2 new puppies, one food agressive


New Member
Hi. In case you missed my introduction in that thread, I have two Jack Russell puppies, and 3 cats (the cats are dog savvy from having lived with a pit bull all their lives). Jake (male) is almost 14 weeks old, and Jet (female) is a little over 9 weeks old. Jake's one troubling issue is food aggression with other animals. I have no trouble with taking food/treats away from him, but he won't let my cats or Jet anywhere near him while he eats.

Jake has been hard-to-feed since we got him, so it's doubly puzzling that he's food aggressive. Trying to figure out exactly what he would EAT was a challenge (he some sort of flatworm when we got him, so not sure if THAT was the issue with his feeding problems or not), but I've found a combo that he'll eat more regularly.

I don't want to have to feed the dogs separately forever, I've seen plenty of dogs eat side-by-side. What I've been doing since we got Jet a few days ago, is to feed them at the same time, but with about 18 inches of space in between them and me in the middle. I make sure to put Jake's harness so that I can grab him if necessary without resorting to pulling on just his collar, and I've been praising Jake when he calms down and actually eats. He seems to be eating better the last few days, possibly because he sees that Jet actually LIKES the stuff :msngiggle:. And I make sure to keep putting MY hands in both of their food while they are eating.

I guess I should mention that Jake also walked over to were Jet was laying and grabbed her rawhide chewy and snapped at her for that even though he had his own in a separate spot today.

Is there anything else I should be doing to nip this food/treat aggression in the bud before it escalates.

And since I'm not sure if I should post in another thread, I'll also ask this here...

How rough should I let the puppies play. Jake is about twice Jet's size at the moment (he's about 8 lbs, she is 4 lbs). Jet sure isn't a wallflower and she seems to give as good as she gets, but I don't want either of them getting seriously hurt.

Thanks in advance!


Experienced Member
After having two dogs that fought and many ER trips and stitches I went to a behaviorist - and have been to four others over the years for different issues. The take away from that may not be what you want to hear. The more this aggression happens the more habituated it becomes and the more it will happen. As the dogs mature it probably will get much more aggressive if left as is. There really is no law when it comes to littermates or mother/offspring disagreements. They can and will maim and kill one another, even little dogs.

Generally the best way to stop it is to prevent it period. I feed my dogs separately and the first finished does a down stay until the other finishes. Many people start feeding puppies esp those near in age in crates and place the crates where they can't evil eye one another. When dogs are guided in how they act early you can greatly affect the outcome. They won't grow out of these things or get past them on their own. They just escalate. When one dog discovers that aggression works they will always use it because it works. There's no reason to change.

For the years I kept those two fighters separated and patched up I blame myself because it was my responsibility. But I just didn't know. So I made it my business to learn from the best professionals and prevent what was 7 very stressful years for my human/dog population. The good news is you can totally prevent it, train around it, and have peace. Take the time NOW while they are young to guide them through this. As adults it may not be possible or nearly as easy. One serious injury and it won't be worth the cost. For this reason I tend to be conservative in a multidog house, no chewies or food unless separated and supervised. Most treats have warning labels about supervised eating only anyway except for kongs. I do train both dogs now together after establishing how they interact and use tiny tidbits that aren't dropped or crumbly. More important I prefaced that close contact with good training.

Puppy goes in her crate or one dog goes outside for long chews and both eat around the corner out of sight of one another. This way there is no stealing ever allowed and no stress or guarding because there is no reason to do so. The food aggression is a serious issue, if that puppy ever figures out that he scares you or can back you off with aggression he will, and the next person may be a small child or a visitor. It's not personal to the dog it just works. As a puppy he's mostly instinct and less thought. You shouldn't expect reasoning at this age, you should anticipate instinct and respond appropriately. Prevention is perfect when nothing else is.

