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Thread: Food Driven Aggression

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    Default Food Driven Aggression

    OK so my 10 month old Lab is starting to become VERY possessive aggresive with food and treats. This evening was the first very aggressive act towards one of our cats and actually snapped and lightley bit him. He has always had this problem but little growls hear and there when you touch him while eating or the cats get too close while he is chewing on a treat. I have done some research on breaking him of this and they say to have him sit and wait for his food. He can do this no problem but doesnt help towards his aggression. He has been to the trainer numerous times starting with the basic obediance and continuing onto futher training in preparation for hunt test's this summer but does anyone have any tips or information on breaking him of this aggression.

  2. #2

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    Obedience isn't just for when you have treats at hand or when there is food present. Most any dog will be an angel at that point. But once you have given the treat or food bowl can you take it from them. That is a level of dominance that you should have over your dog.

    Dogs are social animals just like a pack of wolves. Therefore there is a heirarchy. There is a pack leader. That should be you.
    In your case your dog has placed you and your other family members as being secondary and has placed himself at that top position in your household. Being and thinking human most of us don't see that. We just see a dog with problems but don't understand what is going on in there head or why they are acting this way.
    Making them sit and wait is fine to start. But for dogs like this I "condition" them to sit or lay down at my dinner table while I eat with there food bowl in front of them on the floor. I dare them to move. I won't release them to eat until "I" am done eating. In a pack of wolves the dominant eat first while the others have to submit and wait there turn. In the course of there eating I may at any point decide to claim there meal as my own. They should surrender it. Fixing aggression is not an overnight fix. There are numerous drills that can help. Like I say you have to condition them to the new rules. Depending on your dog. You may need professional help. If you find your self fearful of being bitten then seek a pro. Being ten months old this should be an easy fix. But this needs to be addressed right now.

    How far along has your retriever training gone. Putting your dog through a proper and thorough Force Fetch will also help to correct a lot of this behavior. FF helps a lot to teach a retriever to work with you and not for itself.
    PM me if want specifics. We can discuss your dogs behavior more at hand and then get a game plan on how to address certain issues. This will be a committment and a lifestyle change for you to make this work. In the long run it is better for your family and your dog.

  3. #3

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    I almost forgot.
    At my facility he would drag around a 10 ft rope. In dog training making corrections has to be timely. So any time he shows or even makes the slightest peep of aggression I would correct him right then. Having the rope just makes it a lot quicker to get a hold of him. Plus for safety reasons I'm grabbing the rope and not reaching for the collar of an aggressive dog. I have instant control once I have rope in hand.

    As far as the cats. There again correct for unwanted behavior towards them.
    To better explain :
    You have to look at dog aggression or excitablity in different levels.
    Level 1 : Simply is your dog beside you calmly. This is how we want our dog and how they should behave.
    Level 2 : This level arises when there is something that first alerts them and gets there attention. They could bark under there breath or they could start to keenly focus on something like they were about to stalk it.
    Level 3 : This level is when noticeable aggression or excitability shows itself. They will start barking and approach with a purpose.
    Level 4 : By this level the dog has become so envolved with excitability or aggression that no yelling or other actions will affect them. They have entered a "red zone" in mental thinking. At this level if prevoked a dog will fight or take flight.

    I am showing this so all understand. It is easier to correct a dog at level one than it is at higher levels. You have to interrupt there focus on what is putting them into that next level. Remember the rope. A leash "rope" correction with a verbal reprimand is enough to knock them mentally back to the lower level.
    So when someone rings your door bell. When your dog barks that is level 2. Correct them for barking instantly. If you don't they will escalate up the different levels. By level 4 you can't get the door open. I've seen this so many times on some of my home visits.
    Correct bad behavior as soon as it occurs.

    Ok. I've rambled long enough. I'm available if you need more help.

