My puppy (4 mths) growls at me when I go near his food bowl
by Taryn Madden
My American Bulldog puppy, 4 months old growls at me and snaps when I go near his food bowl when he is eating. He does not do it to my husband, only me. I feed him 2 meals a day, my husband feeds him 1 meal a day.
I am home with him most of the day until I leave for work in the afternoon. I walk him and teach him obedience during the day. I have tried putting my hand in his bowl, and taking his food away mid meal. I have pulled him away from his food, and he is fine as long as the whole time he is eating I never leave his side. If I walk away and then return to move him away from his food he growls and snaps.
I really love the dog and want to find a way to fix this problem. We have a 1 year old son and I will not be able to keep the dog if there is a chance he will snap at my son!
This is definitely a problem, but isn't unusual. At your pups age he is testing his boundaries, and it seems that he's showing signs of 'guarding'. Does he do this with other things, like his toys and so on?
If you can put your hand in his bowl, and pick it up etc. without him growling or snapping, that's excellent, but it's odd that he objects so vehemently when you leave and then return and try to touch his food.
Really, the only way to overcome this is by practicing. If he growls or snaps, take him by the scruff of the neck and shake him (not roughly, just enough to get his attention) while telling him "No growl" or something similar. Make sure that you pick up his bowl or continue with whatever it was you were trying to do, don't let him thing growling lets him get his own way.
It's important when you're doing this to make sure that when he lets you put your hand in his bowl, or pick it up, that he gets a treat or benefit. For example, drop a few really tasty treats into his bowl, or once you pick it up, ask him to sit and give him a treat and put a couple extra into his bowl before returning it. This helps him feel happy about the whole thing.
I would also recommend practicing the 'leave it' command with his toys etc. He needs to learn to give you anything (ie 'leave it') when you ask for it. He should always get a treat for doing this nicely AND get his toy back :o)
If you're loving, patient and consistent with this you should be able to overcome the problem. Best of luck.