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A dog is a loyal and trusted member of the family which is why signs of aggression are particularly alarming and dangerous. It is important to take signs of food aggression seriously because the behavior can evolve into your dog becoming possessive over other things in the home, not to mention the risk of your dog biting a family member.

 

 

What is Food Aggression?

Food aggression can very from a slight growl when you approach a dog while eating food or treats to snapping and even biting. In either case, it is a way for the dog to guard his resources and let others know to back off or else. It may be directed at humans as well as other animals.

While guarding resources is an instinctual behavior for dogs in the wild, it is not a welcomed behavior in the home where insecurities about provisions for food should not exist. That is why this form of behavior may be rooted in a fearful or anxious dog as well as a domineering type.

Your dog may be showing signs of food aggression if he becomes possessive over his food. His body will stiffen and he may keep his head down in an effort to protect his food from being taken away. Other classic signs include the whites of your dog’s eyes becoming visible, ears are held back, tail is lowered, and hair may stand up on back. As aggression progresses, he may go from growling, to lunging, and even to biting.

Where does your dog fit in?

In order to address this problem fully, determine if the behavior is limited to food only or if he is exhibiting the behavior with other things as well like a favorite toy, bedding, or even other people. If the behavior has extended to these other areas, then it is a more general form of resource guarding and necessary to address all of them simultaneously in order to see results.

Consider the root cause before you begin. If your dog is naturally dominant, then the solution will lie in you identifying yourself as pack leader in a calm and assertive way. On the other hand, if your dog has a timid or fearful demeanor, then building his confidence is key for him to learn that his food is safe when humans are around.

If your dog is displaying severe signs of aggression and you believe that he is ready to bite then do not attempt to curb his behavior on your own. Seek the help of a professional until the behavior calms down a bit in order to avoid any injury.

What can you do?

If your dog is already showing signs of food aggression then rehabilitation is needed. The fist thing to do is to desensitize your dog so that she can be approached during eating with out become protective. The next step is to teach your dog to associate people approaching her bowl as a pleasant experience by bringing good things with them.

Lets get started!

Consistency is Key

Anxiety and fear are common sources of aggression in dogs. If this is your dog’s reason for food aggression, try to eliminate this food phobia by providing consistency in serving your dogs meals at the same time each day. Dogs are very intuitive and regulatory. They pick up on environmental cues and can anticipate whats supposed to happen next, especially in regards to feeding time. Create structure and security by being consistent with meal times.

 

Will Work for Food

Dogs have been preconditioned to work in order to eat. Their wild ancestors were only able to enjoy their meal after a hunt. This releases their energy and gives a sense of reward when it is time to partake of the prize. For this reason, going for a walk and other physically exerting activities are best preformed before meals. Another way to help your dog practice a sense of restraint is by having him sit or lie down while you prepare the food. Let him hold this position while you set the food down, staying close to the bowl. Release your dog to come and eat, walking away shortly after he begins.

 

Play Leader of the Pack

Another ancestral instinct is for the alpha male dog or “pack leader” to eat first after a hunt. Practice feeding your dog only after you and your family have eaten to reinforce your position as pack leader in the home.

 

Building Trust

For each time your dog is showing signs of food aggression, feeding him without a correction will only reinforce the behavior. Dropping off the food and walking away will make him think that his aggressive tactics paid off and his symptoms can become even worse. You can not fight fire with fire and you can not fight aggression with aggression. Reconditioning is essential to win back your dogs trust using the tips below.

  • Hand feeding is a great way to build trust with your pet. You can allow him to eat some food out of your hand as well as use your hands to place the food in the bowl. This will give it your scent. You can work your way up to putting your hands into his dish while eating and around his face, however do not try this initially.
  • Toss treats into your pet’s bowl while he is eating to help him associate people approaching the bowl as a good thing. You can also do this during none meal times.
  • Lessen your dog’s focus on his meal by offering to trade him for something even more appetizing such as a favorite treat or some meat. This trade will help him to be at ease with turning his attention away from his coveted meal as well as positively affirm a human’s presence.

 

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Antioxidants play a vital role in preserving your dog’s food. Sometimes they are listed under unknown names. Getting acquainted with these terms can help you make a better decision next time you are trying to decipher a pet food label. 
The reason your dog’s food can stay on the store shelves, and then sit in your pantry for a while longer, is that the food is preserved with antioxidants and other necessary ingredients called preservatives. Antioxidants are substances that provide health benefits and prevent ingredients in the food from spoiling (oxidization). They are very important to keep your dog’s food tasting good and help maintain its nutrients.

Oxidation is the process that occurs when foods are exposed to oxygen. Naturally, over time the oxygen will cause a breakdown in the nutrients and fats in a food and cause everything from discoloration to rancidity. An antioxidant works to block or slow down the rate at which oxygen causes damage. Antioxidants are added to foods during processing to extend the shelf life of the final product.

The success of antioxidants in pet food depends on several conditions. Generally, antioxidants work better if they are added early in the production process. Another factor to consider is the combination of antioxidants used in the formula. Specific amounts and types of particular antioxidants work better together than others.

What do Antioxidants do?

There are numerous health benefits provided by antioxidants—aside from preserving pet food. Antioxidants also protect the body’s cells from damage and strengthen the immune system. Every day, the body is exposed to the destructive effects of free radicals, which are produced when cells are damaged due to the effects of oxidation. These free radicals are unstable and can cause even further cell damage if left unchecked.

This is where antioxidants come into play. Antioxidants slow down damage from free radicals and prevent further cell damage. They allow the immune system to function without interference from free radicals. This protection is important to prevent serious health issues from developing or worsening.

In young animals, antioxidants provide a boost to the developing immune system before vaccination has a chance to be effective. In older animals, oxidative injury to cells in the brain and organs may be slowed by antioxidants, providing a longer, healthier lifespan.

Where do Antioxidants come from?

There are two types of antioxidants commonly used in dog foods — natural and synthetic. Natural antioxidants include vitamins C, E, citric acid, and some herbal sources like rosemary. Vitamin C can be taken from common fruits and vegetables like cranberries, apples, tomatoes, blueberries, and more. Natural vitamin E is commonly listed as “mixed tocopherols” on the pet food ingredient list. Citric acids are taken from various citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and limes.

Common synthetic antioxidants (those created in a laboratory) you may see on the label include BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. BHA and BHT are chemically similar to vitamin E and are often used in combination in dog foods because they work well together. They are both very stable at high temperatures.

Ethoxyquin has been controversial in the past, but it is currently allowed in pet foods at low levels that are considered safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This antioxidant is considered to be very effective and stable during processing, providing excellent preservative abilities with little concern about side effects at the recommended levels.

Choosing a Dog Food 

If you are scanning the ingredients list on a dog food bag, keep in mind that pet food companies are required to list antioxidants and their common names. You will also see a notation that the ingredient is used as a preservative.

While natural antioxidants may be considered more “healthy,” you must realize that they may not last as long to preserve the final product. Dog foods that are made with natural preservatives will have a shorter shelf life than a pet food made with a combination of natural and synthetic antioxidants.

No matter which food you choose, be sure to check the date on the package to see when the food is considered to be best used before. Store it in a cool, dry place, preferably in an airtight container, out of the light. Once opened, a food preserved with only natural antioxidants will lose its freshness sooner, so you may wish to purchase smaller packages.

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