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    Default Been there

    I have had 2 labs do the same thing. They were father and son. No, the father did not teach the behavior. I kept them apart at feeding time.
    My methods are more immediate than Wetlands. I will launch into a dog, any dog, that shows aggressiveness. I will do it as hard and swift as necessary so they understand that their action caused it, and that their action is never acceptable. I understand implicitly the chances of getting bit. I am willing to take it.
    I absolutely will not, can not, tolerate a dog acting that way. The repercussions are too great. The chance for injury to one of my kids, my wife, or friends is more than enough incentive to prioritize corrections. I retrained the older dog early on. He never liked it, but understood that I was alpha. I kept an eye on him his whole life.
    His son was broken much easier. The behavior was changed quickly and effectively. He may get stiff when touched while eating, but for years has not so much as growled at anybody or anything while eating and he is nine years old now.
    You need to prove to him that you are the boss. If you have family, they too need to assert their dominance. Physically you may have to do it, but he needs to learn that it is wrong to act in an aggressive manner toward anybody or anything.
    I know what I have said sounds harsh. But you weigh the risks and decide for yourself just how important this issue is. Again, my hat is off to WL for some good finite points on solving this problem.

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    Thanks for the great info. I have to say that he is at level two because any sound he hears weather he hears my truck starting up or the door bell he does bark. Its not a mean bark but I can see how it can escalate over time. I do have to ask AK as far as launching, can you go more into detail. As far as training he went though the basic on and off lead obediance, collar corrections and is about half way through his whistle commands. I have talked to the trainer on FF but he is leaving for the winter and wont be back until May. Can this be corrected on the collar by giving him nicks everytime he starts to show aggression or is that not a proper way of breaking him of this.

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    Let me preface this by saying I have done a lot to dogs that I would never do again. In fact, if I saw others doing those things, I would do my best to get them to stop and try something else. I learned from those mistakes, and do not want anybody to think that what I may have done is acceptable.
    I do not like the term "alpha" because it feels too much like a buzzword. But that is the best word I have to describe my hierarchy with dogs. I am the boss. I own everything. Everybody looks to me for guidance, acceptance, and permission.
    I would not use an e-collar when working with an aggressive dog in the situation you described. I want him to understand that I am fully capable if winning any battle. When a dog acts aggressively I will get just as physical as needed to stop that aggression immediately. If I have to tackle him, grab his collar and lift/choke him, use a whiffle ball bat, quirt, or rolled up newspaper, then that is exactly what I do. It is hard, fast, and to the point. No, it is not pretty. No, it is not warm and fuzzy and socially "acceptable" to manhandle a dog that way. It is the way I know that works. I do not set out to hurt the dog. I do not let myself get out of control. The reality is that it is not much different than the pack leader correcting a pack member that is out of line. But I will do everything possible to make him submit.
    Most people are better off to have a collar/choke chain and short lead as WL suggested to retain control on the dog. I have laid on dogs, been bit, and bit back just as hard as they bit me. It is dangerous, and if you are not sure you could win that physical battle then do not engage in it.
    Once the aggression happens I respond immediately. Then I will work on what triggered the aggression. In this case I will let him up and start to eat, then grab the bowl again. Any, and I mean even the smallest amount of resistance, is met with the same intensity as before. I keep it up until the dog understands there is no aggression allowed.
    After that, subsequent sessions will start with obedience, leading in to allowing access to the food. Once he is in the food we start all over with touching his body and putting my hands on or in the bowl. His actions drive my reactions.
    I will hand feed him and force him to be easy. I will take food away whenever I want. I will continue this day after day after day until I have seen no aggression for weeks. I will include other capable family members in the training, fully supervised so he knows the rules apply across the board. For the rest of his life I will test him occasionally.
    You may not like this, and others may disagree, but for the rest of his life I will not trust him completely. That means that the baby is never allowed near the dog during feeding. Some things are not worth testing.
    I will expand this training to barking, charging the door when people come to visit, fighting for any reason with other family pets, or other undesirable acts. I react every single time. I never let a transgression go. Not ever. Especially with a dog that may have aggressive tendencies.

