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Lately, my dog's food aggression has been escalating. Mainly when I pet him when he is eating, but recently a few different scenarios prompt a growl. As a puppy, I was able to put my hand in his bowl and take his food from him and give it back after he sits or downs, in hopes to never see this behavior. He will growl at me when I pet him when he is eating. I've tried a bunch of different things to try and fix this including Cesar's methods, but if one doesn't work the first time I just try the next one. Bad on my part, but I really want to find something that works. I did try popping his collar like my trainer said to do, but we seem to find ourselves frozen in a tense battle of the waiting game to see who makes the first move.

Recently, he has been growling at new situations. He has a bed in our living room that he has never been possessive over, but he growled ONCE at me the other day and I quickly made him yield and said, "Move, move" and walked on the bed and just stood there. He hasn't growled on the bed since. He also growled at my wife when she went to throw something away in the trash can which happened to be by his bowl. We normally change feeding locations every now and then to prevent him associating bad locations for mealtime.

Well yesterday, it jumped to a whole new level. We went to my sister's house to have a crawfish boil. Drago came with us and on the ride over I told my wife since I was boiling the crawfish, I wanted her to keep a constant eye on Drago when out of the crate. We have 3 young nieces, all of whom Drago has met before and hasn't had a problem with. When we took Drago out of the truck, they all came out to greet us and the neighbor's kid ran up to Drago in a very brave, confident manner and Drago welcomed him by licking his hand and getting real excited. I thought that was great that Drago wasn't fearful of kids he hasn't met before. So, we continue on with the afternoon. Drago has been in that backyard before and has met all of the people there before as well. Very small crowd. As I was prepping the crawfish, Drago was curiously watching the crawfish since it was his first time with that. My niece Hailey walked up and started petting him as she always does without a problem and Drago started growling at which point I immediately looked at the situation to see Drago turning his head, ears back, and then he bit Hailey's wrist. I immediately grabbed him and removed him from the situation, putting him in his crate in their garage. After talking to my wife on what happened before I turned my head, she said Hailey pet him, then he growled, then Hailey pet Drago again trying to calm him, and then he went for her wrist. I'm pretty sure it was a bite then release as opposed to bite, hold, and shake even though I was there immediately to stop him. Obviously, Hailey was crying, but soon calmed down. He didn't break the skin and there was just one red dot. I was furious and didn't know how to react. I just had no idea why he did that. There was no food or bowl in sight, his closest toy(which he never has growled over) was at least six feet to the left of him. The only thing I could think of at the time was maybe she stepped on his foot or something, but everyone said no. Hailey still wanted to play with Drago afterwards so thankfully it didn't turn her off to him or dogs forever. I still kept him out of sight for the rest of the day.

Now the girls have always loved playing with Drago and throwing his toys, but sometimes I think he may be getting tired so I would put him up in the past. I thought that maybe yesterday he was just on edge meeting a crawfish for the first time. I really don't know what else it could have been. Wouldn't he just walk away if he was getting annoyed with the girls?

Please let me know what direction to take with this and his food/general aggression. It is 100% unacceptable for him to go after a child like that. I want to be able to trust him while around kids and I do know that no dog should EVER be left alone with kids without supervision. Good thing I was only 3 feet away. I guess the food thing has to do with him thinking he is alpha over me and my wife, even though we do alpha exercises everyday. Please correct me if I'm wrong and tell me something can be done to fix this.



P.S. Would neutering him minimize his aggression due to lower testosterone or is that just for male to male aggression and desire to roam (mate)?

Thanks.


Andrew
 

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Lots of excitement, new smells, not his yard, warning growl...

I wouldn't go off the deep end here. If he had really meant to hurt her, I don't think you'd see such a minor wound.

Back up and be more careful when around foods and kids.

He sounds like a good dog.

IMO, neutering him won't change his temperament.
 

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"As I was prepping the crawfish, Drago was curiously watching the crawfish since it was his first time with that. My niece Hailey walked up and started petting him as she always does without a problem and Drago started growling at which point I immediately looked at the situation to see Drago turning his head, ears back, and then he bit Hailey's wrist."

He bit her because he was resource guarding the crawfish.

She interfered with this.
He gave a warning (growl)
She didn't heed his warning (kept petting.)
Dog bit your niece.

He should not have been allowed to focus on the food for any length of time if he is food aggressive.
I would implement NILIF and hand feed him for a while.
Don't pet him when he is eating. There is a thread just about this on the forum now.
http://www.germanshepherds.com/foru...m-breaking-down-right-now-tears-confused.html
 

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How old is he?

You never pet a dog to calm them...touching means approval...so touching while growling is approval of the growling. He was giving her a warning to stop touching him, she didn't stop, so he bit.

You shouldn't be correcting him while he's eating. He's not equating the growling as the wrong thing...he's equating eating being the wrong thing. You're putting him through pain while he's trying to eat...so of course he's not going to like it. You have also shown in the past that you'll take his food away, well you actually escalated the resource guarding by doing that.

