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Advice needed re food aggression

(10 Posts)
northcountrygirl Tue 02-Apr-13 08:25:58


I have a 3 1/2 year old Norfolk terrier. He was raised in kennels until approx 6months and to be honest I have found him hard work since day one.

Since I adopted him I have had him castrated and he's has seen two different trainers. A lot of the initial problems have now been resolved and he is fine on and off lead, his barking is now Okish (with the help of a sonic collar) and he is finally house trained (this took a lot longer than expected).

The major problem I have with him is around food. Apparently norfolks are renowned for being greedy anyway. He has bit myself, my 12 year old son, my 5 year daughter twice, and 2 of the neighbours children - all around food issues.

He is fed separately in the porch. He bit me when I fed the cat before him. He bit my son for the same reason. This issue does now seem to be resolved since on the advice from the trainer, we started to always feed him last and can now takes his food from him with no aggression.

The problem is with food that he thinks is his but isn't. He bit my 5 year old when she gave him some of the ham she was eating. She then gave the cat some so the dog bit her.

With the neighbours son, the children had all been eating pizza at the kitchen table. They left the table and the dog managed to jump up onto a chair and then onto the table and started eating he the left over pizza. The boy (he's 12) tried to grab the pizza and the dog bit him.

The other neighbours son tried to bring back the dog when he'd accidentally let him out of the garden. My dog had got into next door neighbours garden and was eating their cat food that they'd left out so he turned and bit the boy.

We do seem to have all the neighbourhood children congregating in our garden which I've now put a stop to be padlocking the gate.

The other issues with food is that he tries to eat everything. He will eat anything that's dropped on the floor, anything that's left on the table (if I don't spot it first), he has on occasion snatched food out of my youngest a hand although he's not done this recently to be fair. He also digs up and eats cat poo from the garden. Because of all this he is overweight and suffers from bouts of diarrhoea which is obviously unpleasant for him as we'll as us.

The trainer suggested squirting him with a water pistol when he gets on the table and my friend who tains horses suggested hitting him. I have tried he water and he knows not to do his in front of me but he will still do it when my back is turned.

I know other people with dogs, plus I always had dogs growing up, and this doesn't seem normal dog behaviour as far as I can tell. I think it probably does stem from he kennel upbringing as I guess he would have had to be aggressive to get his fair share as a puppy. I have honestly thought of rehoming him in the past but I do love him as he is quite sweet natured as long as food is not involved. I have (accidentally of course) trod on him or kicked him as I've not seen him underfoot and he's never reacted badly. The children all pick him up and cuddle him, hold his lead etc and he's fine. He's also really friendly with other dogs. It's just the food issue.

idirdog Tue 02-Apr-13 08:38:29

Article here on food guarding, why dogs do it and how to stop them

food guarding

Unfortunately you have been given advice that will make things much worse so will have to take time to resolve this issue following the advice in the article.

northcountrygirl Tue 02-Apr-13 08:50:48

Shit! Just read the article and I've been doing the opposite haven't I? I haven't smacked him though.

I did reduce his food intake to compensate for the stolen food. So I need to give him more of his own food in his own space and more treats such as bones and chews from my own hand. Do you think it would be a good idea to encourage the whole family to give him the treats too? The article does make a lot of sense.

I guess we will need to increase his exercise at the same time. This shouldn't be a problem as we get a lot of offers to walk him from my 12 year olds in exchange for hard cash!

northcountrygirl Tue 02-Apr-13 08:52:12

What about the stealing though?

headlesslambrini Tue 02-Apr-13 09:05:34

that is a very interesting article. Headless dog doesn't guard her food anymore but we got round this by sitting down and holding the bowl off the ground for her to eat from. I never thought about adding more food to it but might try that in the future. Headless dog tends to guard her toys and her penn outside, which is causing us to have issues at the moment. Will try this technique with her.

northcountrygirl Tue 02-Apr-13 09:41:06

Just had another thought. Depending on what we eat, we do sometimes give the dog our leftovers. Mainly the meat from Sunday lunch. Should we stop doing this as I wonder if this is giving him the idea that all food is potentially his? Or should we just shut him out of the room and then give him the meat separately?

He doesn't really guard his own food. It's more his ill gotten gains. Also he has never growled - he just goes straight to biting unfortunately.

poachedeggs Tue 02-Apr-13 09:56:43

Right, I'm short of time, but you need to give him low value food such as dry kibble. You should not give him bones or treats. These are high value so he is more likely to guard them.

Start with an empty bowl, and add food from your hand to the dish. As he eats, add more food. Occasionally drop morsels of nice stuff in his dish as you pass. Build an association between someone approaching his dish and lovely food being added. This replaces his of anxiety and threat with feelings of pleasure and calmness.

Obviously you do this in a locked room with children safely elsewhere. He should go in a crate or locked room, with a reward, when your family is eating.

Please no bones or chews etc though. He is more likely to bite with these.

poachedeggs Tue 02-Apr-13 10:00:16

Also if he steals food he guards it because he's learned to expect that it will be taken from him. If you swap for something better he will be happier to give it up. You need to train a "drop it" command first though, using rewards for giving up a toy for example.

Remember, what's in his mouth is his as far as he's concerned. To dogs, possession is ten tenths of the law!

tabulahrasa Tue 02-Apr-13 10:14:57

Also, the dog (and the cat for that matter) won't see any difference between your daughter feeding them ham she was eating and the pizza the other children were eating.

If it's sometimes ok to to eat the food someone is eating it always is as far as animals are concerned.

northcountrygirl Tue 02-Apr-13 20:09:01

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

I'm starting to think that it's probably us that need training rather than the dog. He's really not a bad dog - in the three years we've had him there have been the 5 incidents which works out less than once every 6 months (and it has been that spread out).

So my plan is this:

1. No more random children unsupervised around the dog. Ever.
2. Always remove him from the room whilst we are eating.
3. Switch to diet version of high quality dry food (to help with the weight)
4. Add treats to his dish - me only initially
5. More treats to be given throughout the day but not whilst we're eating and not from our plates
6. Additional walks to be given to compensate for extra food
7. Ensure no food left where he can grab it (the ban on neighbours children will help massively)

In fairness to him he always knows when he shouldn't be doing something as he looks sheepish. I can easily get him to drop the stolen food by just shouting "dogname No!" It's when the children try and remove him that he will bite. And 2 of the children weren't from his "pack" so I guess that will ave made him worse.

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