Food Aggression In Dogs- What To Do When It Gets Worse

Hi Ty, I’m concerned for my son and his dog. The problem is, she is growling at people for no apparent reason. She used to only growl when someone would come near her food or a space on the floor, but now she is growling at unpredictable times and for no apparent reason. Her symptoms are she starts by cowering and smacking her lips and then growls. What does this mean and how do we stop it?

Watch the video below and then read the following transcript for ideas on how to solve this type of aggression problem with your dog.

Also, for dog aggression solutions check out our line of DVDs.

Food Aggression- View On YouTube

Food Aggression In Dogs- My Thoughts

Here are my thoughts on your question:

  • Aggression tends to act this way.  Aggression left unchecked tends to get worse.  The reason being is that the dog realizes that aggression solves problems.  In your dog’s case, she started using aggression to protect her food.  As she realized with time that this solution worked she decided to start using it in other areas as well.  Hindsight is always 20/20 but for those of you who are dealing with small aggression issues it’s important to note that your dog’s aggression will not improve, and will likely get worse, unless you are actively working to solve it.
  • To your question, what does this mean?  Without seeing it I’m not too familiar with your description of ‘smacking lips’.  I have seen, however, many dogs kind of open and close their mouth out of anxiety and nervousness.  My guess is that your dog is feeling fearful in these scenarios where she growls.  Dogs, when they feel threatened have three responses available to them: Fight, Flight, and Avoidance.  Your dog is choosing the ‘fight’ response by growling at things that make her afraid.
  • To stop it I see two different and important steps that need to be taken:
  1. You’ve got to establish the right relationship with the dog.  Dogs don’t frequently growl at those who they respect.  I highly doubt that the dog is very respectful of family members.  Respect is best earned through solid obedience.  Teach the dog to walk on a leash properly with no pulling.  Teach the dog to stay when told even with distractions.  Train the dog to come when called even in the face of distractions.  This type of obedience will help you gain that level of respect you need.
  2. Correct the aggression when it happens.  Start having the dog wear a leash and training collar around the house.  When she growls around her food, etc. correct her into a new part of the house, give a simple command like sit (this is to change the dog’s frame of mind) and then praise her for sitting.

Best of luck and happy training.