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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Today was a horrible day.... My 2 year old chocolate lab, Bailey, flew into a rage and attacked me. She bite me on the hand and arm, and broke the skin.

Normally when feeding her, I prepare her food and have her sit before giving it to her. Today though, I had already prepared her food and sat it on the ground. when I let her inside, she ran straight for her food. When I approached her while she was eating, she began growling and exposing her teeth. I did not want to back away, because I have read that doing so will only show them that that growling and biting is a way to control a situation. I went to grab her food away to show myself as the "alpha," and she went balistic on me.

I have to be honest, this is not the first time something like this has happened, although this is by far the most serious. She has shown possesiveness towards her food and toys.

We are really good about giving her lots of attention, we take her on two long walks everyday, play fetch, we hike together, and she even runs along when I ride my bike. Right after this incident, she returned to her normal sweet self as if nothing had happened. It really scared me and my wife, and we dont know what to do....
 
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It sounds familiar :)

Nothing to worry about, with a bit of training she wont bite you again ;)

Laika did the same thing when she just was over here, and i just start feeding her out of the hand, and then hand filled the trough and slowly she get's the trust that i just let her eat when she's eating ;)

And if she want's to bite me, i lay here flat on the floor with her legs up, so she have to surrender ;D

But you still have to work on this behaviour, other wise it's going to be wors and worser evry day :-X
 

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Hi there. I was just talking to my vet about food aggression just Friday. My pup is not doing anything that your dog is doing. But, my first Grandchild will be here in May and I wanted to make sure my pup was not food aggressive. When I put my hand in his bowl, he eats it really, really fast. Practically just gulps huge mouth fulls. Anyway, my vet doesn't think he is aggressive. But, he did tell me that if Ranger does growl and bite me to take the food away and not let him have it at that time. I have also heard of Felix' methods. I am sure you will get lots of good advice from people that have experience with these issues. Good luck with your dog. Everything with these dogs just takes alot of love, patience and consistancy ;D
 

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This is a pretty serious thing -- biting & breaking skin? I had a dominant golden who challenged me alot during her first year, but she never snapped or bit, I thought it was bad enough that she would growl. It sounds like a major case of resource guarding.. but someone (other than you) could get really hurt. What dog obedience have you done? If it were just food guarding, I'd just make her sit and stay before feeding her & leave her be (I don't agree with the "take the food away after they're eating" approach), but if she is also guarding toys, what else will she begin to guard? Her position on the couch? (Does she go on furniture?)

It sounds like she is mostly very sweet, and I hope you can change her behaviour about this.
 

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Felix said:
And if she want's to bite me, i lay here flat on the floor with her legs up, so she have to surrender ;D
I don't suggest you try the alpha roll, unless you're well trained to do it and know what to expect (more often than not, more biting). It's one of the dumbest things you could do.

Hand feed her and make her work for food. Get hold of a good behaviourist and some books - Jean Donaldson, Karen Pryor, Mc Connell, Dunbar ... there are a number of books you can find concerning food aggressiveness and guarding resources.
 
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TinasZoo, I'm not saying your vet is wrong, but if you take away the food, doesn't that confirm the fear to be true - "you took my food and that's what I was worried would happen?"

When I started puppy classes with Scout, our trainer suggested giving treats when they're eatting, so they associate something good happening when a human comes near them and their bowl at meal time, when a hand comes into view while they're eatting. I did this with Scout, my kids did it, I even got friends to give her a treat.

I'd get the help of behaviourist with this. It's worth the money you'll spend to get an evaluation, and it's help from someone who meets your dog real time. Maybe get into some obedience classes too, or back to them if you've done some already.

Good luck, and hope things are better soon.
 

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i think you can obtain the best help from finding a qualified animal behaviorist, who can evaluate your dog IN PERSON. internet advise can be unreliable at times.

i would also caution you against punishing your dog for growling or other resource guarding behaviors. the problem is the dog's fixation with the food. the growling and biting is merely a symptom of the problem your dog has developed with resource guarding. it's like taking pain meds for a broken leg. the drugs will help with the pain, but the leg would still be broken.

dogs communicate in ways we humans are often blind to see. dogs typically give non-verbal cues to their distress way before a growl is uttered, and a growl can be a warning signal. it can give us a clue that the dog is upset and that the anxiety may then escalate to something more. if we punish/correct a dog's natural communication of growling, then the dog is more likely to resort to biting without warning, which is far more dangerous, IMHO.

there was a time when i would have regarding a dog growl with anger and viewed it as a personal insult from the dog, and my ego would have felt the need to severely punish the dog (via alpha roll, scruff shake, etc.) for the "unacceptable" behavior, but knowing what i know now, i know that a dog growl is simply a warning, a very valuable warning.

