Don-on-Dog Food Aggression
ponyrun2 posted:
I have (2) 9-year-old mixed breeds (brother & sister, both fixed) and a 4-year-old spayed female mix breed. I feed them at different areas of the room but it doesn't help. Everyone is so scared that someone else is going to get their food. The pup inhales her food. The boy scarfs his food down and then tries to get the girls' food. His sister goes on the defensive and will mock charge him to drive him away while the pup will actually pick up her bowl and take it to another part of the house. Fights have broken out between the pup and the boy over a single nugget of food. Blood has been drawn (usually on the boy). Luckily only minor injuries so far. Another problem is that when the pup and the boy go at it his sister will try to protect him and go after the pup as well. Two against one. There is absolutely no aggression towards me. The pup will protect anything food related that she thinks is hers from the other two dogs. She is the actual aggressor, starting the fights when the older ones won't back down to her. I need to find a way to calm both the pup and the boy down so that everyone can enjoy a peaceful meal time. Any suggestions ?
atti_editor responded:
Hi ponyrun2-

Resource guarding is fairly common in animals and can make mealtime a big problem (as you obviously know). I know that you said you feed them in different areas of the room, but are there perhaps different rooms you could feed each of them in so that they can't see or get to each other? Or maybe you could crate them at meal times?

Here is an article that we have on food guarding that you may find helpful. It has guidelines and tips to follow to correct the behavior, however, you might find performing them difficult with 3 dogs in house (and it is somewhat geared toward food aggression toward people, but could be adapted).

If you have the resources, I think that hiring a trainer for this problem might be a good idea. He/she can help you understand your dogs' behavior and teach you first-hand how to correct it and provide a positive feeding environment. I know that you said there is absolutely no aggression toward you, but please never try to break up one of their fights as in the moment you never know what may happen.

I hope that you are able to use tips from the link above to help make feeding your pups less stressful!

ponyrun2 replied to atti_editor's response:
Thank you. I don't try to break up their fights - been there once, luckily only got a couple of bruises. What I meant was that I can take their bowls from them at any time, even while they are eating without a problem. Well, slight problem with the younger dog as she refuses to get her muzzle out of the bowl and scarfs her food even faster. She's seems paranoid about getting enough food. I don't know much about her background except that I was her 4th (and final) home in her first 6 months and she possibly hadn't been fed properly at one of the homes. I think this is where her problem may have begun. I'm not sure why the older boy has his issues unless it's his way of asserting himself over his much more dominant sister who is the alpha dog (any other time she can beat up her brother who is nearly 40 pounds heavier than her).

I wish there was a way to slow them down. I've tried putting obstacles in their bowls but it doesn't seem to help with the puppy. Feeding her by hand just makes her more anxious.

I will try the separate rooms and hope that given time they will calm down a little.
atti_editor replied to ponyrun2's response:
That's good that you can take the bowls away at any time without any aggression.

My rescue pup has the same problems with scarfing down food as soon as it hits his bowl (or the floor). I don't know much about his background either -- other than that he was left tied up in a house without food or water for long enough that his collar became embedded in his neck. So, I figure that's where his issues with food come from. Have you tried feeding them using a type of food puzzle for dogs? I have found that it really slows my dog down and also helps him exert some mental energy at meal times -- it calms him down and I've seen less destructive behavior. I like to use Kongs (I wet his food until slightly mushy and then stuff the toy -- you can also freeze it overnight so it takes longer for them to eat) and Treatstiks, but there are a number of toys out there that you might try. Here's some more information on food puzzles if you'd like to look into using one.