    It is hard to write things like this and not look horrible. I understand the picture I am painting, and understand the fine line I am attempting to describe. Dogs understand physical dominance. If you disagree with my methods I understand. I urge you though to develop a longterm plan and stick to it for your safety as well as your families.
    If this problem continues in other venues such as the yard, then yes, an e-collar can help tremendously with a well conditioned dog.
    Feel free to contact me if you want to talk more, or if you want then we can continue here for everybody to weigh in.

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    If you are training dogs to be nice around your kitties, you may want to try rubbing the cats with raw steak and blood. Do not allow the cat around the dog until feeding time, starve the cat for two days before you introduce the two together. Starve the dog for three days before hand. Leave the two together so they can work out their problems on their own.

    This method works well, you will never have a problem with that cat again.

    Also your dog will have learned a good emergency food source.

    I could not help myself. I just read an add for a GSP where the guy had a problem with the GSP and had to sell the highly trained dog to save his marriage. The guy wants 3800.00 for the dog. All offers were from guys that wanted to send him cats and wives.
    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tryants." (Thomas Jefferson

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    Ya thanks great info. Can I dress you up like the cat and starve you for a few days.....Oh ya sorry couldnt help myself..

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    AK River Rat and myself are eye to eye on seeing this through. Aggression issues need to be addressed immediately and swiftly.

    "My tactics" may differ some on the type and amount of force needed.
    I use attrition. Attrition as defined is the act of wearing down.
    Force is pressure. Pressure as defined is the force of one body on another by...the continued application of power...to use all one's influence.

    Untraining the attitude out of your dog is possible without having to go into a physical battle with your dog. It's kinda like mind over matter.
    As I have mentioned in previous post. You can't talk to the mind until the body is tired.
    Here is an example: Today I was working with a chessie. This chessie knows obedience and has been doing great with pile work. But today he wanted to just goof off. Heel sloppy, run around with the bumper in his mouth, bounce around in front of me when I asked him to sit. I got tired of the nonsense. I didn't yell at him or say a word. I calmly layed him on the ground. I applied light pressure across his neck to prevent him from getting up and with the other hand held his hips down. He squirmed about for about 2 minutes. Then he stopped and laid there calmly in total submission. He was worn out from trying to get up. Once he realized he couldn't he submitted to my leadership. Afterwards we continued with the lesson at hand and he had a whole lot better frame of mind. His obedience came back to being sharp and he was able to learn what I had set forth for him. He was a different dog. I never raised my hand, voice or lost my temper. But he still got the message. I had punished him constructively instead of destructively.

    Dogs that come here for training with aggression issues spend time on a tread mill before I work them on any lessons. When they first show up they are all "hard" know it all teenager types. But once they hit that tread mill it softens them up. It makes them like clay and I just need to mold them. It's the same psychology that the US military uses for recruit training. Burn the energy off through exercise regimens and it makes a more easily taught soldier willing to submit to authority.

    Here is a basic drill that I want you to practice in your home amongst your family with no food present. "Take him on a long walk or a run before hand." Find a dog bed or a simple oval kitchen rug. Sit him right in the center of it and then make him stay there. I'm talking about for a long period of time. Being the "alpha" that he is he probably won't have nothing to do with it. After about a minute he will challenge your authority by coming off. Take him right back to it. After about the third time of you taking him back to it he may lay down on the ground to prevent you from taking him back. Just get him up put him back on his feet and take him right back to the spot. If he try to bolt or get verbal with you. Put a leash on him, correct him for his opinion with a leash correction and take him right back. Your goal is to be able to leave the room and come back and he still there. You should be able to watch TV or eat a meal with out him moving. You should also be able to bring someone in through the front door with out him moving. Start in little increments and then increase your standard more and more each time. Remember he doesn't come off until you ask him to. If you get frustrated and give up. The dog won and the dog just learned that the uglier he gets the quicker you will quit.
    Let me know how it goes.

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    Wetland,
    I will start that drill tomorrow after work and let you know the progress. I noticed your tactics are very suttle to alot of other tactics I have heard of. I also noticed you never mention anything about a correction collar. He is like an angel with the collar on and I would like to eventually get to the point where he doesnt have to wear the collar except while doing his yard work and hunting. i take it when you say leash you are also referring to a choke chain. Just for curiosity what are your views on the correction collar ? Thanks again for your help and I will start tomorrow. Thanks

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    bowtech,

    We have a totally different breed but more bullheaded/dog aggressive than any lab will be any day of the week. I agree with everything said here so far....

