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Do you think making the feeding of a dog a control issue will encourage food associated aggression?

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Discussion Starter #1
I have a co-worker who owns a yellow Labrador male about three years old. It?s not a working dog, simply a family pet. It hasn't seen much training, and it isn't a well bred dog.

Well, the unthinkable happened last week. The dog is an outside dog, but they brought it in the house because of abnormally cold temps. No one is exactly sure how it happened, but the two year old boy apparently got close to the dog while it was eating, and the dog bit him on the face tearing the boys upper lip wide open (requiring several stitches). According to the owner, the dog has never shown signs of aggression before.

As we talked about it further, my friend told me that at times he had tried to exert his dominance over the dog by putting food in front of the dog, letting it eat, and then making it stop eating (red flags immediately went up in my mind). I thought to myself that his "food control" training may have actually promoted the aggressive behavior associated by making food a dominance issue and bringing out the dogs natural instincts to defend it.

My personal philosophy over the years has been to never mess with the dog?s food one it is given. I don't free choice feed, and once the dog gets its meal, it doesn't have to worry about defending it because knows it can depend on me never to interrupt that. I touch my dogs; scratch their ears, shoulders, and chest in order to teach them to relax with my presence while eating. I've even done the spit on the food thing, but I never touch their food or bowl during mealtime. With that said, I've never seen even the slightest hint of food possessiveness/aggression in any of my dogs.

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From day one with my pups I make sure that I am "playing" with their food and bowls while they are eating. I can put their bowls down and stick my face in while they are eating without incident. By doing this from day one I have never had a dog show food aggression. In fact I feed all 5 of my dogs in the same room with their bowls just feet apart and I have never had an incident between any of them. In fact my cats will come over and stick their faces in the bowls while the dogs are eating and the dogs have never reacted.
 

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There are too many things going on here. Outside dog coming in so different surroundings+2 year old+food. I'm not sure you can really sort out what happened. There are those that say it should never happen, but who knows the true history. I agree, don't have kids mess with a dog when he's eating but who knows if his "training caused it." I once had a lady tell me she put the collar on the dog and nicked him to teach while having the kids feed him and take the food away and pet him. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out this wasn't the dogs fault.
 

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Why people feel the need to play russian roulette with their dawgs at feed time is beyond me?!? :? Only later after tempting fate to be bit or worse have a child bitten by an otherwise gentle family pet and feel the need to put the animal down! :evil: Crate the dawg let them enjoy their meal everytime! If a waitor at a RR were to come up and put his hand in my meal he would walk away with a fork in it! :wink:
Peake
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this is what happens when a dog is not trained. it does what it thinks is best at the time.

unfortunately this is more "rule than exception" when it comes to the world's dog owners.

any time an unskilled individual is allowed to control a potentially dangerous situation there is a chance for the worst possibility to become a reality.

sorry for the child and the dog. the owner got what he deserved. i just hope, though i doubt seriously, he will take responsibility. this is questionable in my mind, as it appears he is already serching for excuses.

tell him to look in the mirror for the cause.

sorry if this seems harsh but i am not an enabler.
 

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I agree with Peake. The dog-especially a dog that wasn't aware of the boundaries while in the house-shouldn't be left unsupervised around children-especially at feeding time. The dog did nothing wrong in his mind & whoever allowed a child access to his food bowl was beyond irresponsible.

The dog & the child both lose-through no fault of their own. Beyond sad.
M

Oh-just want to add that Yes-I expect (& can) take food or bones from my dogs at any time & they are not allowed to eat things they find. But these lessons were taught clearly when they were little & I didn't do what your co-worker does-which I think is tantamount to teasing the dog & power tripping for no good reason.
 

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I agree with others. Crate the dog, remove the problem.

Yes, there are ways to deal with food aggression and desensitize, but most pet owners are not dog trainer enough to either read their dogs or stick with a regime of incrementally small stages of success. Thus, the suggestion of avoiding the situation entirely by use of the crate.

Resource guarding is a problem not of dominance, but of submissiveness. So what you friend did indeed contributed to the problem. Alpha animals in a pack are not challenged at the kill. They get their choice of the best. Only when they are finished are the rest of the pack allowed to dine on the kill. This is where pack dynamics comes into play. The more dominant animals will try to take anything away from the weaker/submissive animals (survival of the fittist). The submissive animals will have to defend their food vigorouly, or go hungry. Modern dogs still have this instinct. The more submissive a dog is, the more likely it is to develop resource guarding issues.

Your friend, by meddling with his dog's food, sent a signal that the alpha animal is crazy and not to be trusted, and that all food should be guarded. He caused the opposite of what he wanted.

Lisa
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Interesting stuff Lisa. When I said "dominance" I meant the owner (Alpha) dominating the dog (subordinate). Thanks for the validation, and also for stating my thoughts so much better that I did.
 

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Oh, I know what you meant. It was your friend asserting "dominance" over a dog that didn't need it that was the problem. Problem is, there is all this "alpha dog"and "dominance" crap available just everywhere, yet most people don't have a clue how this works or how subtly it is applied in the canine world. So they read a book they bought or an article on the internet, or take a class at PetSmart, and think they must "dominate" their pup, or surely all is lost.

I think this medling with food stuff is being taught all over the place in pet classes right now. I certainly am hearing more and more food aggression incidents than I used to. I think this trend toward "behavioral" dog training underlies a whole lot of it.

Lisa
 

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It was a mistake for the owner to think that whatever "lessons" he taught the dog about controlling food would carry over to the young boy. I suspect, an outside dog brought into the house where it is not used to being did not have enough time to adjust. The dog was doing the best it could and going by what it knows (instinct). This is not something to blame any one (including the dog) for. Unless the dog is going to move inside permanently, I say don't bother. Feed it in a crate or area where it will feel secure and prevent the problem from occuring. Some things don't always need "fixing", the best solution is to manage them.

FWIW, I expect to be able to remove anything from my dog's mouth, including food. But, they are taught this from a very early age with consistancy and patience. Meal times are structured with each dog having "his" bowl and place to eat. Even though I have total control over my dog's food, there is no reason to think they would be the same with anyone else. Being "alpha" is a lot more about structure and leadership than dominance.

Latisha
 
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