What can I do about my dog's sudden food aggression?

Seven months ago, my grandfather came home with a two-week old puppy that had been thrown out of a moving car and left to die. We never meant to keep this pup, but over time we discovered that he is partially blind and has nerve damage in his rear end, as well as possibly having some minor brain damage. The first vet we took him to advised us to put him to sleep, because we would have nothing but problems. The second vet agreed he deserves a chance.

This puppy is extremely playful, loves attention, knows he is not the alpha in the house (anything that surprises him, or when one of the other dogs challenges him, results in instantaneous submission), and is a typical puppy. He has overcome his vision problems with the use of his hearing and smell, and acts perfectly normal.

Except when food time comes around. About two months ago, we noticed him growling a little bit when the other dogs finished their food. We couldn’t help that, since the others do it as well, but we had worked out any potentially dangerous aggression with them before. A couple weeks later, it got to the point where we began feeding him completely separate from the others, in an entirely different room. He took up the habit of snarling. After a couple weeks of this, he seemed great. He didn’t growl, or lower himself to the floor, and even slowed down eating a little bit. We praised him when he was done and he responded positively, waggling his tail and spinning in circles.

Now, over the past few days, the growling and snarling has randomly intensified to an extreme where he won’t even permit us to lower his food bowl to the floor. He snarls and jumps at us, barking low and aggressive. My mother finally experienced what I did the other day- he literally snaps at us until we’ve backed off into a different room, where he then takes up excitedly looking for his food. There are no displays of aggression until he can physically see his bowl, which he can’t see clearly anyways due to his poor eyesight.

My family doesn’t understand what has caused this horrible aggression. We had no problems with him before, and there is no reason for him to act this way. He has always been provided with plenty of food at set feeding times. We have never denied him a meal, but, at the rate he is going, we can’t even get close enough to him to actually give him his food. He is snapping at my mother and father, which he knows is a wrong thing to do since it was established that they are alpha from the very first time he snapped as a three-week old pup, and he never has since. Outside of breakfast and dinner, he is an extremely happy dog. He plays constantly, rarely hides because of a loud noise, sleeps in vulnerable positions, and otherwise acts like he has since we found him. None of our other four dogs act in this manner. We have one that we rescued about four years ago that we have broken food aggression. We can even take her food away to put something in it, or stick our hand down to put a pill in her bowl, and she doesn’t even show her teeth.

But he’s absolutely terrified. We have to put him in his kennel, place his food on the ground, and then let him out. He has gotten to the point where he’s relieving himself while he’s eating, and we’ve never had this problem before. His entire temperament changes while that food bowl has food in it. He’s an absolutely amazing dog before and after, it’s just during meals that he acts as if he has been beaten his entire life, and prevented from eating. This absolute fear he is experiencing is dreadful, but we can’t find a solution. Please, if you have any suggestions, help!
Thank you for the answers so far.

No, we haven’t had the time to take him to the vet. Lately, we have had some horrible weather that makes driving out to the vets office we prefer (the ones that won’t recommend we euthanize him) nearly impossible. The days that we do have the chance are days that we simply cannot afford a vet visit.

Also, we have tried the feeding by hand. All this provokes is a more aggressive stance from him. He knows then that we control him food, but he doesn’t want that. My mom believes, after extensive research, that he is under the impression that it is his last meal. Table manners have always been a bit of an issue for him, and we had hoped that they would improve when he began eating with the others. Nothing changed for three whole months until the aggressiveness began.

Thank you again for your answers. I will try to take them into consideration as soon as possible. First, though, we have to tone him down a bit to where feeding time isn’t so stressful for h
I will definitely be trying the NILF training! It seems like it will help him. First, though, is once more trying to teach him sit.

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    2 Responses to “What can I do about my dog's sudden food aggression?”

    1. Judy Christofferson says:

      With this little guy’s history…and the sudden change in his feeding routine calls for an evaluation at the vet’s. Any sudden physical changes like this…go to the vets.

    2. Monday Morning says:

      Wow that is really a difficult situation.

      Have you consulted a trainer? He missed out on learning manners from mom and his littermates so he doesn’t know how to act.

      If it was a sudden change it could be a medical issue. Has he been to see a vet?

      You could try feeding him a few pieces at a time out of your hand so he learns that is where the food comes from. Also try making him sit for the bowl.

      Try looking up NILF training it will help.

      Good luck!

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