Stop Food Aggression, Stop Resource Guarding

Food aggression occurs, because some dogs associate people or other dogs coming near their food, as being a bad thing.

  • Maybe we have a rescue dog, that had to fight for his food in an earlier life.
  • Maybe we have been inadvertently taking food, or other objects away from our dog by force.

Now, he thinks he needs to guard his belongings.

Certain dog breeds, for example protection dogs, may also have a higher tendency to guard.

To reduce food aggression, we want to make sure our dog associates people approaching him, with something positive.

Never try to take food, or other items away from an unknown dog. Even seemingly easy-going dogs, may sometimes try to guard their food and toys.

Note – The exercises below, help to prevent food aggression. Do not perform these exercises on dogs that are already food aggressive, and/or causing bite wounds. Instead, contact a professional trainer.

Food Aggression Tip 1

Add something really good to our dog’s food bowl.

A good way to solve food aggression issues, is to show our dog that people and other dogs coming near him, during dog feeding time, is a positive thing.

When my dog is eating, I throw some good treats into his food bowl, for example little pieces of cheese or bacon. I keep repeating this, until he is looking forward to my visits.

Note – Do not reach down to pet or stroke, food aggressive dogs.

Once my dog is comfortable with my presence, I sometimes take the food bowl away, show him that I am adding yummy treats into it, then give it back to him. I also take other objects (e.g. paper, sticks) away from my Shiba Inu, add food to it, and return the enhanced object. Sometimes, I add food into his food toys, or help him get the food out.

This teaches our dog that having people around during feeding time, means more food. It also shows him that when we take something away, it usually comes back with an added bonus. If we do all this often enough, our dog will be looking forward to us coming over, during his meals.

My Shiba Inu sometimes brings a toy over to me, in the hopes that I will add some food to it!

Food Aggression Tip 2

Hand-feed our dog.

Only do this if our dog is not aggressive, and does not have a bite history.

Hand-feeding occurs naturally when we use reward obedience training. I also hand-feed my dog during dog grooming and handling exercises.

Hand-feeding teaches our dog that the human hand is a really good thing, and yummy food comes from it. It can also strengthen our bond with him, because he sees that food comes directly from us.

Feeding with our hands, helps us establish pack leadership because –

  • We can set the speed of feeding.
  • We can demand good eating manners. For example no grabbing, and only take food from us gently.
  • We can ask our dog to work for us. For example doing a Sit or Down, before getting any food.

It is generally a good idea to keep up with some hand-feeding, throughout our dog’s lifetime. This helps him maintain good bite inhibition.

Food Aggression Tip 3

Teach our dog the Drop command.

  • First, give our dog a fairly low priority and safe toy.
  • When he takes it in his mouth, bring a high priority treat to his nose, and say Drop. Chances are, he will drop the toy, and try to get at the treat.
  • As soon as he drops the toy, mark the behavior (i.e. say Yes), give him the treat, and give him back the toy.
  • Let him play with the toy for a bit, before repeating the exercise.

Once he understands the command, we can use higher priority toys, and ultimately, food toys.

If my dog is refusing to drop objects, then I try using a higher priority treat. If he bites on me, then I usually do a time-out. I try not to overtax my dog, and keep sessions short and positive. In this way, he will be motivated to play this game again.

I also practice Drop sessions during walks, with sticks and other safe objects. This helps a dog to generalize the Drop command for outside the house, and for outside objects.

When we are out on walks, I try my best to keep my dog away from questionable objects. If he manages to pick up an undesirable item, I no-mark him (say Ack-ack), then hold a good treat by his nose. As soon as he drops the item, I praise him, and treat him.

If I really want an item back, I will hold firmly onto it (close to my dog’s muzzle), and give the Drop command. It is important that we do not pull back, and make it into a tug game. I just hold it still, and try to be as uninteresting as possible. My dog will usually lose interest, and drop the item. If he does this, I praise him, and treat him.

Do not try this technique if our dog is aggressive, and is likely to bite.

If an object is dangerous and is too small to hold, we may have to forcibly go into our dog’s mouth. He will probably hate it, but if we must do it, then we must do it. Make sure to do some simple commands afterward, so that we can treat him for his positive actions.

If we frequently remove items by force, our dog will likely get aggressive, and start guarding food and belongings from us.

This is why we want to set our dogs up for success, and prevent him from picking up dangerous objects in the first place. In this case, prevention is much better than cure.

Food Aggression Tip 4

Play the “object exchange” game.

An alternative to simply teaching the Drop command, is to play the object exchange game.

  • First, bring out several toys of about equal priority.
  • Give one of the toys to our dog, and let him play with it for a short duration.
  • Issue the Drop command, and exchange the old toy with a new one.
  • Initially, it may be necessary to sweeten the pot with some additional treats. Sometimes, I stuff the new toy with some food. Therefore, not only does my dog get back a new toy, he also gets one with food in it. He is usually very happy to make that exchange.

Once we notice that things are going well, we may slowly phase out the treats, and just do the object exchange. If our dog is unwilling to give up his current toy, then we can try to lengthen the time that he gets to play with it, or add food into the equation again.

If our dog misbehaves in any way, for example bites on our hand, then the game stops, and all toys and food are removed.

Food Aggression Tip 5

Get strangers to toss food to our dog.

When we have guests, give them some good treats to toss to our dog. This will help him associate new people with his favorite food, and lessen his food aggression when strangers are around.

If our dog has a bite history, make sure we have him on a leash, so that our guests are always safe. We may also place him behind a secure dog gate. Then, our guests may feed him by extending a chopstick or wooden spoon with food, through the gate.

Food Aggression Tip 6

Ensure there are no high priority food items lying around.

To reduce food aggression, it is important that we do not let our dog practice that behavior, especially with people. Remove all food items, as well as food toys and high-priority toys, when we have friends and family over.

It is important to remove all food and all toys, when our dog is meeting with new dogs, or dogs that he does not know well.

Food Aggression Tip 7

Supervise our dog and intervene when he starts to show food aggression.

