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Canine Behavior/dogfood aggression


QUESTION: hello I have a border collie mix and she is about 1 year now and lately we have found she gets  aggression when we feed  her we are trying different things and the best one that we have tried is making her lay on her bed and wait the I walk over to the feeding mate and call her make her sit do a trick and have eye contact with me then let her eat and live her alone. and then maybe  came back and try and get her to leave the food and do a trick but normally she will not leave the food until she has finished the people food (our left overs)then maybe shell leave but not all ways what she dose if you came in the room or try and pet her is; bark growl and snarl. i know she thinks she is the pack leader and I am trying to get that back but it is hard with my hole family doing it. like if my mom tells her to do something and she dose not do it my mom and other family members  don't reinforce it. im just wondering what there is to do be sides paying for a pro ( my parents will not pay for that:)
I am open to any old or new things to do
thank you

ps it also might be she is not doing what she is breed for herding sheep but she is just a pet so according to some books she is treating us like her sheep.

ANSWER: Books are wrong.



Highest quality dog kibble you can afford (look at protein levels in the food, you don't want to give her too much protein).  Feed TWICE (be sure she's getting sufficient food, split it in half).

Put the food down (in the kitchen, or wherever) AND LEAVE THE ROOM for fifteen minutes.  When that time is "up", engage her in a game or an activity she enjoys by calling her for it: purchase a squeeky toy and play "take it/leave it" as seen here:

This breed is a WORKING BREED, needs mental and physical stimulation. It is not a "casual" companion.  You need to engage her cognition (thought process) and TEACH things that are rewarding.  I suggest you start by using positive reinforcement to teach basic "tricks" (normal "obedience" techniques but change the WORDS you use, discard "sit", "down", "stay", "come", etc.) by studying Dr. Ian Dunbar's Sirius adult dog training:

Food aggression can be caused by many things: neonate experience with dam (mother) unable to support large litter; "lost dog" syndrome; biologic problems preventing food from being of nutritional value (I don't think this is a contender here); inappropriate interaction with dog by Humans while dog is eating (very high on the list as a cause).

EVERYONE needs to eat to live.  If I were to feed you three meals a day, but during those three meals I were to routinely remove the food, poke you, ask you to get up and do pushups, WHAT WOULD HAPPEN?

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: hi thank you for your quick reply.we are a where that she is a working breeding and so we take her for walks but mainly we throw her ball she is just crazy over it!!!we have a large field. she will play till she dies if i don't stop! but in this really bad weather she dissent get out much. so that could be part of it.
but i think you should be able to control her food if you are the leader, not in a mean way and surly not  allays taking her food away for they need to trust you and love you if you love them, and if you all ways take it away that will case a fight for they will want to guard there food then.
thank yo for the tips she is relly good at most of her tricks just came we are having truble with but she is very intelligent she knows like 10 tricks!! or more and sheis all ways learning even more!!
i will try the thimgs you said ( maby not about leavibg her alone allways but the others ) thanks

ps if it gets worse i call thanks!!

You're wrong.  "...but I think you should be able to control her food if you are the leader...".

In a pack of DOGS (you are not a dog, you are a created conspecific), the "top dog" will often eat out of the other dogs' bowls and get away with it: not always.  If we were to compare the domestic dog with its ancestor the Grey Wolf (now we're talking 100,000 PLUS years ago here):

In a wolf pack, the Alpha male and female eat first.  Everyone else "stands in line" according to their position in social hierarchy (except for neonates which lick the lips of not only their dams but also other adults in the pack who are used as babysitters in order to summon regurgitation).  In other words, once you give it to me (food), it's MINE.  You don't take it back.  You don't mess with it.  Ever.

YOU are the cause of your dog's food aggression not out of stupidity or being mean, you are absolutely NOT stupid nor are you in any way MEAN!  You're just under the influence of an error in thought/philosophy, as are most of us in one way or another!

Put the food down.  Leave the room.  Give the dog fifteen minutes to eat; do not interfere in any way.  At the end of the fifteen minutes, create a distraction so the dog will come to you (squeaky toy, or roll a ball into the room).  Remove the bowl OUT OF HER SIGHT.  Continue to do this for ONE MONTH.  Report back.

Also:  teaching take it/leave it will help the dog to respect social hierarchy but you (again) are NOT a dog and she "knows" that.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

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Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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