Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Food Aggression Part II

To start this post, I need to give a special shout-out to the parents of Dennis, Tucker, Trixie and Trouble the Kitty. When I first mentioned food aggression on here, they jumped to our rescue by sending/recommending various resources. I based everything that I did with Loki regarding his food aggression on the training schedule they recommended but did not follow it exactly (the training schedule stressed teaching Loki that us approaching him while eating would result in something good).

I'm going to go more in detail about how we got Loki over his food aggression for anyone who's interested. I mentioned feeding him in his kennel, a week with my friend's Bulldogs, and feeding him through the glass door, but that really wasn't just it. All that follows really wasn't planned. It was just improvisation but still based on the whole "human approaching = good" philosophy.

The first step we took was to try and go through the whole schedule in one day. Wrong - so very wrong. Good thing no one got bit.

So, we went back to the basics and started with something we knew he wasn't aggressive towards. Since he wasn't aggressive towards dry food, I decided to take away Loki's dry food away occasionally and throw in a few scoops of wet food. In the end, Loki just decided he never wanted to eat dry food alone, so the dinner meal just became Blue Buffalo wet + Solid Gold dry. I don't know why, but for some reason, after we used wet food for training, Loki was just never aggressive towards it again except with other dogs. He got over that quick when he stayed with my friend's Bulldogs.

For the raw, I let him get comfortable with the positioning of his food (he wanted to eat standing between me and the bowl, so I let him. He did not react when he ate in this position - only when I forced him to eat with the bowl between us.) I helped him feel more secure while eating by placing his bowl in the back of his kennel with the door open. When we did this, he would occasionally try and take the chicken outside the kennel.

If I stood up, he would high tail it back to his kennel (his safe place). I would follow him and toss a treat into his bowl. If I stayed put, he would eat in front of me while watching me very carefully. I would toss a treat at him every once in a while. Eventually, he just became comfortable with eating his food in his kennel with the door open and eating his food in front of me as long as I was sitting down.

The next step was to get him to be comfortable eating with me standing up. Each time I'd stand up, he'd run back to his kennel with his food, which tells me that he feels safe in his kennel but not with me standing. I couldn't figure out how to fix this, so we just started feeding him outside on nice days.

Since we have a glass sliding door, I simply started off watching Loki as he ate. Then I decided that I would teach Loki that me standing up and approaching the glass would result in something good. Each time I got up, I would take a drumstick from the counter and drop it in his bowl. At first, he'd take his food and step away each time I opened the door and finish the food before investigating. However, lately, he's just been dropping the food where he stood and coming to investigate the bowl immediately.

Yesterday was the first step to see if the through-the-glass-door reaction would work the same indoors. After we decided we'd need to take the pork knuckle away from him, I went to the treats cabinet and took out a jerky treat. Hid it in my pocket until I got close to him again. Tossed the treat into his bowl (he took the bone out of his bowl and was eating it on the blue blanket). He left the bone to investigate what the new thing in his bowl was, and in that time, my mom took the bone. Throughout all this, there was no growling or nervousness over humans being close to his food (there were 3 of us about a foot away from him watching him eat the bone). He simply ate normally and waited patiently for his food after it was taken away.

I guess the next step is to see where there are still holes in the food aggression and to get Loki to "drop it" on command. I'm sure that the training isn't 100% foolproof. In fact, I'm sure there are more holes in it than if I just stuck with the actual training schedule as mentioned in the book. However, I'm just glad that I was able to get Loki to this point (where I could take away his food at all) in this amount of time.

1 comment:

dennisthevizsla said...

It sounds like you've been working hard to reduce Loki's food aggression, and it's paying off! :-)