What Causes Dogs to Fight During Meals?

by Quentin Coleman
    Never hit your dog as punishment for fighting.

    Never hit your dog as punishment for fighting.

    Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    Dogs are aggressive animals by nature and nothing brings out hostility like food. It doesn't make much sense when your pup literally bites the hand that feeds him, but there is a reason for it. Patience and persistence are the keys to conditioning your dog out of this behavior.

    Aggression over food often is associated with the canine struggle for dominance. Wild dogs establish a very strict social hierarchy by engaging each other in combat. When it comes to food, the alpha always eats first. If your dog menaces you or your other dogs during meals, then he may be trying to assert his dominance over the household. Train your dog to be obedient and submissive to you. He must consider you as his alpha. When you take your dog for walks, make sure that you lead him and not the other way around. Train your dog to respond to vocal commands and reward him only when he obeys. Discourage fighting among your dogs by disciplining them when they are hostile towards each other. Squirt them with a water bottle and separate them when they start up.

    Fear is a fundamental emotion that drives people and animals alike. It is a basic survival mechanism that can cause all sorts of unexpected behavior. Fear may come into play during meals if your dog believes that food is scarce and he may not get more any time soon, according to Dog Training Central. Of course, you know that this is not the case, but he doesn't understand how it works. Feed your dog on a strict schedule so he knows exactly when he can expect his next meal.

    Your dog may lash out without warning if he is in pain, according to Mendocino Coast Humane Society. If his throat or stomach hurts, the pain will be worse while he eats. Pain easily can induce violence towards people and animals, so pay close attention to how your dog behaves during and after each meal. If you notice any other symptoms, like regurgitation, whimpering or diarrhea, then it is time for a trip to the vet.

    Your dog's emotions run high during mealtime. He is excited and maybe even anxious, especially if there are other dogs to contend with. Take control of mealtime by filling the bowls out of your dog's reach. Order him to sit before giving him his bowl. Feed your dogs separately if they have issues eating in the same room. Don't try to move your dog or his food while he is eating, this could trigger violent behavior. If your dog is sensitive to your presence during meals, simply leave him alone to enjoy his meal. Don't make loud noises, sudden gestures or assume a threatening posture, like bending over your dog, while he eats.

    Photo Credits

    • Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Quentin Coleman has written for several news publications as well as the University of Delaware's public relations department. He also spent more than 10 years working with a local animal shelter to help nurse kittens, treat sick cats and domesticate feral animals. Coleman graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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