Not to criticize you but with the sue happy society we live in I'm more concerned with protecting my dogs and ensuring they are ambassadors for their breed. My situation sounds similar to yours and I hope I can help put ur mind at ease and help. So this is meant kindly and respectfully with some hard won years of experience behind it. If my dogs ever bit anyone and were taken from me I would die. That has happened to several people recently in CO, one dog has been in a pound for a year and his owner says his eyes are just dead and afraid. Just to point out there are many reasons to preempt food or any aggression including keep ur puppies safe.

Don't take things from your dogs' mouths unless really dangerous like a razor blade. Trade for them with higher value treats. I keep chopped chicken or beef or healthy lunch meats or even a hot dog handy in a baggie in the fridge. Don't pet or bother you dog while he eats, never pet or say it's okay if they are growling or showing aggression. This is a clear warning in dog language leave me alone, I'm either anxious or scared or annoyed. Do NOT scold a growl or warning. And don't take anything if they are doing this just walk calmly away and get your trade. I'll explain the art of trade later too. Scolding may suppress the warning which leaves you with an unexpected bite which is worse. I have some video and advice her to add later too.

My 4yo was a bit of a shy puppy and from the time I got her at 8 weeks she was a sweetie. I would go over to her and take her chewy then give it right back to show I was going to give it back and could be trusted. My mistake was I wasn't thinking like a dog. From her point of view I began to mean her treats would be rudely taken, her reasoning did not extend to the higher human logic of but you got it back so it's okay right.?? Wrong. She went after me one day with a vengeance and bit me and became very food aggressive and a resource guarder instantly. Had I not changed what I was doing immediately and stopped the existing situation and how I was thinking right away I could have had a serious fear aggressive resource guarding biting Golden forever. It took me weeks doing it the RIGHT way after consulting a behaviorist to retrain it. It never needed to happen had I understood.

If you have spent a lot of time "getting" him to eat maybe there have been a lot of hands in bowls and people messing around in his space. Getting a dog to eat isn't as big an issue as all that unless their weight drops drastically or they are health compromised some other way. My 15 mo was very picky but my approach is different than "getting" her to eat.

I stopped with high value long lasting chewies for a while after my puppy bit me and I stopped taking things from her. I started teaching a fun leave it, mine, take it, and trade. I'll explain the details tomorrow b/c my hands are aching tonight. :dogblush: In the interim do separate ur dogs preferably out of eyesight and preferably crated or gated apart to eat. Put the food down 20 minutes and pick it up until the next meal. A hungry puppy will eat, later. Don't give it back in an hour, next meal only which is probably 3x a day for you. You have nothing to lose by a temporary stop to possible hostilities except the further habituation of aggression. I'd like to see you have a different POV before going further b/c as I know 1 day 1 time can make all the difference in a bad outcome.

Sure many dogs eat out of the same bowl but a lot of others kill each other for that reason or less. Don't let your well intended but very different and non-applicable human preference dictate what you wish to happen for two totally unique precious little personalities. They are individuals just like we are. Imagine being trapped in 1 room with an annoying relative that sticks his fingers in your food and cleans out the fridge but never washes the dishes and pokes you in the eye when he feels like it. You'd be ready to kick him out really fast right. Don't expect them to develop their relationship based on what you want. Yes you can shape and influence it to a large degree but you cannot define it completely. They may eat out of the same bowl eventually but this way isn't working and aggression in any form is unacceptable toward you and the other dog certainly should be protected from it at all cost.

So take a breath and a step back for a day until my hands feel better and I have some easy things that will make u feel better and give u hope. I really do sympathize and I know u can get closer to what u want with a little work. This is part of having two puppies that is hard. Separating them in crates now to eat or take a break and giving each private time with you training and playing strengthens their bond to you. If the bond is stronger to each other you'll have a much harder time training and they'll be less affectionate to you. Time alone in the crate with a great stuffed kong of safe chewie also teaches confidence and the ability to self calm and self entertain. You will have to leave ur house some times and this is prep work for a calm confident pup when u do.