Make sure we are always there to supervise and intervene, when our dog starts to show any food aggression. When I am not around to supervise, I remove all high priority items, so that my dogs do not guard food or resources, from each other.

I have a simple house-rule –
“All resources are mine, and I decide which of my dogs get what.”

Whenever I give them food toys, I keep them away from each other, to prevent stealing. In this way, they do not practice any resource guarding or food aggressive behavior.

If they start any guarding behavior, I remove the resource, and nobody gets it. If they show any aggressive behavior with me, they get a time-out, and the play and food session stops.

Food Aggression Tip 8

Do not give our dog constant access to food.

If we leave food or food toys around, our dog may feel that he has to guard it, and become food aggressive. This can be very stressful for him, and may also lead to obesity issues.

Leaving food around may also weaken our leadership position, because our dog can get food by himself. He may decide not to follow our commands or house rules, because he does not need us for anything.

To be a good pack leader to our dog, we want to follow the Nothing in Life is Free (NILIF) program. Only give him something, if he does something for us first. Stuff left-over food into his food toys, and make him work for all of the things that he wants. Remove the food toy once it is empty, or after a fixed period of time.

A busy dog is a good dog.

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  1. FK says

    Curious if you have any thoughts for me on this.

    I have three dogs. Two Shibas and a Corgi. One Shiba and the Corgi have been together and with me for 10 years. They’re old kids. Our other Shiba just turned a year old. We’ve had him since he was 8 weeks old. He went through all of the training classes and he passed with flying colors. For the most part, he is a very good, sweet boy. VERY smart too. But there are two things we have a problem with and I have no idea how to handle them.

    The first is food or treats. When he was little, our Corgi (who is a food thief) took his food. I didn’t have a chance to stop it. Since then, I cannot feed him in the same room as everyone else OR give treats together. He has zero food aggression with humans or our cats. Its with other dogs. But ONLY if he thinks they got a treat and he didn’t, or food falls on the floor and someone else gets to it before him. All hell breaks loose and he is all over the other dog, snarling, growling and in some cases biting. No one has actually gotten hurt yet, but it looks and sounds horrible. I pull him off and then he is calm and he and the other dog are friends again. I have no idea how to handle this or how to break it. Its my own fault for not being able to stop our Corgi from stealing his food that ONE time when he was a puppy, but that sure set him up for issues as a adult. he especially gets mad at her if he thinks she has a food something. I fear taking him to a friends house for bbq’s or the dog park due to this. He is a great travel dog and loves playing with people and new dogs, but I worry about what will happen say, if we’re at the dog park and someone starts passing out treats (happens a lot, so I usually go grab him and leave before something happens). Like I said, I don’t tend to treat or feed everyone together because of this.

    The other issue is with our cats. Our cats tolerate him just fine (They love the other dogs, because they just sleep a lot). But our young Shiba LOVES to chase the cats if they run (yay for high prey drive) and with one of our cats, he will tackle him and start trying to roughhouse with him, like he would with another dog. he is not trying to hurt the cat, he wants to play with him. And sometimes the cat will play back, but most of the time he won’t and he ends up with a chunk of hair pulled out and I have to physically pull the dog off of the cat. I don’t know how to stop this. He wants to play with the cat so bad and the cat is not all about this. Our older dogs really don’t play anymore. He has dog friends that live close by, but most of the time the owners don’t have time to get together for them to play, so my husband and I play with him. Its not the same for him. he wants someone to roughhouse with. The cats do have safe places to go. The upstairs is gated off and they have very high cat trees all over the place. We’ve tried water bottle, time out, reward for NOT chasing the cats and for listening and settle (where he lies on his side until he is calm). But they only work for about 10 seconds and then he is right back to it until he is bored or the cat has been removed from the room. He has gotten better about this in the last few months and I am hoping he just gets bored with it and stops.

    • shibashake says

      I helped my Shiba Inu with his dog-to-dog reactivity by doing desensitization exercises. I do desensitization training in a structured and controlled environment. I use distance to weaken the other dog stimulus so that Sephy can remain calm, follow commands, and learn. The more calm and successful encounters my dog has with another dog, the more confidence, trust, and positive associations he forms. Similarly, reactive experiences will undermine that trust, set back our training, and worsen his future behavior. More on how I did general dog-to-dog desensitization training with my Shiba. This general exercise can be adapted for a food aggression type situation. Both dogs are on lead, and far enough away from each other that both are calm and able to listen.

      However, desensitization training can be counter-intuitive especially at the start, so it was helpful for me to do it under the guidance of a good trainer.

      As for roughhousing with cats, I do not have any cats so I do not have any first hand experience. Before we got a second dog, we used to take Sephy to our local SPCA for training and playing with other dogs. He really needed an outlet for his roughhousing energy. As you say, playing with people is different. He can’t do his usual chasing and wrestling, in the same way that he can with other dogs. Our SPCA play sessions were always supervised, structured, and I manage Sephy’s excitement level by throwing in many play breaks. He can get over-the-top when playing with other dogs, so it was good to train him to have some impulse control.

      As for dog parks, they really were not appropriate for Sephy. He learned a lot of undesirable habits and his behavior worsened from going there. More on our dog park experiences.

      Dog daycare is another possibility, however, the experience will depend a lot on the temperament of the dog, the experience of the trainers at the daycare, and of course how good the facilities are. Sephy did not do well at daycare because they were too strict with him during play, and he got stressed being in an unfamiliar place without his people. Therefore, it depends a lot on the temperament of the dog.

      I do not leave my dogs alone together, until I am really sure that there will be no issues. Sephy can get pretty crazy when playing with other dogs, and even my larger Huskies can get overwhelmed.

      Hope this helps. Big hugs to your furry pack!