What you should've done is added something special to the food each time you took it away. That way he equates you taking the food bowl to something good coming. At this point...no one should be near him while he's eating food. He clearly has an issue if he growls at YOU while its feeding time just for petting him. You're the one that gives him the food and yet he's still warning you to stay away.

Get him into a lot of obedience. Show him that you're his leader and that you're going to be fair with him. Right now, you're not being fair at all. He does nothing wrong but eat and he gets tugged on or gets the food taken away.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Some extra details. He is 7 months old and intact.

Hailey pet him like she always does and when he growled, she pet him again. I know that wasn't right on her part but she is a kid and I think if she would have pulled away that would tell Drago growling works. Right?

Very good at obedience. He knows sit, down, stay, heel, drop it, leave it, crate, out/off (bedroom/couch/etc).

I always make him eat after all the humans and work for his food by performing a few obedience lessons. I then make him stay, put the food down, and then give release word to eat. I can hand feed him all day long without problems. I DO add turkey occasionally to his bowl as well.

I can take toys, shoes, anything from him...EVEN his bowl. It's just if I pet him and I'm sure some people are going to say then stop petting him, but what if someone else does and he bites them...like my niece?
 

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Lots of excitement, new smells, not his yard, warning growl...

I wouldn't go off the deep end here. If he had really meant to hurt her, I don't think you'd see such a minor wound.

Back up and be more careful when around foods and kids.

He sounds like a good dog.

IMO, neutering him won't change his temperament.
Sorry...but he does not sound like a "good dog." He bit someone, a kid for that matter. If this wasn't a niece, you'd probably have a few more issues than you do right now.

There is questionable leadership in the household, he believes he has to fight for food, so he will guard it.
 

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Try feeding him by hand for a while.
or
Just put a small amount in his dish. When he finishes that let him wait a few minutes then put another small amount in. You will only handle his dish when it is empty.
Don't make contact with him while he eats.
You could also try holding the dish while he eats. Make him sit and come to you to eat when YOU are ready... doing the small amount routine.

I don't understand why people think they should/could pet their dogs while eating .... seems kind of aggravating to me.
 

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It's just if I pet him and I'm sure some people are going to say then stop petting him, but what if someone else does and he bites them...like my niece?
Are you saying he bites if he is petted? Or does he bite or growl if he is petted while eating?
 

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There are alot of posts on this board regarding food aggression.

I don't agree with messing with a dog's food. I think even tho your intention was to prevent this very type of thing, by messing with his food, it's backfired.

I agree with the above, he may not have been right next to the food, but the smells are there, food is in the vacinity.

My suggestion, until you can get his food aggression under control keep him away from food sources especially if you have kids/guests around. When your eating, cooking, crate him.

I would stop messing with his meals, Feed him in his crate. Leave him alone when he has his meals. Let things calm down for a bit.

I'm not sure I agree with taking his food away and giving him something even better "back", right now, I don't think he's going to see this as a good thing, just that you are still taking his food away.

Personally, I would sit down, and feed him each meal by hand, one piece at a time in a quiet calm manner.

I admit I have never had any dog that was food aggressive, I've never messed with my dogs' food/bones/ etc, and, have ever had a problem with me or anyone else removing food from any of my german shepherds.

Hope you can resolve the issue
 

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Discussion Starter #10
A few of the methods I have tried,


1) Hand feed
2) Feed small amounts and make sure he watches me add food to the bowl.
3) Hold the bowl
4) Cesar sometimes puts food bowl on a stool or something so that the dog can't stand over (own) his food. I've tried that as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
He growls only when petted while eating? Is that really too much to ask. All of the dogs I had in the past didn't mind a calm petting while eating. Why is Drago different?
 

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I think it's time you got some professional outside help..A behaviorist/someone savvy that has worked with german shepherds.

He;s growling while he's eating because he thinks you are going to take his food away, and the growling is a warning / prelude to a bite. He is not like your other german shepherds, he is his own dog.
 

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He growls only when petted while eating? Is that really too much to ask. All of the dogs I had in the past didn't mind a calm petting while eating. Why is Drago different?
Um, because dogs are individuals and not clones?


I would not like to be petted while eating.

Seriously, I, too, believe dogs should be respected when they eat, and not messed with. It is a very primal, important thing, and they should not be bugged while doing it.
 

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I think it's time you got some professional outside help..A behaviorist/someone savvy that has worked with german shepherds.
:thumbup:

You pup is 7 months old. It sits on the borderline right now of being a serious problem for you. Please seek professional assistance with your pup. This can be easily nipped in the bud, but you really need someone who can observe the behavior of your pup before providing advice.
 

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Yeah its weird that he growls when you pet him, but doesn't actually snap and bite if you're taking the bowl away. At least that's what I've read...

I'm not sure who told you to correct him when he growls, but that was incorrect. Now you really need to start at step one and I would do some sort of a shut down phase where he's locked in a kennel to eat so that he knows no one can touch him. Probably for a good month or so you shouldn't mess with feeding time. Then slowly start leaving the door open for a while, then sitting next to him for a while while he's eating. Do everything pretty slow, don't try to rush the method, it might take months.