Ruff play later too! Hang in there with me.


Experienced Member
I didn't forget...just ate dinner though and it's after midnight. Sorry to be slow. Tomorrow I'll have some time to myself to type.


New Member
I didn't want you to think I totally forgot about this place, life just got in the way this week.

The two of them are now eating quite contently in the same room at the same time, about 2 feet apart. I never expected them to eat out of the same bowl at the same time, but that being said, I DO expect them to to be able to tolerate other beings (both animal & human) in the room with them when they are eating. If they can't behave together what is the point of having more than one dog?
It sounds like doing it your way that you are not addressing the aggressiveness problem, you are avoiding it altogether by separating the animals at all times.

Jake is no longer aggressive with the food..I guess he has figured out that no one else is going to eat "his share" and that there is plenty for him. The funny thing about this whole situation is that he is now eating the whole meal happily, and no longer seems to be fussy about food. I guess another dog eating what was presented happened to be what he needed.

I understand your point about not expecting "human" behavior from dogs, but even in the dog world pack-mates have expected behavior. And I have to respectfully disagree about not touching the animal while they are eating. It would seem to me that you raise the risk of a MORE food aggressive dog (and dire biting accident prone dog) if you don't get them use to being disturbed while eating while they are young.

I raised my previous dog, a Pit Bull, by feeding and handling the situation this way while he was a puppy and never once had a food/treat problem with him around others. I expect no less from this breed.

It seems to me that if you are living in constant fear of what the animals might do to each other or other animals it's not much of a life for you OR the dogs. Just like humans the dogs need to know what the acceptable behavior boundaries are.


Experienced Member
I think you misread my intent or perhaps I wasn't clear. My hands were really irking me so sort of generalized as I explained. They still are but I wanted to clear what I said up. I don't go back and reword things when that's going on or it takes forever. Just throwing out examples that might hit near home and help; knowing most would be wide of the mark. I tend to have a great desire to help people with the problem I lived through and hopeful the result is a great relationship btw dogs as I now have.

I am actually maximizing the time my two now spend together happily by being aware. They are rarely separated but they assuredly sometimes are so they don't become too reliant on one another. Independence is a self-confidence booster. When I take one dog to train I want the other to be happy and relaxed. I still crate puppy when I leave because I have a pet alley motion sensor that two leaping dogs at play would set off since its height sensitive. The two dogs I had years before I did have to separate because the point of no return had already been passed. I just see no reason to "ask" for trouble when things are going very well by leaving young dogs unattended with high value resources.

My comments about bugging the dog were focused on an existing situation with my 4yo dog and my successful reframing it for the dog as an example. Your dog is a different dog with a slightly different issue. It was aimed at temporarily not provoking a dog that already has an issue until the issue is resolved. I didn't go into everything I did to resolve it b/c I didn't think it applied to this situation. I did completely resolve the issue. Yay! :dogbiggrin:

Petting a growling dog or bugging it whilst eating is a sure way to habituate existing problem behavior not cause it. During this time while you ARE hand feeding the dog all of its food (specifically as part of a program to resolve a resource guarding issue) don't be a pest. This does not extend to all times, it was a specific point and I wasn't clear. There is a difference between this and working with a dog that has no issues. My point was directed my dog that did exhibit human directed aggression which I unknowingly provoked as I described. Indeed my dogs are expected to be unconcerned about other dogs and people in their eating area. And they are. It does take change as the dog changes to maintain good habits.

With the regimen I used, designed for my dog by the Texas A&M behaviorist we saw, Lore Haug (she has webcasts on ARBI periodically) you reframe the behavior. Now I pet her and drop food in her bowl and she'll give me anything because she knows I'll trade her something better. She is a trained service dog and will actually bring me food I drop or leave it if I ask. The difference is all in the dog's perception. If they stiffen or stop then you've crossed a line that you should correct/move with behavior modification. This does not mean you run away it means you address without provoking and change to your desired end result.

