It seems that not every dog has heard that it is inadvisable to bite the hand that feeds you. In fact, this is very often the most likely hand for a dog to bite. Biting over food is a serious behavior problem that most likely will bleed into other areas of your life with your dog. Such behavior represents a worldview in your dog in which she must protect her possessions. Since your dog may view her toys, crate, or your couch or bed as her possessions, this may mean your dog spends her days protecting your stuff from you. Not only is this very unpleasant and dangerous for your family, it is also extremely stressful for your dog. It is best to introduce food etiquette early, but even if your dog is already demonstrating aggressive behavior around food, you can teach her appropriate dining behavior.
Your dog’s background can help to explain and correct the biting over food behavior. Has your puppy always plowed growling into his bowl? Did your rescue come to you skinny and malnourished? Dogs that grow up being possessive over their food although they face no competition are displaying instincts that although natural, could and should be curbed by their pack. Dogs that learn possessive behavior with food due to traumatic withholding of nutrition must learn to trust their people as providers.
Training your dog to not bite over food will require a good deal of patience, as well as some bravery. Having your dog threaten to bite you, or actually bite you, is one of the worst experiences a pet owner can have. You must put yourself at some risk of being bitten by your dog in order to train her not to bite. As long as you are patient, go slowly, and keep your love for your dog present in your mind as your work with her, you will eventually establish a mutual trust with your dog.
That said, some dogs, due to their physical power or extreme aggression, are very dangerous to work with. If you do not feel comfortable confronting the possibility of a bite, use a good basket muzzle that has been fitted to your dog by a professional. While there will have to be a moment when the muzzle comes off, starting the training process with a muzzle can prevent a devastating accident. If at any point you do not feel comfortable with the training process, enlist the help of a professional.
Aside from a basket muzzle if necessary, you will need food, of course. You should also have a food/treat delivery system other than your hand. A long spoon that can be dipped in some peanut butter works well, as do tools that can hold and release a treat, like the extended hand tools which can be opened and closed with a lever. Interactive food toys, like those produced by Kong that can be stuffed, or some of the puzzle toys that require dogs to twist, bounce, or shake out treats, are all useful for turning food into a game rather than a possession.
You will need a good deal of patience and understanding. It is essential that you have a good attitude and a confident demeanor, as your dog will be picking up on your signals about how to respond to food and the situations you will be encountering together. An accomplice can be useful to help hand you tools as needed and to keep up the positive vibe.
It is best to have a controlled setting, as an unexpected stimulus can set off an on-edge dog or distract you at a crucial moment. Your own home is the best place to work on this training, as that is where you will be feeding your dog. It is a good idea not to use anything previously associated with the food aggression. Don’t do the training in exactly the same place as you usually feed, and don’t use the same bowl or mat. These things can remind both you and your dog of past stress.