• Michael D'Abruzzo

    May 12, 2012 at 6:27 am

    Hi Kelly!

    Welcome to the board! It sounds like you have been doing a great job with Tye! The main issue that I am reading is mainly genetic and if you haven’t been doing so many things right this could be a far worse case. Tye is skipping the defensive part of the aggression cycle. Resource guarding is a “normal” behavior for many dogs – especially directed toward other dogs. But, resource guarders normally guard their food through defense (minimum amount) and not fight. For instance, when he latched on to you as a puppy – defense would have been all that was necessary for most dogs. It is also abnormal behavior, regardless of rank, to pick a fight with another dog in the pack that has possession of food (in contrast to not possessed yet). In a natural state this behavior would obviously injure or kill other pack members that were just trying to eat. It definitely puts Tye into a “special needs” category that training as well as a good management plan will help with. It is never easy when you are dealing with an issue that has genetic roots. And, it has little to do with the breed, since the high majority of pit bulls will not do this. I have dealt with this issue with show and “puppy mill” bred labrador retrievers more than any other breed actually.

    It is good that you are guiding Tye by giving him specific tasks to do when around food, to create new habits outside of his default behavior. I am also assuming that you have already done plenty of desensitizing and counter-conditioning around you and food. This is important because as you saw, skipping steps in the aggression cycle can be directed at people too. Making sure that Tye always knows that there is boundries between people and dogs, and that he is not in competition with any of the human resources (and we are only interested in providing him with his food) can help in preventing any further issues with people.

    I would deal with the aggression toward your female in one of two ways:

    1. Direct management – Feed them completely separate. This is the safest and easiest way.


    2. Don’t let Tye finish off your females bowl, even if she doesn’t finish. This is more work and would involve a good “leave it” command in a “phase 3” style. This would need to be enforceable off-leash and done until it becomes a habit to not bother going near that bowl. This would mimic their culture best if you through yourself into the way they did things. It is not the same as taking it away from him, which is an unnatural behavior and can cause more issues toward you. As of now he is still anticipating and experiencing the reward of going to that bowl. You can even give an “environmental correction” for him going near that bowl which would take you out of the equation if he is prone to future social related aggression toward you. Lessening the value of the resource makes it less likely to be competed over.

    With that plan I would definitely counter-condition Tye with food reward for not going near her bowl.

    I’m the type of person that if I can manage a problem with less stress or correction to the dog, I will just do that. I usually just separate my dogs and let them eat in peace, then pick up the empty bowls and put them the dogs back together. I have a bunch of dogs at the kennel that are the best of buds that I know would kill each other if I put food bowls around them. So i just manage it to avoid all the hard work of preventing a fight since it is only about two minutes total a day they eat. Call me lazy. lol! Also, the fast feeding will probably never slow down and probably best he just eats it quick and gets it over with. If anything a slow feeding device will make him feel more anxious and likely to guard the food. That’s just my opinion.

    This video may be helpful if you havent seen it. It is based on my observations of many many many many many dog interactions – especially around food.: