Why Do Dogs Guard Their Food?
Last updated on April 22, 2022 By Puppy Leaks 7 comments
Does your canine get defensive when you method his food? Does he stiffen up, growl, or possibly even snap at you? That behavior is called resource guarding, and when it concerns dogs food is the most common trigger.
It’s a problem that numerous canine owners face — myself included. Here’s why dogs guard their food, and some resources to help you manage the behavior.
Why Do Dogs Guard Their Food?
Guarding food is a worry based behavior that some dogs exhibit. While it’s not a behavior that’s desirable in the home it’s essential to remember that it is a normal, instinctual behavior for dogs. resource guarding is a behavior that helps animals out in the wild — those that successfully guard their food are the ones much more likely to survive.
Guarding food and highly sought after objects is something dogs have been doing for ages. Wolves wouldn’t be nearly as successful if they didn’t have the ability to defend their resources. In a natural environment these adaptive traits give dogs an advantage. – 5 myths about resource Guarding
Resource guarding in dogs ranges from mild to severe. In mild cases a canine might get slightly stiff as you method his food bowl, and in much more severe cases they might growl and/or bite when approached. If your canine is guarding his food it’s essential to remember that it does not imply your canine is overly aggressive, nor does it that your canine is trying to be much more dominant than you. It’s a worry based behavior that dogs use to keep others from taking away their food or possessions.
The good news is that resource guarding can be managed, but the bad news is that no one knows exactly why some dogs guard their food and others don’t.
What we do know is that dogs who guard their food feel insecure, and they’re guarding it to keep others from taking it away. Does that imply that you somehow taught your canine to be nervous around food? Not necessarily. Food guarding (also called resource guarding) is thought to be caused by both genetics & environment, what we refer to as nature & nurture.
Here’s a look at some of the common theories as to why dogs guard their food, and some suggestions you can take to manage the behavior.
Puppies may learn Guarding by competing With Littermates
Some experts believe that food guarding begins very young, when puppies have to compete for limited supplies of food such as their mothers milk or food from a bowl. The puppies that eat the most grow the quickest, and the theory is that those pups are being rewarded for eating as much food as they can for that reason establishing a history of being rewarded for monopolizing the food for themselves.
Resource guarding may occur as a result from insecurity from competing for food or being deprived of resources, but it’s essential to note that some dogs who exhibit guarding have no history of neglect, abuse or deprivation.
A canine might be genetically inclined to guard, but depending how much he is allowed to practice the behavior throughout his life also contributes to the severityof the problem. – resource Guarding, whole canine Journal
When handling a canine that guards their food keep in mind that your canine is not trying to be overly aggressive or dominate you. Guarding is a worry based behavior that dogs use to avoid something important from being taken away. For much more information on how to help manage your dogs guarding check out 5 ways you can hep decrease resource guarding.
The environment may cause Food Guarding
Dogs in shelters exhibit a higher than typical rate of food guarding (as much as 25%). but keep in mind that the shelter environment is an incredibly stressful one, and the assessment that dogs get to rate their aggression with food (sticking a rubber hand in their food bowl) might not correlate to how a canine would react in a normal environment. Dogs in shelters might not know when and if their next meal is coming, so their anxiety about it increases.
Fear is the underlying cause of many forms of canine aggression. It is triggered by a stimulus that is threatening to the dog. When the aggression is a direct reaction to a challenge or confrontation, it might be referred to as defensive aggression. – Merck Veterinary Manual
Many shelters have developed feeding programs that help decrease the amount of food guarding seen in the shelter by free-feeding their dogs, giving them access to a full food bowl whatsoever times and/or making sure they have access to food on a consistent basis.
So while it’s true that numerous dogs guard their food while living in a shelter environment, studies have shown that the behavior is no longer observed after dogs are placed into homes. In many instances dogs placed into homes no longer show food guarding after as little as 3 weeks, and numerous shelters report success rates of over 90%.
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