Please help, food aggression problem

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by yilduz, Jul 8, 2008.

  1. yilduz

    yilduz New Member

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    I have a pitbull and a pug. They always get along great, in fact, the pitbull gets along with everyone. She's a happy, fun-loving dog. Other than being plain dumb, and being afraid of anything that moves or makes noise, she really only has one problem - food aggression.

    She hasn't always been my dog, I kind of came into her family. She belongs to my girlfriends family and when I moved in, she became my dog, too. I do what I can to train her, discipline her, play with her, walk her, and be dominant. My girlfriend's family is very good at training dogs, we recently had a 13-year old pitbull put down because of cancer. She was an excellent dog that loved life, very intelligent, and trained well.

    Anyway, to get to the point, Athena, our pitbull, is food aggressive. She apparently has always been but the family never did anything to break her of it. Instead, they avoided situations that would make her feel uncomfortable. When we feed her, she is put in a different room with the door closed. It's now becoming a problem, though. Whenever food is near her and she thinks she may get it, she becomes defensive. She is not, and has never been, aggressive towards humans, but she turns on her best friend - the pug. If the pug walks by when someone has food, she goes after the pug. Today was the second time she did it and both times, she drew blood. We're very worried about the situation and although we try to avoid putting her in that kind of situation, things happen and they happen fast.

    We very badly need a way to break her of this food aggressive behavior. She's about three years old, so it's apparently not the easiest time to train her, but we have to do something. Please, can anyone help me out in any way?
     
  2. Saje

    Saje Island dweller

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    Sounds like she really needs to see a behaviorist. You're right about the problem escalating. In the mean time I'd make sure to feed them separate. Crates are a good idea. And eliminate ALL situations where this behaviour may occur. Good luck!
     
  3. MelissaCato

    MelissaCato ĜȫƝ ₩īĿÐ

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    E-Collar. Get some training before you use it.
     
  4. Dekka

    Dekka Just try me..

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    Hmm suggesting an e collar to a breed that can escalate to pain.... if you have any experience with drivey terriers you will know that is not the way to go. Dog can easily decide the other dog is responsible for the shock and get 10X worse instead of better. And if it does suppress the behaviour the dog still 'wants' to aggress but fears too. Its not uncommon for dogs trained this way to have a relapse, which is often worse due to the added anxiety of fear.

    I agree with a good behaviorist or trainer. Food aggression is fairly common (still scary and serious) so it is something many behaviorists and trainers (the kind that do one on one stuff) will deal with. You can ask for references before you start to insure the person you get can help with the problem...not just mask (suppress it)
     
  5. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    I would train an out and a leave it command, as well as basic obedience. For one, even teaching her something like a dow stay for food can help. It replaces the aggressive behavior with an incompatible behavior.

    I also would search the board here for resource guarding, there are some great posts on ways to address the problem.

    I would keep the two dogs separated (for the pug's safety) until you get this resolved.
     
  6. Melissa Cato, if you are going to make such a suggestion then at least have the sense to give the training advice that goes with it at the same time.

    Trying to manage resource guarding through punitive methods such as an e-collar is generally not recommended, as it will tend to make many dogs MORE insecure, cause them to guard MORE, or it will remove the growl and/or body language warnings that might precede a bite, making a dog that will just spontaneously bite someone with no warning.

    In particular with stoic breeds like APBTs, this would not be a recommended method of dealing with the issue.


    For the OP:

    1) CRATE these dogs for feeding time. Crate the APBT when it is time to prepare the food. Feed both dogs INSIDE the crate.

    2) do an internet search on resource guarding, or search this forum. THere is lots of good advice on how to handle this issue.
     
  7. borzoimom

    borzoimom Couch Pototoe City

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    I know what you meant, but the OP might read this as both dogs are in the same crate.. Obviously they are in different crates..
     
  8. Maxy24

    Maxy24 Active Member

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    Is she food aggressive at all towards people or only the other dog? And because I have to say something, there is no need to worry about dominating your dog, she is not worrying about dominating you, start thinking more along the lines of making her want to do what you want her to do, a partnership, teacher and student.