BTW...my comment about adding something better was directed at what should've happened before (if one is to pull the bowl away), not something you should do now.

I would not have any food around this dog when others are around. I would really limit the interaction between the dog and any kind of people food. Don't allow him anywhere near where you eat ect.

I've never dealt with food aggression but it does sound like although you meant to do something good, it backfired. Contact a behaviorist, or find a GSD group where there might be people knowledgeable in this subject. A Schutzhund club perhaps could help you solve this issue.
 

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I think martemchick, and I could be wrong, op was saying the dog growls when petting him while he is eating..

gotcha on the something better should have happened before:)
 

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I don't think he was resource guarding the crawfish. And honestly? Your dog did NOT bite your niece. If he bit your niece, then she would not have a hand. He mouthed her AFTER politely warning her with a growl "Please don't pet me I'm uncomfortable". From how you describe the situation, he was looking away from her too. Looking away, ears back, growling, are all signs of fear. Your niece crossed his threshold and he responded.
Your dog lacks trust in you and your nieces.
Don't be mad at your dog, be grateful your dog has some bite inhibition, many people are not as fortunate as you or your niece.

Work on a strong leave it and recall command. A lot of times it is easier to call your dog away from an object (they are giving it up) rather than try to pull it out from under them (you're trying to muscle it from them with can cause fear/insecurity).
 

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I agree that while that was not what you want to have happen, if the dog was aggressively biting your niece, she would have needed stitches. We want that to NEVER happen.

I think your best bet is to completely change everything you are doing with your puppy because it is NOT working.

1. Don't mess with his food or his dish, don't make food or mealtimes a big deal. Feed him in his crate and leave him be to eat it. I would not make him work for it. I would not try to take it back. I would not move the dish around. I would not even bother with the crap about making sure he eats after the people. He is very food oriented and even fixated on food. I would stop making food even a higher value by doing all the interaction around food.

2. Management. Continue to train and socialize your dog, but put him in his crate until after the food is put away, and you have all of your attention to ensure you are very present with all interactions. Put him up BEFORE he gets too much interaction, you do not want him to be overwhelmed. A little is a lot. 7 months can be a tricky time. You need to be able to stop a problem before it becomes a problem. And since food is so high value at this time, you need to ensure food is not a part of the equation. A game of fetch and then the dog goes back into the crate.

3. Training, get your dog into regular training. Go every week, work a little every day. The idea is to build the bond between you and any other members of your immediate family and the dog. You might take him for six weeks then repeat with your wife taking him. He will be maturing during this time, but if you go to the same trainer, you will not be giving mixed signals. Even if his obedience is good, going to regular classes can be very helpful. If he is there in obedience, switch to puppy agility.

4. Behaviorist. Get him evaluated. I think that this was a warning, not an aggressive bite. He was correcting your niece for not stopping petting him when he was focussed on food. And maybe even for acting like you with regards to food.

Seriously, I would probably feed the dog at 7AM in his crate and then again at 7PM in his crate, and I would probably not make any mention of food at any other time. If you give the dog a chew that is only during crate time, and he is left totally alone with it. During training only will there be tidbits, and that is only coming from the adults doing the training.
 

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your dog is growling at you and your wife and you took
him to a party. don't put your dog in situations where
he may growl or bite. find a trainer/behaviourist. good
luck.
 

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Hailey pet him like she always does and when he growled, she pet him again. I know that wasn't right on her part but she is a kid and I think if she would have pulled away that would tell Drago growling works. Right?
Well, in a situation like this, growling SHOULD work. He was giving a signal that he was uncomfortable with what she was doing at that moment, and if she'd heeded it she likely would not have been bitten. Wouldn't that have been better? What did he learn by having her not back down when he growled? Probably that his early warning signals will be ignored, so he has no choice but to escalate to a bite.

No matter what else you do, I think you need to make sure that your nieces understand that they should give him some space when there's food around, and if he ever growls again, they have to stop and back off, not continue what they were doing.

If he's growling due to resource guarding, then you work on that as a separate issue. The thread that Sunflowers linked to has some good information on how to do that. In the meantime, manage him the way Jakoda suggests. Keeping everyone safe, especially children, is the biggest priority right now.

He growls only when petted while eating? Is that really too much to ask. All of the dogs I had in the past didn't mind a calm petting while eating. Why is Drago different?
Why he's different is less important than the fact that he IS different. Respect that rather than expecting him to conform to your expectations of how he "should" be. Just like people have different personalities, dogs do too. Each of mine have been individuals in their own right, with their own unique personalities.

I guess the food thing has to do with him thinking he is alpha over me and my wife, even though we do alpha exercises everyday.
Absolutely not, this has nothing to do with who is alpha. Really, Cesar would be the last person I'd be emulating in this kind of situation, his over-reliance on outdated dominance theory is totally counterproductive when you've got guarding behavior going on.

What kind of "alpha exercises" do you do?
 
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