    The one thing I can add that worked for us, (in the mean time and to add to your OB routine) It may seem inconvenient but picking his bowl up and making him work for his dinner is one way of helping him understand that you OWN that bowl. We fed our boy one piece at a time, making him sit, Lay down etc for each piece of food (leash on). It did wonders after about two weeks of him not being able to scarf down his food. We never had the cat problem (dont own one) but we did have aggressive eaters that would compete until the very last morsel was gone. I can tell you that we can feed all 3 dogs, side by side and not one of them will even take a look at the other's food dish.
    We also did the "wearing the leash" idea. All of our dogs when starting out wore their leash until we had a mutual understanding that the humans are the boss. Knock on wood, we haven't had any troubles, although we still have the half beaver 17 month old female who thinks anything that doesn't move is hers to eat......

    Good luck! Hope I didnt step on any toes, alot of good information in this forum for all breeds
    "In the interest of protecting my privacy I will no longer be accepting Private Messages generated from this site and if you email me, it better be good!"

  12. #12

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    By correction collar I'm guessing you mean an electronic collar(e-collar).
    No. Don't use it in your case. You don't want the putting on and off of the e-collar to become a switch to your dog. The good behavior vs do what I want attitude. I want the dog to respect me not the power of the collar. We can address e-collar use a bit later. It will come after we address other issues.
    An 8 or 10 ft rope works great attached to a regular flat buckle collar. I'm not too keen on choke chains but I do use them in certain situations. I always tell owners that they should use what gives them the leverage needed to control there dog. With proper training these "power" implements won't be needed down the road.
    I personally like the rope idea. For one it can be worn all the time and is quiet. Some leashes seem to bang around too much when the dog is walking around through the house. It is handy to grab when fido acts out and he needs to be corrected. A leash correction is a series of short jerks. You're not trying to yank his head off. Just enough to get his attention and verbally reprimand him letting him know that behavior was not acceptable. I will also get him to submit by requiring him to sit or lay down.
    I also personally like to use a British Slip Lead. With these I have ultimate control over the dogs head and movements. Most regular collars ride on the lower portion of the dogs neck. The slip lead rides high at the base of the skull. So corrections are instantaneous and I can turn a dog quicker when teaching heel.
    I would revisit all basics with this dog again. Not just in the yard or training field, but in your own home.
    Try this as well. With the rope on his collar. Make him sit. Put down his food bowl. If he moves pick it right back up again and repeat. Walk up to him take the rope in hand and heel him up to the bowl but don't let him eat. Make him sit. With rope in hand give your command to eat. Let him get about 2 or 3 bites. Then call him to you. Use a leash correction hard enough to get him away from the bowl. Once he is away from it make him sit. Repeat as necessary until he learns satisfactorily. DO NOT PUT YOUR HAND OR FACE ANY WHERE NEAR HIS BOWL. STAND ERECT DURING THIS DRILL. You will later use your body to seperate him from his food. Just not right now.
    My disclaimer. All information mentioned above is for reference only. If you practice these ideas without professional supervision you assume all risk and responsibility.

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    Wetland,
    I have him sit when I go to get his food and when I put his bowl down and he doesnt move until I release him and today I also called him off during his scarfing of his food and he responded just fine to me but what I found was that when I called him off and had him sit next to me when i went to go touch him I got a little growl from him. Once I got the growl I moved away and released him to me and did it all over again about three times of doing this he didnt growl anymore when I touched him therefore I released him to eat again and continued to do this during his feeding. I will continue to do this because it seemed to work but will also incorporate the leash and also try Huntress's tactic and see how it works. Thanks again.