    I will see if I can think up something but I need to know how severe this is first. How close does the Pug get before Athena reacts? and I don't mean snapping or growling, I mean subtle things, like stiffening, changing her eating pace, staring at the Pug etc. Will she charge the Pug from a distance or only bite when he's right near the bowl?

    I agree, they should be fed separately always and not be left alone together in case someone finds something yummy in the trash, on the floor or wherever. The more she gets to practice guarding the worse it will get and it will set your training back every time.

    I would recommend a behaviorist who uses positive methods (no yelling, hitting, pushing, poking, collar correcting or any other painful or scary punishment, in fact for this no punishment at all is best, why make an angry dog angrier or scared, scared dogs bite) to help you change her behavior.
     
  9. MelissaCato

    MelissaCato ĜȫƝ ₩īĿÐ

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    In this case, I believe the E-Collar should be used to train a negative association. The dog is 3 years old and now drew blood twice on his best friend a little pug. Not good. This dog needs avoidance training.

    I personally disagree. This dog in question doesn't need to manage resource guarding, this dog needs a negitive association to stop completely. Period. To crate this dog with his food is only moving the problem to another area of guarding and now to include humans. Caged dog with food and known food aggression ?? Not good. Not good. Actually your building drive.

    Instead of going into details in opposition to the status quo: I would suggest a professional.

    JMO.
     
  10. yilduz

    yilduz New Member

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    So it seems seeking professional help is the most common suggestion.

    We already feed them apart from each other. Athena eats in the laundry room with the door closed. The pug eats in the kitchen.

    It's kind of strange, though. Athena never goes after the pug when she knows the food belongs to the pug. She never goes after the other dog's bowl. When I feed them, I prepare their bowls while they sit in the living room. When I'm finished I call the pug in and have her speak, shake, and all that stuff, then give her the bowl. Athena never does anything to her. After that I take Athena's bowl into the laundry room and set it down. I walk back into the kitchen, standing in front of the laundry room door. I call Athena over, she rushes to me and sits down. I have her speak and shake and wait and all that stuff. Then she's allowed to get her food. I close the door behind her and she barks when she's done and wants out. By that time the pug is always finished.

    As far as her aggression towards humans go, it's nonexistent. She has never growled at or bitten a person for any reason, including food. In fact, I can take a cookie from her mouth and she won't snap at me. She only reacts that way to the pug.

    She knows basic obedience. When I'm playing with her, I can tell her "out" or "drop it" and she does. She also knows to sit, come, go away, speak, down, box (go to your box), go to bed, back up, and some others. She also knows signs for most of those. She also knows to leave a room when there is a person eating.

    I don't want to use a collar that shocks her or anything like that.
     
  11. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    OK, so if she knows to leave a room when someone's eating, and yet she goes after the pug when someone walks by with food, there's something missing in the training here.

    Can you give a little more detail on these two situations?

    The training sounds like it's been good so far.
     
  12. Zoom

    Zoom Twin 2.0

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    Then don't. An e-collar is NOT the way to handle to this situation and someone who would immediately jump to that conclusion doesn't need to be handing out training advice.

    This sounds like a managable problem. Between a search on here and finding a trainer to help you with some of the real-life stuff (we obviously can't see body language), you should be fine. Am I right in reading that this happens when someone walks by with any food at all, or just when it's feeding time for the dogs?
     
  13. elegy

    elegy overdogged

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    putting an ecollar on a dog with fear issues seems stupid and reckless to me.

    i have a dog with some food guarding issues toward other dogs. he eats in his crate. he's not allowed to hover around me when i have food. if they get good bones to chew, he gets crated. he has never shown any kind of aggression toward me. he is not food aggressive toward humans because he eats and chews yummies in his crate. that's just all nonsense.

    i think working with a trainer in person is going to be the most straight-forward way of approaching this. crating dogs separately to eat and when people have food and teaching dogs a go to place command (whether that be a mat, crate, special spot on the floor, whatever) are excellent management tools, but i think teaching the dog that it is OK if other dogs are around and there is food is what you need longterm, and i think that's an awfully hard thing to figure out how to do from reading on the internet.
     
  14. DanL

    DanL Active Member

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    I agree with elegy's response. It's certainly an issue that you need to deal with, but at the same time, it's one that can easily be avoided by keeping the dogs separated while eating. I don't think the aggression will transfer over to humans simply because you crate the dog while eating. For that matter, you don't even need to crate, just keep the pug out of the room.

