Original Question: "Hi! I have a one-year-old Cocker Spaniel puppy that gets possessive with her food with other dogs. I visit my mom a lot who has Rhodesian Ridegback and a Cocker Spaniel - both are older dogs. My moms Cocker Spaniel and mine have gotten in a few fights over food. What can I do to prevent this from happening?" - Rhianna
Thanks for your question.
This is a classic example of a behavioural condition known as resource guarding.
If this is a behaviour that recently developed, I would look for medical issues that could make your dog irritable. Any chronic pain condition such as arthritis, bladder stones for back pain can make a dog more aggressive in general. By the way you phrase your question, it sounds as though this has been present a long time.
The absolute best advice is to simply avoid the stimulus that triggers the behaviour. I would ask you the question, why does it matter to you that you can feed your dogs with your mom's dog? It would be a lot easier and less stressful for all of you if you just feed your dog in a private area away from everyone else. That is my grand advice to you. People often think a behaviour needs to be fixed, but if this is the only time this happens, then avoiding it is simple and reasonable.
If you feel you really have to correct this problem, then there are ways to do it but it could have varying success. If you want him to come away from food and you want to start teaching him to walk away from his food so he learns not to be so possessive, then call him over and give him a very special treat that he only receives if he follows your instructions. This will get him used to walking away and being rewarded for it. I would not recommend you physically move him. If he won't come, then I would feed him only a tiny amount of food, let him walk away and come to you for the treat because there is nothing left in the bowl.
If this isn't working, then I would recommend you contact a behavioural specialist that works with aggressive dogs. You can also consider anti-anxiety supplements and medications. These can be used in combination and you should consult your veterinarian.
Best of luck.
Dr. Clayton Greenway
Disclaimer: healthcareforpets.com and its team of veterinarians does not endorse any products or services mentioned. Advice presented by our veterinarians is not meant to replace a regular physical exam and consultation with your primary veterinarian. We always encourage you to seek medical advice from your regular veterinarian.
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