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Talk to me about food aggression

(10 Posts)
laraeo Sat 16-Feb-13 19:21:13

Family found & turned in a dog to animal control (in the US) last week. A mostly Jack Russell. We've thought about him all week while he was being held in case someone claimed him. Nobody did.

We went to see him today and they said the only issue he has is food aggression. The rest of whatever temperament test they gave him he passed just fine. They also said overall he's submissive - he got attacked by a Yorkie and his ear is now messed up (but healing fine). He backed down immediately.

He was fine with us - DH, me & DS who's 5. DS was definitely interacting with him (not in a bad, crazy way but trying to pet him, play ball) and the dog was fine. The agent we spoke to seemed to think his food aggression could be minimized by feeding separately, giving treats separately, etc.

But I'm on the fence. Leaving behind the logistics of walking 2 dogs (we have a heeler cross who's just about perfect to me but DH & DS are less enamored of him), can anyone share their experiences of dealing with food aggression? Did it lead to aggression over toys, bones, beds, etc? Current dog LOVES his nylabones and balls but otherwise doesn't have any toys (because he destroys them in under 10 minutes).

DS said he really liked the "little dog" because it was "easier to play with him".

DH isn't worried about the food aggression and feels we could manage it. I'm less worried about managing it with the humans of the house, more so about the current dog.

Hope this makes some sense.

poachedeggs Sat 16-Feb-13 19:30:30

Ok, food aggression is easy to deal with but can be very dangerous. How much do you trust your 5 year old to adhere to golden rules?

I can give you a protocol for dealing with this if you like, but to start with you will need a few ground rules.

Dogs are fed by an adult.
Dogs are fed separately, and supervised while they eat.
Dogs are fed bland, non-interesting food such as dry kibble.
No high value treats such as bones.
Nobody ever takes food from the dog.
Dogs are not allowed near your DS while he has food, and vice versa.

Sounds a lot but very simple in practice.

Long term, yes it's very treatable.

As I say I can give you protocols but it's a better idea to have a behaviour counsellor come and work through this in your home. He may also have other issues which are yet to surface. Hopefully not, but best to be prepared, which it sounds like you are.


poachedeggs Sat 16-Feb-13 19:33:52

Also slight concern that they declared him submissive. This is a fair observation in many cases but beware that its is dominant and if they think along those lines, who knows what their temperament test consisted of hmm

poachedeggs Sat 16-Feb-13 19:34:30

*its opposite is dominant

Noodled Sat 16-Feb-13 19:37:13

Two of mine are food aggressive I feed them separately and they are not allowed around each other and food.

Both are now fine with humans around food, we only ever add rather than take so now they are relaxed. Don't trust either with each other or other dogs round food... it isn't a trait that would put me off a dog at all. I would say though that am sceptical about what you can quickly tell about a dog in a new stressful situation. I believe you go very slowly and gently with any rescue and after a few months you start to see what you really have.

laraeo Sat 16-Feb-13 20:03:19

Thanks for the quick responses.

Current dog is only fed by adults. DS has zero interest in getting him his food and it hasn't been a "chore" he's ever been tasked with. DS doesn't go near dog's bowls other than to go out the door - current bowls near the sliding door but we could easily take up the food bowl after mealtime and feed them separately.

We'd certainly feed them both separately and we don't do table food "treats" now so that part shouldn't be an issue.

DS's food may take more training of DS. Current dog sits under DS's spot at the table because he knows that's where he might get anything dropped. Just talking about it, I suppose the smaller dog could go in the bedroom while we eat (open floor plan house).

Current dog sleeps in a crate at night and new dog would get his own.

The dog was so stressed last week when we found him that DH was able to coax him into our fenced yard by throwing treats to him until he got in. He met current dog and the two sniffed and whatnot but didn't play or anything like that. Not much interest between them.

The animal control officer who came to get the terrier took about 30 minutes to get the dog to come to him so he could slip a leash on him and get him in the truck. The dog was clearly stressed out but still allowed the guy to pick him up - eventually - and didn't show any obvious signs of aggression.

The people I spoke to said that after he was attacked by the Yorkie this week, he allowed the vet tech/nurse/whoever to hold him while they treated his ear and he didn't need to be muzzled which we took as a good sign.

Today he was clearly more interested in what was going on outside the run we were all in but he did come up to us to say hello, gave me some doggie kisses and was generally a lot happier. He even made an attempt to play with a tennis ball.

Bottom line, we've been very spoiled with the rescues we've had. The current one was fostered for 3 weeks and arrived 100% housetrained, decent on a leash (except when squirrels are around), knowing sit. He quickly picked up down and stay. His recall is okay (except around squirrels) but he is 50lbs of exuberant dog. We've had him for going on 10 months and he is honestly a "what you see is what you get" dog. No surprises.

I'm afraid to rock the boat. Damn it. The new dog is cute.

nooka Sun 17-Feb-13 16:54:16

Could you perhaps offer to foster the jack russell? That way he gets to be less stressed until he finds a home and you can see if he is the dog for you (and whether the two dogs get on OK).

digerd Sun 17-Feb-13 18:27:33

Well, nature made it so that with 2 males the smaller one doesn't challenge the larger one. This hopefully would apply with food dropping on the floor. Although the Jack Russell will be quicker and more agile under the table.
They were OK in the garden, but in the house your big dog could be terratorial.
Fostering first is the best idea.
Good luck

laraeo Sun 17-Feb-13 20:58:37

We've decided not going to get the terrier. If our situation was different; i.e. no/older DS, no current dog, or no food issues from the terrier, then we'd probably have a different outcome.

Unfortunately, this shelter doesn't do fostering. It's an all or nothing proposition. The adoption agent we spoke to said she thought he wouldn't have a problem getting adopted because he's small (and really stinkin' cute). It's too bad because the last time we added a second dog (we had a beagle and no DS) the shelter we got him from had a 2-week no-fault return option since we already had a pet at home. That gave us a trial period (not needed, the doxie walked in like he owned the place) without the fear of what would happen if things didn't work out.

I'm pretty confident the terrier will find a suitable home. Having said all that, DH wants me to check again Wednesday....

digerd Sun 17-Feb-13 21:19:25

Ahhh. Small cute and friendly dogs are adopted very quickly. Such a pity for the no 2 week trial at that rescue. As you will never know, but is best to err on the side of caution in this case. My little girl who I have had 6 weeks today is 2 years-old, and the only dog we have met who she wants to play with is a Jack Russell girl the same age.
Good luck on Wednesday, just in case .

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