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Dog has food-aggression issue – Pocono Record

DEAR DR. FOX: I recently adopted (as a foster failure!) a wonderful 3-year-old hound named Marley. She joins our menagerie of one other dog and four cats.
Marley has an unusual food-aggression issue. She guards her bowl, yes, but the other animals can come near her while she’s eating, and she allows the house humans to put their hands into her bowl while she’s eating. Instead of worrying about her food when she receives it, she obsessively guards the hamper where we store spare pet food; the kitchen garbage can; the recycling bin; the dishwasher, if the dishes in it are dirty; and the grocery bags we bring into the house. If it smells like food, she seems to believe her job is to keep it safe from anyone but me.
Marley lifts her lip and snarls at the cats when they get too close to what she’s guarding, and she even snapped at my husband when he reached to pick up a grocery bag to carry it from the hallway to the kitchen.
I know how to deal with food aggression when it involves a particular bowl, but I am at a loss as to what to do about this more generalized issue. — M.B., Cincinnati
DEAR M.B.: First, when my dogs are eating, I never think of putting a hand into their food bowl. Even if I had an extra treat or leftover, I wait until they finish.
Some dogs are rejected for adoption when given the food-guarding behavior test in shelters; they fail the test by growling when someone tries to take a bone or toy away from them or get a hand near their food bowls. I consider this test absurd.
But such growling, as distinct from attacking, is to be respected and the dog given the social distance to eat or chew in peace. In your dog’s unusual case, allow her to guard what she feels that she must. When ignored, many dogs eventually cease to react in this way, which is probably a reflection of deep insecurity often seen in abandoned dogs. Others will hide their food in places around the house.
I would call your dog’s behavior, and similar food guarding behavior, “food-insecurity,” not “food-aggression.” I advise you to ignore your dog and try redirecting her behavior with a treat or squeaky toy.
DEAR DR. FOX: I read about the owner’s indifference to you when you confronted her about her dog bullying your dog at your local dog park.
My friend loves his dog, but he is not a very good dog owner. When he first got the dog, we went to a doggy park. His dog is young, part mastiff, all muscle and full of energy — almost too much to handle without basic training. Well, his dog was cruising around fine for a while, but I noticed a pack of young dogs “beating up on” an older dog, who was on its back. My friend’s dog saw this and joined in; not only that, he went for the neck.
As soon as I saw the attack, I ran over and pulled my friend’s dog off (and shooed the rest of the pack away, too). If I hadn’t intervened, the old dog might have been killed. My friend just went, “Oh, well.” He ought to have done something.
The owner of the dog who attacked Kota was probably an idiot you can’t talk reason to. In this case, I say, “Oh, well” — not much can be done with such people. — T.U., Minneapolis
DEAR T.U.: It is good that you had the appropriate reaction to dog play-fighting turning into a dog attack.
All people with dogs should be on the alert when this pack prey-killing behavior erupts, often when play-fighting gets too intense and the dog on the ground becomes afraid and shows defensive aggression — especially, as was the case with my dog Kota, when there is one dog in the pack who is a domineering bully.
Dogs like that should not be off-leash in situations where there are more than one or two other dogs to play with. If there are more, social facilitation will quickly ramp up the intensity. This can possibly confuse signals, and one or more dogs can get injured — along with owners trying to intervene.
Pet-food watchdog Susan Thixton writes: “Back in 2014, Purina Pet Food filed a lawsuit against competitor Blue Buffalo, claiming Blue’s ‘no byproduct’ advertising was false, that Blue Buffalo pet foods actually contained ‘substantial amounts of poultry byproduct meal.’ One of the things discovered through this lawsuit was that pet food ingredient giant Wilbur-Ellis had sold Blue Buffalo a lesser quality byproduct meal that was labeled as a higher quality chicken or turkey meal.
“Filed in the Eastern District of Missouri courts on March 6, 2017, Wilbur-Ellis is now facing four counts of criminal charges for their sale of mislabeled/misbranded pet food ingredients, and an employee of Wilbur-Ellis is facing an additional four counts of criminal charges.”
For more details, visit truthaboutfetfood.com.
As I have emphasized in my reports and books concerning pet foods, many manufactured pet foods contain ingredients considered unfit for human consumption. These are profitably recycled, but are so highly processed that many essential nutrients are destroyed, much coming from an essentially toxic agribusiness industry reliant on pesticides and firmly opposed to adopting more healthful organic farming methods.
Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit DrFoxVet.net.


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