If the dog's aggression threshold is inadvertently triggered during training, the owner should calmly retreat and, at the
next training session, adjust the distance to keep the threat below the dog's threshold.
Households with minimal structure may benefit from providing clear direction to the dog by using command-and-reward-based
interactions. Make sure owners know that adequate exercise is important for every dog's health. In addition, dogs with anxiety
may benefit from synthetic pheromones (Dog Appeasing Pheromone [D.A.P.]—Ceva Santé Animale) and serotoninergic drugs, although
neither of these treatments has been systematically studied in the context of food-related aggression. Since avoidance can
be such a successful tool in managing this condition, drug intervention may not be warranted. Also, it is important to note
that any drug that causes an increase in appetite may aggravate food aggression and should be avoided if feasible.
Owners should avoid direct confrontational intervention (hitting, yelling, physical restraint) when the dog exhibits aggression.
While this action may interrupt the aggressive behavior at that moment, it is unlikely to resolve the problem in the long
run, especially if the dog is anxious. In fact, direct confrontation may lead to intensification of the aggressive display
both at the moment of confrontation and in the future. If people approaching a dog's food item becomes a predictor of confrontation,
the dog may become more anxious and dangerous, so direct confrontation must be avoided.
Food-related aggression is a common problem that owners may inadvertently aggravate. Thus, veterinary staff members should
provide owners with information during puppy visits about how to avoid exacerbating this condition. If a dog presents with
food aggression, simple avoidance can be a successful tool in managing the problem behavior.
Jacqueline C. Neilson, DVM, DACVB
Animal Behavior Clinic
809 S.E. Powell Blvd.
Portland, OR 97202
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