Why dogs can be aggressive around food, and what you can do to fix it.
You’re at a restaurant, treating yourself to yummy food and engaging conversation with your friends.
You’re eating slowly to fully savor your food. With only two precious bites left on your plate, you set your fork down to take a sip of your drink.
Like a flash, your perky waiter appears, asking, “May I take your plate?”
As he reaches toward your plate, somewhere in the deepest part of your mind you visualize shouting and stabbing his hand with your fork to make him leave your food and go away.
But then your rational human mind takes over, and you smile and touch the edge of your plate, politely replying, “No thanks, not quite done.” He walks away; but you make sure that next time he comes around, you have your fork in your hand to make sure he knows that you’re still eating.
If you're like most humans, you probably think that it’s rude to take away other people's possessions. We don’t steal food off each other’s plates, it’s against the law to take someone’s wallet. We have locks and security systems to protect everything from our cars and houses to our cell phones, and the bulk of our cash is secured in a bank. I’ve heard of roommate relationships that are ruined over stolen toilet paper. As kids we learn not to sit in Grandpa’s comfy chair or use Mom’s makeup without permission.
If it’s so natural to understand to respect others’ possessions, then why do I, as a dog trainer, get these calls all too often:
Summer is probably one of the very best times to get a new dog! The kids are home from school for the summer to help take care of the new addition and teach him all those important house manners. You take him on car rides with you whenever you can; maybe you even take him with you on an exciting vacation, or start a training class with him.
Every day seems to bring a new adventure for the dog with his new family!
But then seasons change; fall can be a very difficult time for dogs. Kids go back to school, parents go back to work. Schedules get busy with after school meetings and activities, and the dog, who’s used to attention and adventures, suddenly finds himself at home alone for much longer stretches of the day.
The dog becomes stressed about being home alone and starts barking, to the point where he’s bothering the neighbors. Then the destructiveness starts: breaking the crate, chewing through carpet, scratching doors and window frames, maybe even injuring himself in the process.
Does this sound familiar? If so, your dog might have Separation Anxiety.
Elizabeth Morgan, trainer and owner of Alabama Dog Academy, and proud trainer of Harper, the Canine Advocate at the Limestone Child Advocacy Center.