  2. Taylor says

    My dog is only aggressive about his food (and toys) with other dogs. He is an only pup, so it’s only when we are visiting friends or family with dogs that he displays this behavior. Our temporary solution is to hide all toys and tennis balls in the home, and everyone goes without play things for the duration of the visit. With feeding, we are able to feed only when supervised because my dog must practice his amazing “stay” commands to give the other dog space, and then the food gets put up when either dog begins to lose interest in eating. What’s the most confusing for us is that he seems to have no problem sharing a water bowl with other dogs – so it is just food and toys that trigger his aggressive behaviors. Is there any advice you could give in how to help address this behavior? We would love to have another dog in the future, but stuff like this must be addressed first so neither of them are stressed out when that day finally does come. Again, it’s only towards other dogs that this behavior is presented. He has no problem sharing his toys, or having his bowl moved around, when it is one of his parents doing so.

    • shibashake says

      With my dogs, I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules, and one very important rule is the no-stealing rule. I supervise my dogs closely during periods of high interaction, e.g. eating time, and make sure that everyone is following my rules. Each dog gets their own food toy to work on, and they give each other enough space to be comfortable. As soon as I notice one getting a bit close to another, I interrupt and redirect or body block him away.

      In this way, my dogs know exactly what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them in return. This creates certainty, and certainty helps to reduce stress and conflicts.

      More on what I do with my dogs during meal-times.

      I have done this from the start, and now my dogs have learned that I will protect their resources, so they need not do so themselves. In the beginning, they needed more space around their food to be comfortable. As they gained confidence through positive experiences, they became more relaxed around each other. However, with really high priority items, e.g. bully sticks, they may still get protective. This is something that they really like and do not get often, as opposed to regular food like kibble or boiled chicken which they get very regularly. Therefore, for high priority items, I keep them separated. Also, they are comfortable with each other, but they may be less so with a new dog that they are not familiar with.

      I also did dog-to-dog desensitization exercises with my Shiba Inu. This helped to raise his comfort level to other dogs. A variation of this can also be performed with food in the vicinity. We did desensitization exercises in a structured environment, with trainer chosen dogs, and under the supervision of a good trainer.

      With my dogs, I always try to set them up for success and not expose them to situations they are not ready for. The more positive meal times they have, with no incidents, the more they learn that I will take care of things and they do not need to concern themselves with others stealing their food. Similarly, negative or reactive events will undermine that confidence and trust, and worsen their guarding behavior.

      Dogs protect their valued resources because they know that other dogs may take them away. Different resources may have different values to a dog based on temperament, past experiences, rarity, etc. New dogs that they do not know, will be viewed differently than dogs that they already trust.

      Dog behavior is very context dependent, and things become even more complicated when there are multiple dogs involved. For this reason, we got help from several professional trainers during Sephy’s difficult period.

      Hope this helps. And yeah, I also got dirty looks from strangers, and got embarrassed with Sephy’s behavior. More Sephy stories.

      Big hugs to your Shar Pei!

  3. Marcus says

    Could you give me advice on stopping my shiba’s food aggression? I’ve considered calling a trainer, but (1) she gets very excited about visitors and would hound the trainer for attention as she does with other guests, and (2) she’s not always aggressive around her food so I feel like I can’t demonstrate it at home (she’s the only dog).

    She only shows aggression towards my teenage brother and other dogs when she thinks they’re a threat to her food. It doesn’t help that my brother’s a bit skittish and is definitely a flight (vs fight/defensive) kind of person. Sometimes she can have food around them just fine, sometimes she starts screaming and biting when they’re around her and food. The aggression started after another dog (an untrained, aggressive one) bit her as a puppy, I think. Before that she was just fine.

    I’ve tried putting her in time out in another room or in her crate but it hasn’t worked. Having my brother hand-feed her and be the only one who gives her treats doesn’t seem to help. Our dad’s been suggesting that my brother defend himself and just hit her in the face and I don’t want it to come to that!

    When it comes to dog-to-dog food aggression, she kind of holds a “grudge” and I have to keep her in time-out for a while or she’ll go hunt the other dog down to give them a piece of her mind. When food’s not around period, she’s a good girl and plays nice unless a dog is otherwise aggressive to her first.

    How do I properly desensitize her? My brother wants me to just magically fix her without him putting any effort into it, and I just can’t do that. Making her not bite my brother is my main goal right now.

  4. Samantha says

    I also wanted to state that she does attempt to eat from everyone’s bowl. more so cheekos because he will grab food and leave because of her stare. or not eat at all. when I correct this with “ack-ack” she is non aggressive. only when cheeko stays to eat does she become….angry ]:

  5. Samantha says

    I have a year old pit, roobie, who displays food guarding/aggression only towards my 8 year old chihuahua, cheeko. I have another pit who is 5, Penelope, whom she isn’t bothered by.
    during food consumption I am present and I observe their behavior because she is a new dog to the house and I noticed she focus’ on cheeko to the point where cheeko will not eat as he normally does. food time is usually after we go running for about an hour. when I notice the staring begin I will attempt to redirect her attention and then she will take a bite at me for intervening. she’s done this numerous times. she’s also bitten my daughter cammi who’s 4 years old over her picking up a bone. this was months ago when she wasn’t my dog. help!

    • shibashake says

      Given that you have a very young child in the house, I would get help from a good professional trainer.

      I always try to set my dog up for success. I manage his environment so that I do not expose him to situations where he feels he has to resort to aggression. I do structured desensitization exercises with my dog in a controlled environment, where I can keep everyone safe, as well as help him start to associate resources and people, or resources and other dogs, with positive experiences. At the same time, I want to minimize negative experiences where my dog becomes reactive and starts showing aggression. During retraining, I start small, with very very low priority items and *very slowly* build up my dog’s tolerance. I make sure to keep him *below* his aggression threshold at all times.

      The more positive experiences my dog has, the less he sees other dogs as a threat to his resources, and the more comfortable he becomes with them. Similarly, negative experiences will undermine that trust, significantly set back retraining, and worsen his behavior. I.e. I want to prevent reactive or aggressive incidents by managing his environment, rather than trying to “correct” his behavior after the fact. Trying to physically correct an aggressive dog is dangerous and can lead to redirected aggression, as you have observed.

