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Do Puppies Grow Out of Food Aggression?

The short answer is no; your dog will retain this behavior in some form unless you try to fix it.

It’s in your puppy’s instincts to guard its resources. While your puppy’s food guarding may be benign at first. It’s best to rectify the issue before they mature.

Strangers, and particularly children, can have some bad accidents because of your dog’s aggression around food and treats.

dog eating from his plate

But the good thing is, with proper training, you can curb their tendency to get aggressive or territorial about food.

So before you worry that you’ve done something wrong, let’s find out if your pup checks all the boxes first.

Is Puppy Food Aggression Normal?

You’ve had your pup since they were 12 weeks, and they suddenly started growling at you; understand that this can come naturally to them before you start blaming yourself.

Food aggression is a form of resource guarding. They’re worried you’ll take their food away. In a similar vein, maybe they don’t feel safe or confident around people while they’re eating.

Don’t panic; understand that food aggression can develop for a multitude of reasons.

  1. Your pup used to eat from a communal bowl and needed to compete for resources when they were a newborn.
  2. Your pup’s breed is naturally aggressive.
  3. Your pup had some trauma, like abandonment or neglect, before you got them.
  4. You feed your pup during a very busy time or area in the house.

Signs of Food Guarding or Aggression

There are many different types of aggression you may see in your pet. What you’re looking for can range from mild signs to dangerous, snappy behavior.

Mild Food Aggression:

Your dog stiffens, growls, bares its teeth, or raises its hackles.

Moderate Food Aggression:

Your dog will try to shield the food with their body. This is where you’ll notice that their ears are flat or pricked up, and their entire body is tense. Your pup snaps or lunges at you when you go near them.

Serious Food Aggression:

Your dog attempts to bite or chase people away while they’re eating.

How To Train Your Puppies Out of Food Aggression

Here are a few tips you can take in succeeding orders and apply during the next mealtime. Remember, it takes a lot of consistent repetition to reinforce good behavior. Don’t slack!

1.   Try to Desensitize Your Dog

The first thing you should do is to get your puppy used to your presence. You don’t have to be in their face when doing this.

Take note of the space around your pup where they’re indifferent to you while eating.

In very slow steps, slowly shorten the gap between you and your pup.

Speak in a calm and conversational tone to your dog. No high-pitched squeals or cheering! You just want them to get used to regular human sounds and movement while they’re eating.

2.   Give Your Dog Commands Before You Feed Them

Maybe everything was going so well with your pup when they suddenly growled at you during dinner.

One way to remind your dog that you provide and reward them when they behave is by giving a simple order like “sit” before putting down the food bowl.

a dog waiting for permission to eat

Giving a simple command can also help them calm down and learn patience around food and treats.

3.   Feed Their Meals in Parts During a Set Period

One crucial basis behind your puppy’s actions is that they’re worried you’ll take their food or resource away. You can combat this by giving their meals in parts.

First, divide their meal into 3–5 parts. Then, put the portions into their bowl one by one every time they finish a portion. Do this until they’ve consumed the entire meal.

Every time you go near their food bowl to add more food, you’ll reverse their thinking that you only come to take their food away.

You can change this up a little by providing a high-level treat each time you touch their food bowl while they’re eating.

4.   Feed Them Treats and Kibble by Hand

Once your dog is used to your presence while eating, you can feed their meal portions either by hand or reward their good behavior with a treat.

Now, although we’re telling you to pace their meals, that doesn’t mean you should feed your dog at random times.

Not feeding your dog on schedule will reverse any progress and worsen the problem.

Your dog can get aggressive because they expect good food at random intervals throughout the day rather than a consistent schedule they can depend on.

Dogs thrive on a schedule, so keep even their treat times in order.

5.   Do Not Bother Your Pup While They Are Eating

Although we’ve told you to close the gap with your dog during mealtime and to talk to them, that doesn’t mean you should annoy them.

Your puppy can get irritable if you get too handsy or bother them too much during mealtime. They’ll be stuck with a negative impression of meals—and you!

6.   Never Take Away The Food Bowl While Your Pup Is Still Eating.

Do not, in any circumstance (except in emergencies, of course), take away the food bowl while they’re eating.

We’re trying to build a habit and bond of trust between you and your pup. You shouldn’t interrupt their mealtime or take away food when they feel comfortable around you.

When you take away their food bowl for good, you can close it off with their favorite treat, so they don’t think negatively of you.

7.   Repeat All These Steps With Family/House Members

owner giving food to dog

If you live in a busy household full of strangers, you won’t like it, and your pup will feel the same. That’s how it initially feels for your puppy. So, you’ll have to get your pup accustomed to everybody.

You can prioritize significant steps such as desensitizing your pup and handing food during mealtime. This will help your dog get used to people going about their business while they’re eating.

We may sound like a broken record, but consistency is key. It’s hard work to reverse a puppy’s bad behavior, but you’ll find that it’s worth it!