By Paula Sunday:
That’s My Bone! Growling Dogs with Kids
“My dog loves his bones, but my dog growls when he is chewing. Will he bite? I want to be able to take the bone away or have my kids come near him without worrying about the dog growling or biting.”
One way to derail this problem is to give your dog a bone in a place where he’s not going to be bothered by having anyone near. However, we suggest that you teach the dog that good things happen when he’s chewing and you come close to him.
Here’s how dog training can help derail food guarding:
1. Start with the food bowl, if he doesn’t guard or have any problem with you around his food bowl. Put 1/3 of his food in the bowl. Let him eat it when you are standing by him. Drop handfuls of the rest of his meal into the bowl. You’re starting to teach him that being nearby when he is eating (or chewing) is a good thing. Add a few special treats to reinforce that it is good thing. ( Note: If he is guarding his food bowl, you can try this process. But, if you feel at all threatened, call a trainer.)
2.Next, give him an old bone he has already chewed on. New bones are more likely to be guarded. Standing as close as he is comfortable with, drop or toss a yummy treat under his nose. Don’t reach toward the bone yet. He’ll eat the treat and might be looking for more.
3. Repeat a few times. If he walks away from the bone, drop a handful of treats and pick up the old bone. Chances are he won’t run back after his old bone because he has something better. He’ll probably look at you when you’ve picked up the bone. Assuming he isn’t growling at you, reward him by giving him his old bone back.
IF he is growling, you’ve gone too fast. Use better treats. Go back to the food bowl and repeat that a few more times. Then try the bone/treat routine. If the growling doesn’t stop, you do need to talk to a trainer.
Never punish your dog for growling over his bone. That hurts your relationship. He’s being a dog. Take the opportunity to train and build trust for the long-term.
Some people just will walk away from their dog when she’s happily chewing and growling to let them know, “It’s my bone.” That’s probably not a good idea when you can change the behavior, reduce your dog’s stress and make it safer for you, your kids and family. Also growling dogs can alarm anyone who is in your home.
Be conservative. Go slow and make sure each step works before moving on. The important thing is to understand is that the growling is communication. Now you want to know “Is the growling a danger sign or not?” With this technique, you’ll learn more about your dog to discern whether or not food aggression will continue to be a concern and hopefully teach your pet better behavior around food and kids.
See this video:
Begin Training Good Manners with the Food Bowl
This video comes from the DVD with the book For Love of Dogs, which offers additional dog training tips.
Paula Sunday, author of the dog behavior book ARL Iowa For Love of Dogs specializes in offering support to dog owners and teaching them positive training techniques. She offers answers to dog behavior questions, tips on understanding dogs’ needs and communication, and helps humans bond with their pets to keep them in their homes forever.