The last couple of days, Bailey has decided to challenge the family pecking order... and after I said such nice things about him as well! : It started with an easily correctable attempt to barge out before the human family members. Then he tried to steal food right out of Joe's hand. He was corrected and sent out of the room until Joe had finished his snack. Fair enough, he was okay with that. THEN he had to go and cross that line. He growled at Fieldy when the kitten walked past the dog's dish, so I told him 'enough' and he stopped. It wasn't until Fieldy jumped onto the counter and knocked off my list and I bent to get it that I actually got annoyed. I reached for the list, which had landed near Bailey's food bowl, and again Bailey growled. Now, Jack the Collie we looked after for awhile for some friends having a bad time had a SEVERE guarding issue, and he ended up trying to bite Joe over food that wasn't even his, so I will NOT tolerate that sort of thing. After the initial 'what the hell?!' I took his bowl away from him (not that it mattered as he'd hoovered that last bit up the instant he was done growling), and ignored him for quite some time. I've taken away his freedom at meal times now, and he eats only when I personally give him the food. I can't believe I've had to resort to methods I haven't used since Jack left on a dog that's never had a problem with food guarding before.
At the moment this consists of the food bowl NEVER being on the floor unless it is meal time, in an effort to give him less things to guard over. *I* control the dish, and *I* control the food. At meal times, I give his bowl back empty, and only put in some at a time, and I make him wait for it so that he knows that, just because its in the bowl, it doesn't mean he's got a right to it unless I say he does. That dog is smart! It only took three times of me taking the bowl back because he wasn't listening that he had a perfect wait, no matter how long I left it before giving him his release word. Some of it we hand fed (but not at the morning meal, or somebody may have lost a finger LOL!), and I make sure Joe feeds him too. We're trying to make him realise that having us near his bowl is NOT a threat (we've go no interest in his kibble... I don't care how good it smells!) and is in fact a GOOD thing because we are supplying the food that goes into it. He only growled at me the once, but with Joe being Autistic and easily upset I don't want it to get past that one growl. I've read that this sort of challenge is quite common, so I'm not concerned about it, so much as I'm keen on him remembering his place. Hopefully its nipped in the bud early enough that he'll soon be back to eating out of his bowl without growling.
This is the way my family has always dealt with food guarding, and it seems to work (with every dog apart from Jack... but that dog was a sorry case of neglect and abuse that I won't EVEN get into as it still cheeses me right off), but if anybody has any further suggestions I'm all ears.
I am sorry to hear about this set back with Bailey. Yes, it is a common but easily fixed problem. If you nip it in the bud now hopefully you shouldn't have any problems later on. I would continue with what you are doing -- hand feeding. Take turns and have you and Joe hand feed him for the next couple of weeks. To start with, make sure you or Joe are sitting on a chair and Bailey is in a 'sit' right in front of you. His food dish with the kibbles in should be on your lap. After a week of this, do the same but only have Bailey in a down-stay and the bowl of kibble on your lap while you are sitting on the floor.
The next step after the hand feeding is feeding as normal. Put the bowl down on the floor, make him 'wait', then release him. Sit next to him while he eats. When he is half way through eating, say his name and offer him a tasty treat. Do this for a further week. Progress to the point where you can put the tasty treat in the bowl while he is eating.
Thanks, Trickster I've been told that lots of dogs will try for a shot at a higher status in one form or another, some more subtle than others, and that it may be Bailey's obsession with food in general that brought his own little rebellion on in this form. So the new rule is that he gets nothing he hasn't worked for until he remembers who the top dawg really is. Oddly enough, after he growled and I took immediate action and made it clear I wasn't pleased, he's not been as mouthy with me today, either. Its good that its the two week Easter holiday, because it means Joe can be involved in all of Bailey's meals, not just the evening one. He may be one of those dogs with whom we will need to give constant reminders that he's not in charge, and I'll need to watch like a hawk to make sure I don't inadvertently give him the impression he might be.