      Do not punish or intimidate your dog when he guards food. Remember that when a person approaches a food-guarding dog, the dog will react as though the person intends to take the food away. This makes sense because dogs naturally compete for food. Some people insist that “dominating” your dog and showing that you’re stronger and able to take away his food will make him stop guarding it. On the contrary, doing so is dangerous and unnecessary. It can sometimes cause resource guarding to get worse, and it can damage your relationship with your dog. It’s easier and safer to simply change the way your dog feels about people approaching him when he has food through desensitization and counterconditioning.

      I separate my dogs during meal-times if necessary, I use a lead if appropriate, and I always supervise and manage very closely and very carefully when there are children involved. I also remove *all* items of contention so there are no accidents with people or other dogs. Management is a very important part of retraining my dog.

      However, dog behavior is complex and very context dependent, so each dog and situation are different. In a multi-dog household, things become even more complicated. Based on what you describe, I would consult with a professional trainer as soon as possible. In the meantime, I would take every precaution to minimize aggression incidents by managing the dog’s environment and routine. I keep my dog on a leash and close to me when there are children about.

  6. Jeff Zhang says

    Hi, I have been reading many of your articles and I was wondering is filling a full kong toy or buster cube with food could replace a meal? Also, inside of the buster cube, or similar interactive toys, do I put treats in, normal food in, or a mixture of both?


    • Jeff Zhang says

      I’m sorry I forgot to mention, he is a 10 week old male shiba with a fair amount of exercise

    • shibashake says

      Congratulations on your new Shiba pup!

      With my Shiba I save the treats and good stuff for getting him to do grooming tasks, follow rules, do commands, etc. I use a bunch of my dog’s daily food rations as rewards for doing various tasks during the day. Whatever is left over I put in interactive food toys – usually normal food.

  7. Varun says

    I have a 7 month old lab. I had to adopt him when he was only a month old since his mother died. I believe that’s the reason for his aggression. He showed signs of food aggression very early. But we’ve had that under control by hand feeding, feeding bit by bit etc. But his toy aggression is worsening day by day. He bit me today really hard but didn’t penetrate. I’m really scared since the neighbours kids are always around. Please help me. There are no trained good at rehab around this place.

    • shibashake says

      Some things that I do with my dog to discourage resource/toy guarding-
      1. I play the object exchange game. The key is to start small, so that play-time is positive and fun. I start with very low priority objects, things that my dog is usually not very interested in, and reward my dog very well for exchanging objects with me. I talk more about what I do in the article above.
      2. I teach my dog the Drop command. Again, I start small with very low priority objects. I talk more about this in the article above.
      3. I set my dog up for success. Management is key with my dog and I make sure to manage my dog’s environment closely. I try my hardest *not* expose him to situations that he cannot handle and will resort to guarding. The more stressful situations he is in and the more he practices guarding, the worse his behavior will become.

      The key with my dog is not only to maximize positive experiences with objects and people, but also to minimize bad experiences with objects and people.
      – I remove all high priority items from my dog’s environment and only slowly reintroduce them as he improves with training.
      – I make sure to always have him on-leash and closely supervised when there are kids around, and I only let my dog greet kids who are calm and can follow my instructions.
      – I make sure there is nothing dangerous that he can get to, in this way, I never have to take things away from him by force – this is what caused my dog to start developing object guarding issues in the first place.

      Proper management and supervision are the two most important things for my dog when it comes to resource guarding.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent so each dog and each situation are different. This is why in cases of aggression, especially when there are children around, it is best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer who can observe my dog within the context of his regular environment and routine.

      More on why dogs guard resources.
      More on my experiences with my Shiba Inu and why he started guarding objects from me.

  8. Melissa says

    We have rescued a 1 1/2 old lab. Super sweet and listens well. She has food aggression . So we feed her and our 1 year old dachshund in the same room just on opposite sides. We stay with them and redirect them back to there own bowl. When they are not eating the bowls go up. My next problem is the water bowls. that is where they fight. What should we do with the water bowl issue?

    • shibashake says

      To help my dog with resource guarding issues, I do two things-
      1. I do desensitization exercises so that he learns to associate other dogs and people coming near his stuff with positive, calm, and relaxing experiences.
      2. I make sure to manage his environment very carefully so that I do not put him in a situation where he feels like he needs to start guarding his stuff.

      Successful, calm, and positive experiences help my dog build confidence and learn to associate people and other dogs with getting more stuff. Similarly, the more stressful experiences my dog has, the more it will undermine his confidence, set back our desensitization training, and worsen his behavior.

      Therefore, during retraining, I make sure to remove all items of contention, except when I am doing structured desensitization exercises, in a controlled context. For things that are needed, I make sure to supervise or separate my dogs when I cannot supervise.

      Desensitization can be a non-intuitive process, and dog behavior is very context dependent, so with my Shiba Inu, it was helpful to consult with professional trainers.

      ASPCA article with more information on food guarding and desensitization training.
      More on how I help my dogs get along.

      However, each dog and situation are different, so especially in cases of aggression, it is best to consult with a good professional trainer. My Shiba Inu is the only one who started to develop resource guarding behaviors, mainly due to me taking things away from him by force. As soon as I noticed this behavior, I quickly got help, changed my own behavior, and started doing desensitization exercises with him.

  9. Robyn says

    Our 5 month old rottweiler female has become very agressive at feeding time. She isn’t simply guarding her bowl – she wants everybody’s food at once! She tries to steal food from our 3 year old female rottweiler by going into attack mode. She scares our 2 year old Australian shepherd away from her food bowl. They are fed outside with separate bowls that are all 15-20 feet apart. Today the younger rott started in on the older rott while she was eating and the little one ended up with a bleeding paw. Any advice? Should I put the pup on a tie out to eat her food away from the other dogs? The older rott and the Aussie have never had any issues until now.

    • shibashake says

      I help my dogs get along by setting up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules. I teach each new dog what those rules are. In this way, every dog knows what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them in return. This creates certainty and certainty helps to reduce stress and stress behaviors. An important rule that I have is the no-stealing rule.

      During meal time, I supervise and make sure that my dogs give each other space. If one gets a bit too close, I redirect her away before things escalate. Then, I can reward her for doing the right thing. I follow the Nothing in Life is Free program with all of my dogs.