    I have 4 dogs who are raw fed- very high value items which causes them to want to defend their food more than if it was kibble. Our pug Bruzer will get so uptight if he's got a bone in his crate that any animal coming within 6' of the crate will cause him to stop eating it and growl with increasing ferocity, until we remove the other dog or the cat from his line of vision. I feed the 4 of them outdoors most of the time, and it's a delicate balance to get them all eating without scrapping going on. Gunnar and Daisy are led out 1st, they are both put in sit/stays and their bowls placed in front of them. Then they are released to eat. While they are eating, Bruzer and Buzz are brought out and they do the same thing. Gunnar and Daisy are at least 10' apart, and the little guys are 20' from the 2 big ones. Then I play referree to keep Daisy from gobbling up her food then running over and stealing the little dog's food. None of them mess with Gunnar and he doesn't mess with anyone else after he's eaten so we're cool on that front. My point is, this isn't an end of the world issue, there are easy ways to work around the problem if you are consistent and watchful.
     
  15. MelissaCato

    MelissaCato ĜȫƝ ₩īĿÐ

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    what is this dog in question fearing ? I missed it.
     
  16. elegy

    elegy overdogged

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    that kind of fearfulness in a pit bull is not normal. i would not use any kind of punitive measures with a dog who is already that insecure about the world.
     
  17. lizzybeth727

    lizzybeth727 New Member

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    Dogs who do resource guarding do it because they are afraid someone is going to take their resource. It's an instinctual behavior - wild animals, carnivores expecially, have to really work hard to get their meal, and they don't want to give it up. To me it's shocking that more dogs are not resource guarders, and I try to treat every dog like he could start guarding.
     
  18. yilduz

    yilduz New Member

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    Not people food. She isn't allowed near people when they're eating people food. What I meant was dog treats. When someone has a dog treat or she has a dog treat, and the pug walks by, she goes after the pug.

    I shouldn't say she goes after the pug, though. It's only happened a couple of times.

    She doesn't react that way if someone happens to walk by holding food. If someone walks by her with food, she either stares intently or leave the area (depending on whether the person is someone she thinks she could get food from or not - unless someone that knows she isn't allowed to be around is in the area).

    It actually never happens during their eating time. Come to think of it, it only happens when treats are involved.

    [hr]

    As of today, while I was at work, Athena went after the pug again. Fortunately my girlfriend was right there and stopped Athena before she was able to injure the pug. It was a bit of a different situation this time, though. Athena smelled a cookie where the pug was eating it. At the time she went after the pug, the cookie was already gone. Now it almost seems like jealousy - but I don't think I'm ready to believe that. I still think it's food aggression.

    My girlfriend's parents are on the other side of the country right now. They just left about a week ago and now the dogs are 100% in the care of my girlfriend and myself. They left because her father was offered a job over there. As soon as they have everything set up and settled in a place to live, they're taking the pug and the two cats with them, leaving Athena with us. The problem is that will be around a month from now. Today when they found out what happened, he wanted to have Athena put down, he was planning on calling the vet in the morning. I convinced him to give me a chance to work things out. He's giving me one day to come up with an arrangement to keep Athena away from the other animals until they're gone, and a way to break her of the problem. He told me that if I make it work, Athena will be mine; and if I can't, I won't have a choice, she'll be put down.

    Right now, more importantly than anything, I need to figure out how to arrange all of this and find a way to work it out. She's a very good dog, with one problem.

    I don't want to use a collar, because I don't want to see what happens if she goes after the pug again. I need to prevent it 100% of the time. I've decided that both dogs will not be out of their boxes at the same time, for any length of time, for any reason.

    I think more than anything, I'm just trying to figure things out and sort everything by saying it. All of this just hit me in the past two hours, since I've been off work. I'm also looking for ideas, suggestions, etc. I know you guys don't know the dogs, house, land, situation, us, etc, but any general ideas will be appreciated. I've grown up with dogs my entire life, but I've never been as attached to a dog as I am to this one. I don't want to lose her and until this problem is resolved, it isn't my decision.
     
