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Here's the scenario: the dog has just been switched from kibble and is enjoying a nice meaty bone. When approached while eating, the dog growls and even snaps at the person approaching it. Or it fights over food with the other dogs in the household. Either way, it never used to do this before when it was on kibble, and the owners are beginning to seriously question feeding raw. They often will contact a trainer, who "indentifies" the source of the problem as the meaty bones and will thus take the easy way out--removing the meaty bone "removes" the aggression without addressing the underlying behavioral or relational issues.

View this situation as a kid guarding a steak as opposed to guarding a bowl of Cheerios. A juicy steak is a higher value food, just as a meaty bone is seen as something of higher value than a bowl of kibble. Because it is of higher value, the dog will be more protective of it. This is simple canine behavior.

But, if your dog is growling at you, its leader, this indicates a problem in your relationship. He is no longer respecting or trusting in your leadership. He is viewing that bone as his, not yours (which it is), and is telling you that he is willing to defend it at all costs. He needs to learn that you are the bringer of resources and the "alpha". He should relinquish his bone without fuss when you ask him. And he should also realize that you aren't in competition with him for his food. This is a touchy issue, but the basic premise is that if your dog growls and becomes possessive of his food, your relationship needs reordering. Does this mean you run up to your dog while he is eating, slap him in the face or slam him on his back in an attempt to dominate him? Or confronting him and yanking on his collar to 'show him who is boss'? NO!! These only worsen the situation by telling the dog a) you are unpredictable and can't be trusted, and b) you are trying to compete for his food. The key is to not let yourself get in these situations in the first place. Work on kind, humane obedience training and on teaching him that relinquishing his possessions to you is a good thing. Also keep in mind that some dogs may growl initially because they are afraid this is just temporary and don't want you to take away this high value object. In this case, give the dog time to adjust to its new diet; you may very well see the "food possessive" behavior disappear. If not, it is time to begin training immediately. For some training suggestions on this issue, click here.

If your dog is already possessive with its kibble, fix the problem of resource guarding first before switching your dog to raw. See Brian Kilcommons' Good Owners, Great Dogs book, pg248-249, for a humane, common sense approach to dealing with resource guarding.

Since a raw meaty bone is worth fighting for, dogs may fight with each other. The simplest solution is to feed the dogs separately in their crates, in different rooms, or in the same room but tethered to opposite sides of the room far away from each other. Just use common sense, and don't keep trying to force the dogs to "get along" at dinner time. Make sure to pick up any leftovers before releasing the dogs.

Raw meaty bones will not make a dog aggressive toward humans to the point of blatantly attacking people. A dog that unnecessarily growls at or that bites people has a behavioral or temperament issue that must be addressed immediately. Aggressiveness toward humans is behavioral, temperamental, or induced through rabies vaccines (see a certified homeopath for help in reducing the aggressiveness brought on by the vaccine), but it NOT food related. Dogs have been bred for thousands of years to be human companions, to be in close relationships with and in submission to humans. Feeding a dog raw meat is not sufficient to override thousands of years of selective breeding.

If your dog suddenly shows food possessiveness, be patient, understanding, and firm. Ask and insist kindly that the dog join you to work through this speedbump in your relationship. Avoid taking the easy way out by just not feeding raw, and you will be richly rewarded with a healthier, happy dog and a deeper relationship.


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