      I always try to set my dogs up for success by managing their environment, so that things do not escalate into aggression. The more positive and calm experiences they have with each other, the more they learn to relax around each other. Similarly, the more reactive or aggressive episodes there are, the more likely they are to repeat that behavior in the future.

      Therefore, it is important that I not only maximize positive experiences, but also minimize reactive episodes. Supervision is key.

      Personally, I would *not* use a tie-down for food aggression, as limiting a dog’s movement when there are other dogs around, could create even more stress, and cause the reactive behavior to worsen. When my dogs work on high priority items, I usually have them in separate rooms, and usually in their crates. They are all crate trained and associate their crate with safety and positive events. In this way, they can work on their food in peace.

      More on what I do to help my dogs get along.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent, so each dog and situation is different. For example, I know my dogs’ temperaments and limits very well, so I can prevent stealing behavior, in a safe way.

      In addition, during the throes of a reactive episode/fight, dogs may redirect their aggressive energy onto nearby people, especially when we try to physically restrain or stop them (redirected aggression). This is why in cases of aggression, especially with large dogs, it is best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer.

  10. Alicia says

    I have a 10 year old Husky/chow mix that I got a couple months ago. The people I got her from said she was rescued five years before. Also said she was fine all the time with all the little dogs they had. When we got her home, we figured out she is food bowl aggressive. There could be multiple bowls and she will pick a specific one to guard. It is only toward our other animals. She has only attacked 3 times in two months. First was our boxer that walked by her, then our kitten, then a dog we are baby sitting. If I say hey she stops and looks at me for direction so I know she sees me as the pack leader etc but I don’t want to have to find another home for her because she won’t stop because I love her and she is soooo freaking sweet otherwise. How could I get her to stop this?

    • shibashake says

      With my dogs, I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules so that they know exactly what to expect from each other, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them in return. During meal-time I make sure that they give each other space and that there is no stealing. If one gets too close to another, I redirect him into doing something positive. In this way, my dogs all know that I will protect them and their stuff, so there is no need for them to do it themselves.

      The key with changing my dog’s behavior is not only to maximize successes but also to minimize failures. The more successful eating together events that we have, the more confidence my dog gains, and the more relaxed he is, when eating in the presence of people and other dogs. Similarly, the more reactive or aggressive episodes there are, the more that will undermine his confidence, set back training, and cause him to become more reactive in the future.

      Therefore, I make sure to set my dogs up for success through supervision and management of their environment. If I am unable to supervise, then I separate them during meal-time so that there are no problems. I only have them together when I am very sure that there will be no issues.

      More on what I do when introducing a new dog.

  11. Isabel says

    Hi I have an American akita this is my first one he’s only 6 months old but I have found that when there’s food about and my other little dog is about who is 13 years old walks past he goes for her like he’s telling her that she is not getting any my husband always gives them food from his plate I have said he shouldn’t do this but he still does when I give them a treet I have them sitting side by side and he doesn’t bat an eye he’s happy for them to get treets together it’s just when we have our food that he doesn’t want her to have any from our plate why is this we have now stoped feeding him from our plate thanks Isabel

  12. Rebecca says


    Do you have any advice about aggression with children. We have a 5 year old female shiba inu and a 9 month old son. We’ve had our shiba, Koda, since she was a puppy. Just two days ago, our son Alex was crawling around and found Koda’s food bowl (our mistake). He began playing with the food and Koda began whining. We moved the bowl and and him and he found it again and Koda became more aggressive. She has since begun guarding food, toys, and the living space in the household. She has never acted this way toward us but has toward other dogs. We aren’t sure what to do. Right now Koda is outside until we can figure out something. We really don’t want to have to give Koda up but we don’t want our son to be in danger. Any advice would be SOOO great!

    • shibashake says

      Dog behavior is very dependent on temperament, past experience, and other surrounding context. Therefore, in cases of aggression, especially when there are young children around, it is best and safest to get help from a good professional trainer.

      I always supervise closely and have my dog on-leash when there are young children about. When I cannot supervise, I make sure they are separated. I use gates, leashes, and other management equipment as necessary to keep everyone safe.

      I set my dog up for success by not exposing him to situations where he feels he needs to guard his stuff. I remove all high priority items, especially when there are children about. I follow the Nothing in Life is Free program with all of my dogs, so they work for all of their food and learn to associate people as the source of good stuff.

      This ASPCA article has more on how to how to desensitize a dog wrt. food guarding-

      Note however, that the exercise is somewhat complex and needs to be performed in exactly the right way. During the entire desensitization period, it is necessary to keep our dog below threshold and prevent any negative or guarding instances. When I was having issues with my Shiba Inu, it was helpful to consult with professional trainers who could guide me through the exercises, help me with timing and technique, as well as help me develop a management plan that will keep everyone safe.

  13. Marn says

    My 4 month old bull-mastiff pup tends to growl when i pat her while eating. I have tried to put in treats when patting her while eating, as well as taking away the bowl as soon as she growls. I normally pat her back and end which will still make her growl. However, as you touch her neck or stomach it becomes much more intense growling, she will normally go very stiff, and tuck her tail. At this point we normally take the food away and say ‘no’. I only do slow pats, but even placing a hand on her will have the say affect. When there is no food she is lovely and you can pet her any which way, the same when she has a bone she will sit by you and chew, no growling at all. Its only when she is eating out of a food bowl at which the growling becomes a issue when associated with touching.

    • shibashake says

      In terms of food guarding, what has worked well for my Shiba Inu is to help him associate people being nearby with positive events.

      1. I follow the Nothing in Life is Free program with all of my dogs. They “earn” their daily food by following house rules, doing simple commands for me, allowing me to do grooming, and more. In this way, they learn to associate me (and people in general) as the source of food and other valued resources. Whatever is left over I put in safe interactive food toys, so they work for those too. I often help them get food out of their toys, so they like having me around.