  19. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    Well, if they're still OK with the feeding set up you have, and since it's only for a month, I would say keep them separated.

    I think you've done a great job with Athena and I truly hope they don't make you put her down.

    If you want to work on the issue at hand - since it's only about treats - I would do a couple things - one is always make Athena perform for a treat - no freebies. Another thing I would do is train her to go to a place. For that matter train the pug to go to a place also - separate from Athena (in the next room or on the other side of the room). Then only give them treats on their respective places.

    Also, when you feed, you feed the pug first. It could be that Athena leaves the pug alone because she knows she's getting her own bowl in her own place next and she's focused on that. When she's done eating and you let her out, the pug is done eating so there's no way to know what Athena would do if the pug still had food.

    I need to think on that a bit.
     
  20. Deedlit

    Deedlit New Member

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    ( This is the girlfriend, I am here to add, since I have known Athena since she was a pup.)

    Athena was originally my brothers dog, and my brother pretty much dumped her on us while she was still a pup. She didn't show signs of any food aggressive behavior until she was maybe a year old, possibly a little younger, when our kitten (at that time) Bunny, walked by and Athena attacked her... Thats how Athena came to eat in the laundry room with the door closed.

    She hasn't had any "meal time" aggression issues since then, the issues that have arisen in the recent past have all been related to snacks/cookies. The first time I had an issue with her was I put her in her crate to have a bone, and the pug walked by. Athena started growling and that was enough for me. I reached in and grabbed onto the bone to take it away, to show her that behavior was unacceptable. She growled louder and wouldn't let go, till I had to swat her mouth for her to open her jaw and took it away. I was scared but I tried really hard not to show it, and to stay the alpha dog.

    Since my father has left, her behavior has slowly started to get worse, but I'll get to that soon...

    The next instance, I wasn't present for. Yilduz had a bone, gave it to Athena, and Athena went to her box to have it, and when Pug-buddy walked by, Athena charged her and tore open her neck. Thankfully she didn't get any arteries and merely separated the skin from the flesh.

    The dogs get cookies when they go to bed, or they go to their boxes for a prolonged period of time (i.e. when everyone is at work, or no one is in the room). Yesterday, my sister gave them their cookies with them not being in the boxes (foul move) and when Athena finished hers, she attacked the pug, giving her a nice shiner on her eye, and puncturing her neck.

    Today, thankfully I was standing right between the two when it happened, and was able to physically lift Athena off the ground and remove her from the situation. I pushed her onto the ground and sat on her, pushing her head down away from me, as she was still in a very aggressive state, and was growling and snapping at me.

    The part I am mildly worried about was, I had give the pug a fraction of a cookie maybe 25 minutes prior, for sitting still while I cleaned her eye out. Athena had been outside and oblivious to it all the entire time, and when she did come in, I let the pug out, Athena began sniffing around the living room intently where the pug had been eating her cookie. I kept getting her out of that state, calling her to me, and trying to get her to drop the idea of the cookie all together. The pug came in and Athena zoned right on her.

    I think the problem is, my father has been at home all day every day for the past year or so. Athena has gotten used to having him here, and having him be alpha male. What we need to do is find a constructive way to break her of the thought as my FATHER as alpha, and replace it with ALL HUMANS. She needs to learn to submit no matter what.

    Also something that might add a little to this or clarify, anything. My older brother, Peter, has a Pitbull. He and his wife drove out here a few months ago and brought their dog, Patches with. The second Patches was in the same room as Athena, Athena was submitting, rolling over on her back, cowering behind one of us, and seemed very submissive with her tail between her legs, licking and the whole bit to Patches.

    Yilduz and I are thinking that until my mom comes to get the pug, we will bring Athena's crate upstairs into our room, get her a harness, and walk her everywhere. There will ALWAYS be one dog or the other in their kennel at all times, and Athena will have to be supervised at all times when she is out of her box.

    Is there ANYTHING else anyone can add to this thought to help us, any suggestions? I KNOW Athena is a good dog, but I want to get her worked out of these behaviors before she grows into them too much. Right now we need to focus on what to do while the pug and other animals are still in the picture. Once they are gone, THEN we can deal with the re-training. Anything would be appreciated, thank you very much for all your help.
     

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