if the dog is uneasy near food, build trust. if the dog thinks he is alpha over you, build respect. if the dog thinks he owns the resources in his life, help him understand that all GOOD things come from you, and he can obtain those good things with good behaviors. punishing only the growl itself with no other changes to address the source of the growl is simply a recipe for disaster.

if the cause of the growling is left untreated, and the dog continues to feel anxiety and stress, such stress builds over time. you know how you hear things like, "the dog bit without warning?" maybe they were trained to bite without warning, and one day the dog decided they had had enough.

also, please read this booklet by jean donaldson:

http://www.dogwise.com/itemdetails.cfm?ID=DTB740

i had a senior foster dog with food aggression. there is no quick fix for resolving this kind of behavioral problem. it took us over 6 months to get to the point where the dog could relax near his food bowl with me nearby. we eventually got to the point where he welcomed me being near his food bowl.

i would start a training regiment where i teach/train my dog that my presence and my hands are not a threat and pose no danger to their hunger. teach your dog that human hands brings tasty treats, more food, or other goodies. human presence near the food bowl is wonderful! dog learns to welcome humans near the food bowl.

with training, the dog can become conditioned to stop guarding their food bowl, because the will learn that food guarding is unnecessary.

punishing the dog for food/object guarding can sometime have the effect of validating the anxiety that caused them to guard the food in the first place, and results in the aggressive behavior getting worse and harder to resolve.
 

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I don't know how to deal with food aggression because none of my dogs ever had it. I did always work with them a little around their food bowl, interrupting them gently, taking the food bowl and putting it back down, petting them a little while they ate, so they knew that I was in charge of the food. Mine started becoming "grabby" with treats, and I realized it was because I tossed it to them too much and they learned to snap at it to get it. Skippy gets a little too excited sometimes and starts grabbing at treats in my hand, when he does this I say "gentle" and literally let my fingers go in his mouth with the treat and that stops him. You need to get control of this behaviour pronto, especially with a child coming along. It sound like you dog is pretty good otherwise, but the food thing is dangerous, as demonstrated by that fact that your DOG BIT YOU AND BROKE THE SKIN!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks everyone for the advice. This morning I fed her by hand, and she was very receptive to that with no signs of aggresion. We have taking her to puppy kindergarden, but will definatley seek more profesional help for the aggresion. I know that Bailey has boundries and I should respect them. My biggest fear is that someone not familar with her boundries (child, another dog, or a stranger) my become a victim of her aggresion...
 

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Nothing to add, just wanted to say that you've gotten some great advice. You really should read "MINE!" by Jean Donaldson. It addresses exactly the type of thing you are experiencing.

I have one (Simon) that's a little guarded with resources, but not with people, only with our other dog (Angus). ::) We are slowly working on it and it's gotten better. Simon came to us when he was seven months old, and he lived with other dogs, so I can only guess that he had to compete for things. Not really sure if this has helped, but it is just what my gut told me to do with him...I have tried to make sure he understands there is no reason for him to compete. If Angus gets something, he will get it too. I really do think it has helped. Now if I give Angus a treat, Simon's ears perk up and he looks very happy, because he knows it means in about five seconds he's going to get one too.

I like the notion of giving treats while around the food bowl. Really good treats, something even better than the food.
 

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I am so sorry this happened and I hope you can get a handle on it soon. I don't want to panic you and I am sure this next example is not very common, but one of the girls I used to work with had to have her 18 month lab, Jeeter, put down. I work in a Nursing home and this girl had hopes of Jeeter becoming a therapy dog. She began bringing him into work with her when he was only 12 weeks old and he basically grew up in the Nursing Home. He was on his way to becoming an excellent therapy dog. Then he suddenly started having issues with food aggression/guarding. She did seek the help of her trainer and was working on him with feeding from her hand. He would get better and when she went back to the food dish, he would become agressive again. She watched him very closely and realized that he was slowly becoming more aggressive in other situations as well. Eventually he attacked her mother (whom he had always loved)...nothing too serious in terms of injuries, but she went back to the vet's with him again. They ran some tests and discovered he had a neurologic disorder. There really was no way to reliably treat this and he would always have been a "loaded gun" and it was decided the best thing was to put him down.

I guess all I am trying to say is to really watch Bailey. I think seeking the advice of a behaviorist is the best way to go. Nobody ever wants to see something like aggression in their own dog, but you don't want to take any chances. It would be way to easy for a child to innocently wander too close to her while feeding and end up with a serious injury.
 

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I remember when my lab was about 3 months old, i gave him his first bone to chew on. If approached he would growl then run with the food, he only did this a couple times. After that, i just kept walking past him while he was eating, each time i approach him, i got closer. Then when i got next to him, id just walk of and let him go. After doing this a few times, he hasn't shown any food aggression again, and he is now 20 months.
In fact, while he is eating these days, i can open his mouth and take what he's eating out , regardless of what it is. He will either just sit patiently looking at me waiting for me to give it back or continue eating.
 
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