      2. The key is to make my dog’s food + people + touch experiences positive. I do this by starting small and rewarding my dog well for being and calm and relaxed. I keep my dog below threshold at all times so that the experience is *always* positive and rewarding.

      If my dog starts to show tense posture, then I have moved forward too fast. I stop and move back a few steps. I stop way before my dog goes into growling mode.

      This ASPCA article has more on how to desensitize a dog to his food bowl-

      More on how I desensitize my dog to touches.

      The more positive experiences my dog has with people and touches, the more relaxed he is around people. Similarly, negative experiences makes him feel more threatened and uncomfortable with people. Taking away his food during a touch session only made Sephy’s behavior become worse, because then he starts to associate people and touching with losing his food.

      With Sephy, it is best to prevent guarding behavior *before* it occurs or escalates. I do that by redirecting my dog, managing his environment, and not exposing him to situations that he is not ready for. I also do object exchange exercises with him, teach him the drop command, and more. In this way, I set him up for success, maximize positive experiences, and minimize instances where he feels compelled to guard food or objects.

      More on why dogs get aggressive over food.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent so each dog and each situation is different. This is why especially in cases of aggression, it is safest to consult with a good professional trainer.

  14. Danielle says

    my almost 1 year old shiba has recently started showing aggressive behaviors toward myself, but worse my kids. she only shows these aggressive tendencies when she is guarding something she is not supposed to have. her favorite thing to sneak is paper products such as paper towels, tissues, and baby wipes. when we go to take them from her she snarls and will snap at us. this behavior needs to be nixed as soon as possible, cannot have her showing aggression toward my young children. any tips or tricks? my husband says if he catches her lunging at the kids aggressively or actually biting them one more time, she is going to have to leave our family.

    • shibashake says

      In cases of aggression, especially with kids in the house, I would consult with some good professional trainers-

      Dog behavior is very context dependent, so each dog and each situation is different. When kids are involved, it becomes even more important to come up with a safe and effective retraining plan right away.

      With my dog, I use management equipment, e.g. gates, leashes, and a basket muzzle as necessary to ensure safety. I also visited with several trainers during Sephy’s difficult period. I talk more about my experiences with Sephy in the article above and here. Sephy started guarding food and toys *precisely because* I was taking things away from him by force.

  15. Lola says

    My German shepherd/great Pyrenees mix puppy Ambrose is ten months old and very friendly. The problem is she is incredibly over protective over me, her food, and my bedroom which is where she sleeps as well. Once she knows that I’m alright with a person coming into my bedroom she’s edgy but quits barking and lies her hair down, then becomes very friendly again. I don’t mind that too much though her territorial behavior worries me when it comes to other dogs. If another one of our dogs (we have two pit bulls) is out and roaming the house she will follow the dog and guard my room very carefully, standing with posture and nervous behavior. She’s never been into a fight with another dog until today when one of the dogs tried to run towards the dog food bag and stick her head into it. A fight immediately broke out and I separated the dogs with no wounds to either of them, however this has made me extremely anxious about the food aggression. I wanted to know if there was any way I could slowly work Ambrose into allowing other dogs around in her space as well as the food aggression because of the fact she’s already 70 LB and will continue to grow even larger due to her breeds. This was in another forum until I realized that this would be more accurate, I apologize for the repeat it’s just a very serious matter to me.

    • shibashake says

      Given that there are three powerful dogs in the household, I would get help from a good professional trainer.

      Some things that I do with my dogs-
      1. I set up clear dog-to-dog interaction rules.
      Then I slowly teach each new dog what the rules are. In this way, each dog knows exactly what to expect from me, what to expect from other people, what to expect from the other dogs, and also what I expect from him. This creates certainty, and certainty helps to reduce stress and fear.

      2. I supervise and redirect behavior.
      I still supervise my dogs during meal-time and play-time. In this way, I can make sure they follow house rules and I can redirect questionable behavior before it escalates into something more. I try to always set them up for success, by carefully managing their environment. For example, when I give them high priority chews, such as bully sticks, I always separate them so that they can each enjoy the chew in peace. I do not leave food out, unless I am there to supervise. The less they practice guarding behavior, the less they are likely to repeat it in the future.

      3. I try to create as much positive together time as possible.
      I do group obedience sessions, and other positive structured activity. When they cooperate with each other, stay calm, and do work for me, they get rewarded very very well.

      More on what I do with my dogs.

      However, dog behavior is very context dependent. When I was having problems with my Shiba Inu, I had private lessons with several trainers so that they could meet and observe Sephy’s behavior in his normal environment and context. In this way, I could more accurately pin-point the source of Sephy’s behavior, and come up with a safe and effective plan for re-training.

  16. Jennifer says

    My dog of 2 years guards his food. We have no idea why or what to do, but it seems to be getting worse. He is okay with my other dog coming near, but humans and my cat he has the problem with. My cat has never ate his food and we’ve never kept it from him. I am hand feeding him now, hoping it will help. If I leave him in a room with the food, he will literally sit there all day, alone, guarding the food. I am at a loss. Any suggestions?

    • shibashake says

      Have you had him since he was young? When did the food guarding behavior start? What is his daily routine like? What type of training is he used to? What type of dog is he? How does he react to people when there is no food around? How does he react to new people during walks?

      Dog behavior is very context dependent.

      When I am trying to change my dog’s behavior, I first try to identify the source of his behavior. To do this, I carefully observe my dog and take note of all the surrounding details. I take past experiences and temperament into account, and I try to remember what changed when the behavior started.
      More on how I change my dog’s behavior.

      When I was having troubles with Sephy, I also visited with several professional trainers who could observe Sephy, understand his temperament, guide me in reading his body language, and help me identify the things that were triggering his stress behaviors. In cases of aggression, it is usually best to get help from a good trainer, so that we keep things safe and start off on the right foot.

  17. Shannon says

    My dog has no problem with guarding food. We give food to her in a bowl (no interactive toys, I’ve just now been introduced to them). But she doesn’t eat it. Sometimes she goes so long without eating she throws up. We have to bribe her to eat with yummy treats. What do you suggest we do?

