.  Bring him his special treat and when giving it by hand, take the bowl from the floor.  Put some of the special treat into his bowl and put it on the floor and tell him good dog.  Do this each time you feed him one or two times at the most. 

It’s important not to disrupt his eating too many times as he may begin to get annoyed by the disruption and react to that instead.  

The process of taking the bone is similar.  Always offer up a yummy treat in exchange for the bone.  You should have already gone through the process of the food bowl before attempting it with the bone. Do not even allow a possessive dog a bone or object of possession until you have completed the process of removing safely the food bowl.  If your dog learns that growling will cause you to go away the dog will feel empowered by this and you will have a tougher time getting him to relinquish. Again, remember do not disrupt the dog’s enjoyment to the point of being annoying, and never let a child take the bone from the dog.

If your dog demonstrates a willingness to bite, consult a professional trainer to help in this process.  Your safety and the dog’s safety are our first priority.