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    bowtech,

    I don't know if anyone else will agree or not, but dont "test" him. Your just setting him up to fail if you test him this soon.You did exactly what he wanted you to do when he growled and that was to back off. I wouldn't even be testing him at this point. I'd get a handle on it, with a quick correction with the leash when he does it. You'll be surprised how quick they catch on.
    "In the interest of protecting my privacy I will no longer be accepting Private Messages generated from this site and if you email me, it better be good!"

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    It is a step by step process. Each drill must build from the previous.
    It is true you are not ready to test. That will come later. Right now you are trying to teach your dog that you are in charge of all food items. You don't want to test him to see if he understands that yet.

    That's great. Sounds like you have a good start. The next time he growls or even stares at you. Don't back away. Challenge back. I may stomp my foot or clap my hands and then go straight up to him and stand right in front of him. Do this instantly. In most cases you will totally surprise the dog. They may even cower. That's fine. Just grab the rope and bring them back to the spot where he growled and make him sit. He started it there and he must face the consequences of his actions there. Depending on the dog I may use my knees to block them from looking at the food bowl. Remember the physics. For every action there is an equal or opposite reaction.

    I must ask : what are you saying to your dog when he growls? What are you saying to him when you touch him that makes him growl?
    My disclaimer. All information mentioned above is for reference only. If you practice these ideas without professional supervision you assume all risk and responsibility.

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    Default Control

    they both said it before I got to the thread this evening.
    1- don't test him.
    2- NEVER back down. Never move away. Always remain in control.

    My philosophy about being physical is that it is dramatic, poignant, significant, and repeatable. Do I want you to be like me? No. Not at all. You have other good advice to select from. Remember, consistency is key to success. And nitpicking does not work. It only serves to build resistance. Don't pester the dog, and don't "almost" or "sometimes" get serious about taking care of the problem.
    I see too many people start too easy, not remain consistent, and then can not figure out why the dog does not respond differently.
    Keep in mind whether or not you have the luxury to take your time in correcting this issue. Is there anybody in the household that may suffer an injury because of this dogs actions?

  17. #17
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    Default food issues

    My chessie (dont blame it on the breed) has food issues that I never really resolved. I know how to feed him and deal with it. No one goes near him at feeding time. In the field he has no issues with aggression. That being said I would do things differently next time. I tried the same things I did with my other three dogs before him, and it worked great for them. I would trust them with children reaching in the bowl. However somehow things went south with the chessie ( i believe looking back I can recognize my mistake and a specific moment that made the biggest negative imprint) and I tried the meet force with force. That was a BIG mistake. As AK River Rat said, I have never truly trusted him around food again and that is the key as to why I would not do it that way again. I want to trust the dog, if you dont have trust it makes everything else you do suspect. That is no way to train a dog. If it was more than food he was nasty about I would consider putting the dog down ( that is very hard to say and do) It might work with some dogs and for some people, but I believe there are better ways. I have since read about feeding the dog every meal one kibble at a time by hand for as long as it takes. Time consuming yes, but effective. I have known people to use it quite successfully. If I can find the article I will share it.
    Last edited by Burke; 11-08-2007 at 18:40. Reason: more detail

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    Tonight was a great night with feeding. I decided to do some yard work when I came home with him and practice some casting before feeding him and he responded great. Upon feeding him I did the norm by having him sit and wait to be released. I called him off three times again and didnt even have to say sit he automatically sat next to me and stared at me until I released him. I heard no growls, wimpers or nothing out of him because I did not test him. He also had a treat ( Bully Stick ) tonight and I was able to have him sit and drop the treat with no other commands. When he did drop the stick the cat came and sniffed around the stick and he did nothing. What it seems ( with treats ) is it is only certain treats he becomes more possessive over but I will continue to do what I am doing for the most part. I had no collar on him tonight and he seemed to respond better than when the collar is on. I appreciate the replies on this issue and will incorporate them into what I am currently doing. Thanks

  19. #19

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    Hooray. Stay with it. Stay consistent. Don't back down.
    You make the rules for food.
    He has learned a new standard of respect.
    Good plan on getting him worn down before the feeding drill.

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    Hooray to you Wetland because I think you replied and said to take him for a run or do some training before feeding. Thanks and Ill keep updating.

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