    • shibashake says

      How long has this been going on? How old is your dog? How is her energy level? How is her physical health? Does her pee and poop look normal? Does she eliminate regularly? When was her last vet visit? What is her regular daily routine? What type of food does she get?

      When my dog suddenly loses his appetite, the first thing that I do is take him to the vet to make sure that it is not a physical issue.

    • Shannon says

      She is about two and a half years old. We got her at the shelter and they thought she was about four months old. We know nothing about her background as she was found wandering the streets. She’s never shown an interest in eating dog food, but will jump at the chance for any other food. She gets IAMS. Her pee and poop looks fine, but she does act constipated sometimes. She’s a healthy weight. She’s always been an energetic dog. We think she’s got some collie in her. She gets to run around every day, since we have a few acres. She likes to sleep and chew on her toys. She goes on long walks everyday, which she loves. We try to have regular feeding times, but she doesn’t eat. My dad doesn’t really believe in yearly examinations to the vet, and thinks she’s fine, so I’ve been trying to find solutions and help online.

    • shibashake says

      Has she always lacked appetite for the over two years you have had her? How often and how long does she go without eating? How often does she throw up?

      If your dog is a healthy weight and she is not eating, how is she getting her nutrition? Is she getting a lot of extra treats? What kind of non-kibble food does she get? How much non-kibble food does she get daily?

      Has she always had IAMS food? Which particular IAMS food do you use? Some of their products contain wheat or corn, which many dogs are allergic to.

      When I first got my Shiba Inu, I fed him Eukanuba, because that was what he got at the breeders. However, it contained a fair amount of wheat and my Shiba was mildly allergic to wheat. After we identified his allergy issue, we changed to a grain free, high protein kibble, which he liked a lot better.

      Here is more on how I pick my dog’s food.

      However, lack of appetite can be the result of many different things, including medical issues, stress, etc. I rule out medical issues first by visiting my vet. Once I am sure that my dog is healthy, I can look at other triggers such as allergies, stress, or something else.

  18. Alaska says

    I have had him since he was 8 weeks old. But I never knew he showed signs of it until he was 4 months old. I started putting his food in a bowl that I’d hold in my lap. When doing so I thought I’d be able to control his eating and be able to pet him. It so far worked. But I can not put it on the ground and pet him he growls. But when I pet him I constantly tell him he’s a good boy. I start at his butt and go forward. If the foods on the ground I can only go to his shoulders. His tail would be tucked down low. But when I have it in a bowl I can play with his ears, put my finger in his mouth, pet him on the head. Is there something I’m doing wrong?

    • shibashake says

      In terms of getting my dog used to hugging and petting, I try to start small, go slow, and most importantly, to keep things positive. For example, I observe my dog and see where and when he is most receptive to petting, and that is where I start. I start with short touch sessions that are paired with high priority food and other fun stuff.

      In general, I want Sephy to associate me and people touches with positive experiences. Therefore, I carefully manage his environment and set him up for success. The more successful touch sessions we have, the more he learns to associate me touching him with being calm and rewards. The opposite is also true.

      When Sephy is busy with playing or eating, is when he is least receptive, so I leave that till later after I have slowly built up his tolerance. I am not always up for affection either, so I try to observe my dog carefully, and give them alone time when they need it.

      More on how I trained my dog to enjoy/tolerate touches and hugs.

  19. Alaska says

    My 7 month old puppy is having food aggression while eating his food. I can play with his food and he doesn’t mind , but he growls if I pet him. He’s been doing this since we got him at 8 weeks old. Is their anyway to get him to stop? ( I can even give him a treat and tell him to gently take it , and he listens.) I’m just extremely confused on what to do at this point.

    • shibashake says

      What kind of petting? Which part of the body? Is he ok with the same kind of petting when there is no food around? Does he enjoy petting in general? How long have you had him? Has he always shown this behavior? When did it start?

  20. Cheryl says

    Hi, I just came across your site. I do not have a shiba. We have a 3 year old male great pyrenees, he is very sweet, gets along well with other dogs. A little shy of people but very good with them. Problem – we just rescued a female, great pry/collie mix. They seem to like each other, they play a lot. Her second day he went at her at feeding time, I thought I solved it by putting them in totally different rooms and closing doors etc. Now today he went for her because she was in the kitchen while we were preparing dinner. I put him in a mud room and closed the door. Let him out after I put her outside, then put him back in the mud room while we were eating. I was hoping it was a one time thing to establish boundaries, but now I am concerned. Any ideas, thanks

    • shibashake says

      When you say “he went at her at feeding time”, what exactly did he do? what did the other dog do? what did you do? what was his response?

      With my dogs I set up clear and consistent dog-to-dog interaction rules so that each dog knows what to expect from the others, what to expect from me, and what I expect from them. This helps to create greater certainty, which helps to reduce stress for my new dog as well as existing dogs. I also set up a fixed routine and schedule for the new dog, which helps to create even more certainty.

      More on what I do when introducing a new dog into my home.

  21. Pamela says

    I have two dogs. The oldest a Shiba Inu and the youngest is a mini Golden Doodle. My Golden Doodle occasionally has periods where she refuses to eat her food. I am certain it is because my Shiba is bulling her not to. After the Shiba is done with her food, she stares intently at the Golden Doodle and generally is always showing dominant posturing over her. I now try to feed them separately and put my Shiba out of view in another room but the Golden still ignores her food, or tries to hide or bury it. I confident it is not the food type and she has done it with multiply food types. I have tried being in the room with her, leaving her totally alone, trying to feed her out of my hand, putting treats in with her food, using different bowls, putting the Shiba in a submissive position within sight…. She will eventually eat but will usually skip 1-3 meals. Any suggestions?

    • shibashake says

      In terms of reducing stress at home, what helps with my dogs is to institute very clear dog-to-dog interaction rules. I do not allow any kind of bullying, stealing, or other types of anti-social behavior. If there are any conflicts, I step in and deal with it before things escalate into anything more.

