Dog training at home: food aggression & resource guarding

Does your dog exhibit food aggressive behavior or resource guarding? Many do, and it can be a very difficult issue to deal with. Sometimes, dogs will be food aggressive, but be ok with their toys. Either way, if we can fix it, that’s better. This week, dog training expert, Justin Silver, has tips about how to do it. We’re getting near the end of our 10-week training series, Tuesdays with Justin; Dog Training at Home. If there’s a burning issue you have that you’d like Justin to address, let us know!

And, this is a #giveaway! Every week, we’re giving away a copy of Justin and Dave Donnenfeld’s new book, The Language of Dogs, a great read with really helpful tips on how to overcome issues and do basic training with your pups. Details on the giveaway are below, after the post. So, without further adieu, let’s tackle…..

Food Aggression & Resource Guarding OR Beware of my Stuff!

by Justin Silver with Dave Donnenfeld


Dog training at home: food aggression & resource guarding

It is instinctive for dogs to be protective around food, belongings like toys, even territory. Many people are overly concerned by resource guarding and food aggression. While it can be a difficult issue, we must respect the fact that we are asking our dogs to behave in a way that belies their God-given instincts.

Here are some tips for the fix:

I. Desensitization

  • Regularly hand-feed your dog
  • Have your dog earn its meals via training
  • Put treats into the dog’s bowl while it is eating
  • With chews and toys, practice “leave it” and “drop it,” so your dog becomes accustomed to relinquishing things.**

**When your dog has a toy in its mouth, offer a treat and say “drop it.” As you give the treat, say “take it.” It’s an easy way to get started, even if they don’t know the “leave it” command, just yet.

Dog training at home: food aggression & resource guarding

II. Boundaries (for them & us)

No one wants to be bothered while eating, including dogs.

  • Make only necessary contact when the dog is eating
  • You should not be afraid to approach your dog

III. Practice

  • Standing a few yards away say, “Hi, puppy!” and toss a few treats
  • Repeat every thirty seconds, until the meal is finished
  • Perform this until there are no signs of guarding or aggression **

** This can take anywhere from a week to a couple of months, so patience is a needed virtue and manage your expectations.

  • With time, move closer to the bowl when you drop the treats
  • Monitor tension levels and keep pushing the boundary
  • If there are any aggressive responses, move back and continue

Note: When approaching reactive dogs, stay on the opposite side of a gate or tether the dog.

Dog training at home: food aggression & resource guarding

IV. Advanced

If you’re able to do all of the above, you’re ready to move on to advanced techniques.

  • Stand next to the dog’s bowl, while the dog is eating
  • Offer a treat from your hand or a lick of peanut butter off a spoon
  • Walk away; return and repeat
  • Stand next to the dog, say hi and gently touch his back
  • As the dog looks up, offer a treat
  • After he’s eaten, pick up and handle his food bowl, as he watches
  • Put a treat in the bowl and have the dog eat, while you hold the bowl
  • Place a treat in the bowl and put it on the floor
  • When he finishes, say, “Good dog,” and have him sit
  • Pick up the bowl, and place another treat in it.

Perform enough repetitions to feel comfortable before moving on. Finally, while the dog is eating some less interesting dry food, place a much more exciting food (such as a piece of chicken) in the bowl. Once you’re able to contend with the above scenarios, guard against relapses by periodically touching your dog and dropping a treat, while the dog is eating.

Dog training at home: food aggression & resource guarding

Sharing is caring…

Finally, use common courtesy and respect the dog’s right to enjoy an uninterrupted meal provided, of course, your pup has been trained and put through the paces. Best of luck!


Thanks, Justin and Dave! Here’s a short video I found to show you the warning signs a dog will give, prior to the actual snarl and, of course, prior to biting.

 The Giveaway


dog training at home with Justin Silver


Enter to win a copy of Justin & Dave’s new book, The Language of Dogs, a great dog training at home manual that’s easy to read and chock full of practical training tips that work. I reviewed it in an earlier post here.

To enter, just join the Bark & Swagger family! If you’re already a member, you’re eligible! The giveaway begins Tuesday, June 9 at 7am EST and ends Sunday, June 14 at 11:59pm EST. Each week, we’ll announce a new winner and start the giveaway again.

Week 7’s winner is Jason D. Congratulations, Jason!

To get more info, great tips and fun pictures, visit Justin on:




What have you tried for your food aggressive or resource guarding dog? Has it worked? Share your tips with us, too!

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Written by Jody Miller-Young
What does stylish mean to you? I’m passionate about animals, fashion, travel, home decor and rescue, and that's what you'll find here. After a recent move to Fort Lauderdale from NYC, we're loving our new life in the sunshine. Welcome to my world! Grab your favorite beverage, curl up and stay awhile.