Dog Food Aggression

Many dogs like food, a lot of them love food and some are absolutely crazy around food. And some of those crazy guys will go to great lengths to make sure no one takes away their precious food.

This isn’t a healthy way to live for both the dog or the people living with him, so it’s important to treat this instead of just managing it – especially when kids are involved. You never want to take a chance with children because kids will be kids and dogs will be dogs, and sooner or later a situation is going to come up where the child and dog both want the same thing (like a dropped granola bar) and that’s when a bite will happen.

Here’s a video going over how I treat food bowl grumpiness straight out of The FernDog Trainer Academy:


In this video:

  • 00:50 – Why hand feeding is a good place to start
  • 02:13 – Treatment by changing the dog’s state of mind
  • 02:50 – Spacing around the food bowl
  • 04:33 – Dividing the dogs meal into portions
  • 05:01 – The importance of getting eye contact
  • 08:25 – Dropping higher value food into bowl
  • 09:45 – Final steps
  • 10:05 – Things to watch out for
  • 10:20 – Controlling the environment

To treat food bowl aggression in dogs, you want to work in a controlled environment when you have the time to do it right. The key here is to understand that progress will only and always be at the dog’s pace – not ours.

Dog food guarding


Step 1 – Hand feeding for a week. We want to give the dog positive associations with people around and handling their food.

Step 2 – Divide meal into 10 portions of gradual increasing quantity and set aside on the counter top.

Step 3 – Chances are the dog is super excited at this time so have him sit/stay or just remain about 3 feet away while you’re preparing the food.

Step 4 – Make some noise in the bowl with the food but take it all out and put the bowl down.

Step 5 – Don’t the the dog go to the food bowl until he gives you a couple of seconds of eye contact. Once you do, release him to the bowl

Step 6 – The pooch will dive into the bowl, sniff around, and then look up at you in confusion.  Reset him back in position and repeat the same process but with just one nugget of food. The same thing will happen.

Step 7 – Continue with this process, slowly increasing the portion size as you go along.

After doing this a few times the dog should reach the bowl with less excitement and be eating more calmly. This process could take minutes or it could take weeks. The more severe the food aggression, the more repetitions we’ll need to do to address it. Once he’s doing well move on to the next phase.

Step 8 – Give him his full portion (or divide into 2 or 3) and let him begin eating as you stand over him approach him slowly with something very smelly, like hot dogs or chicken. As he’s eating every so often drop a piece of the high impact food in his bowl. In doing this, we’re showing him that great things happen when he goes toward his bowl. This teaches the dog that if he has something he values and you come near you give him something better – and he gets to keep his food. That’s a win – win.

Step 9 – Once he’s good with that and is eagerly anticipating your arrival, stay over him while he eats and drop pieces in his bowl and slowly pet him a little.

You have to only proceed ahead if the dog is doing really well – don’t push him. Take the time to slowly change his attitude around eating.

Once the dog makes the association and is showing no aggression whatsoever, you should be good to go and can discontinue this treatment and feed him normally. If at any time the dog seems to regress, go back and do some or all of the above steps.

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Leave A Reply (4 comments so far)

  1. Sue
    5 years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Your method has a bit of a different spin than I had been taught previously so it’s appreciated!

    • admin
      5 years ago

      Thanks for the feedback Sue. I’m glad it put some more tricks up your sleeve.

  2. Diane Petersen
    3 years ago

    Thank you for posting this. I am currently in the process of sparing a Rotts life which was supposed to end in 2days had I not stepped in and found a home for the puppy due to food aggression. I found her a new home and will be taking her from her current owners & shippingher on a plane from WI to WA but at least she will live. I will share this with the new adopter.

  3. dog food
    3 years ago

    thank you so much, your method was really helpful, my dog is now in good shape, enjoying his food in his plate & bowl only. it was really hard for me, so i tried different things but now after trying your suggested method. i followed your steps & it’s now 6th week & we are good & actually very happy. thank you again