      I am more vigilant during meal times, but I enforce the rules at other times as well. I supervise them closely especially in the beginning to ensure that there is no sneak stealing or bully behavior. If I need to leave them alone before they are fully trained, I separate them.

      In this way, all of my dogs know what they can expect from me, from each other, and also what I expect from them. In addition to setting up a consistent set of house rules, I also set up a fixed routine to further increase certainty and reduce stress.

      More on how I keep the peace at home and reduce stress.

      How long have the dogs been together? What are their interactions like outside of eating time? Do they play together? What are their daily routines like?

  22. Anh2 says

    and thanks for a great article and blog, I’ve learned so much! :)
    At the end of Food Aggression Tip 7 you wrote: “If they start any guarding behavior, I remove the resource, and nobody gets it. If they show any aggressive behavior with me, they get a time-out, and the play and food session stops” How exactly do you remove the resource? Do you take the resource with power or do you give a treat for exchange and then do a time-out? My shiba is now 2,5 years and is the kindest dog, she’s never been mouthy ever since she was a small puppy, and never shown any sign of aggression, and everybody can do almost whatever they want with her, but recently she’s been developing resource guarding issues/aggression with her favorite toy, a tennis ball…whenever I let her play with it, she starts guarding it, especially if you come close. And if you come close enough, she starts to growl.. and sometimes she will drop the ball for a treat, and sometimes not. How should I remove the ball from her and correct her in this setting?

    Also the other day, I made the mistake of giving her a bone with some meat on after having dinner while I had my family over (tip 6), and at first I held the bone for her to chew, and then I left it on the floor for her, but she didn’t seem interested at all.. but then, for the first time ever, while my niece was passing close by her and her bone, she bit my niece! It wasn’t a deep wound and the skin didnt break, but still, we were all shocked! She has never shown this behaviour or aggression over food before, but I guess it is never too late? What should I do? She is the kindest dog ever otherwise (if the tennis ball doesnt exist and apparently with a huge bone that she has to guard).

    • shibashake says

      What should I do?

      I would get help from a good professional trainer. During Sephy’s difficult period, we visited with several professional trainers. Dog behavior is very context dependent, and for resource guarding, I really wanted to start off on the right foot, so that Sephy’s behavior does not get worse.

      Note though that the dog training profession is very unregulated, so it can be a challenge to find a good trainer.
      More on how I went about finding a trainer.
      I also read up a lot on dog behavior so that I could better understand Sephy, and can quickly filter out trainers who didn’t know what they were talking about.

      Some things I have observed with resource guarding and my dogs –
      1. The key thing with my dogs is prevention.
      I try to manage their environment and supervise them so that they are not put in a position where they feel they need to guard. The more they practice resource aggression with people, the more likely they are to repeat it and in a wider variety of contexts. The most important thing that I do, is prevent the behavior through careful management, supervision, and training.

      2. I *do not* remove items from my dogs by force.

      Here is why.

      Most of the time, I prevent. If I miss something and my dog gets something that I don’t want him to have, then I exchange the object with him. Since he is already comfortable with the exchange “game”, he is usually good about giving up stuff because he knows he will get something in return. Note that there is no aggressive behavior here – either from my dog or from me. I talk a bit more about how I get items back from my dog in the Drop section above (Tip 3).

      The only time I *may* use force is when my dog has gotten hold of something dangerous and small. However, I can do that only because my dog has good bite inhibition, I know him very well, and I know what his boundaries are. Still, prevention is best and I have not had to do this in a very long time.

      3. I only reward positive behaviors.
      I *do not* give treats for growling behavior or aggression. I prefer to prevent and redirect before it gets to that point. My dogs know that I am there to prevent any kind of stealing, so they can relax and let me take care of things.

      I also follow the Nothing in Life is Free program with all of my dogs. This teaches them that I am the source of good stuff, and also that they need to work for the things that they want.

      Remember though that each dog is different and each situation is very different as well. This is why it is best to get guidance from a good professional trainer, especially in cases of aggression.

  23. Audrey and Kelly says

    Thank you for this article and photos of the beautiful dogs.
    My puppy, all of a sudden, surprised me with getting rather nasty with a treat she had never guarded before.
    Your advice will prevent this from becoming a big problem. Hand feeding her now and teaching her restraint.
    She isn’t perfect, but still a baby and now heading in the right direction with good advice like this.
    There is so much conflicting information out there. Your method matches what her puppy class instructor told us last night. I don’t think the rough treatment that some talk about would be right for her.
    Kelly is a 14 week old GSD.

  24. Grace says

    I’m not sure if this is listed above, there are a lot of comments. I have a 11month old Shiba and a 4 month old Husky. Our Shiba is very food aggressive towards the Husky. We can hand feed, and do about all of the tips above with him, but when we feed the dogs we have to keep the Shiba from seeing the Husky when they eat or else he barks and then gets so mad he soils his kennel.
    Our husky does not mind, he does not have any problems, and is very relaxed. Both dogs are crate trained for the most part and eat in their crates.

    Any tips for this?

    • shibashake says

      Have you had the Shiba longer and only recently introduced the Husky puppy? How are the two dogs when there is no food around? Do they get along well? Are there other contexts where the Shiba shows stress or aggression? Did Shiba show this behavior right from the start or only recently? Has the puppy taken or played with any of the Shiba’s food, toys, or other resources? Did the Shiba’s routine change a lot when the Husky came along? What was his routine like before and what has changed since the Husky came?

      he barks and then gets so mad he soils his kennel.

      This sounds like he is experiencing a lot of stress.

      Here is a bit more on what I do to help my dogs get along.

      Dog behavior is very context dependent so when my dog shows sudden changes in behavior, I try to look at what has changed, and what things may have triggered it. Once I understand the true source of the behavior, I can take steps to help my dog manage and overcome it. For example, is it fear of food being stolen, is it fear of being attacked while confined in a small space with no escape, is it frustration of not being able to get to something, or is it something else?

      Because dog behavior is so context dependent, consulting with a good professional trainer can often be helpful, especially in cases of aggression. I consulted with several trainers when I had difficulties with my Shiba Inu.

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