Your dog should not mind what you do when it has food IMHO and in my house. That said I'm sure you could tease any dog enough to provoke a response. That was my point, stop the aggression by behaving appropriately you prevent it from happening in the first place. You asked for a advice for a change to what you're doing that was resulting in undesired results and that was my experience that worked. Certainly not the only workable solution. It is not necessary to provoke aggression to stop it or ensure it never happens. I don't test human patience to the point of anger just to see where it is either. That's all I meant.

I still think multi-dog house holds should separate high value treats unless and until you establish there are no issues after sexual maturity (altered or not) is reached. I know exactly what will not cause problems between my two and what may or is thus far untested. So for every two dogs I might do this differently but it is based on observation not just a requirement that they get along. This can and does avoid the start of a life long battle which I lived through with two bitches for too many years. I would much rather prevent that from happening again than to manage it and have periodic visits to the ER to stitch up injuries.

I've seen many many dogs get along perfectly until the wrong situation one time ended up in a fight over resources. There is a balance I agree and you must find it for your dogs. My two bitches now get along famously. Up to this point each respects the other's signals, but not all dogs do as they mature. The CAAB's I worked with also agreed with much of this and are primarily where I got my thinking.

Some dogs just don't get along and will always fight period once an escalation happens. That risk is not one I am prepared to take lightly when all is going great as is. Once you see two 50plus pound dogs trying to kill one another, cannot separate them, and spend thousands on surgery perspective becomes different I suppose. This all stemmed from one food guarding incident and was not correctable unf so we kept them separate for the rest of their lives. The older one did have cancer which did play a part of the other dog's targeting behavior. Many friends with older dogs have had the same issue as dogs age things change that can be unpredictably provocative. So I believe awareness is a life process that same as checking for lumps or pain with age.

All of the puppy books and training books, trainers, and all of the behaviorists talk about esp in puppy hood that it is important that all dog experiences are positive. The results of them not being positive are fear aggression, leash aggression, extreme fear, shyness, and a lifetime of emotional management for many unlucky dogs. Fixing it after the fact is harder and may not work.

I don't live in constant fear I have a great degree of comfort with these dogs because I can predict how they will react. That doesn't mean I can ignore their behavior or it's changes as they grow and age. I spent a lot of time after those two fighting dogs understanding the dynamic that caused it and working with professionals on making sure I had the healthiest environment that encouraged my dogs getting along under any circumstance.

My 4yo was attacked in agility class and after a year of positive training she is back to her happy confident self. We both were torn up pretty badly in the unprovoked attack when she jumped into my arms. Ouch. I would have preferred to prevent this from happening because the workaround was a long one. But I was not given the chance b/c the instructor did not warn the class that the new dog had "issues."

I think u read my abundance of well-meant examples as procedure. They were not. It was more a late night slowly typed brain dump. Just different takes on the same old dilemma many people face. I prefer to not go there just as I prefer not to clean up pee. Most of my dogs never potty'd in the house. It's a preference of philosophy only, don't read it all literally. :dognowink:


Experienced Member
Sorry, I didn't see this thread until today.

Is there anything else I should be doing to nip this food/treat aggression in the bud before it escalates.
I home-board dogs when people go away and so I have a great number of dogs coming through my home, week after week. I also have a dog of my own.

I have learnt, through experience, that your method is actually the most effective. I have tried several methods and none seems to be more effective than simply standing in the middle (and placing dogs either end of the same room in some cases) and acting as a barrier. As you seem to have found, you can then slowly reduce the distance over time and the dogs just learn to adapt as they realise their food isn't going to be stolen. I also add to this by hand feeding them together from time to time, making sure to be strictly fair.

I also have to agree with you on the subject of dogs being touched when they are eating. I see it as so important that I probably wouldn't agree to take a dog into my home if the owner told me it couldn't be touched while eating. I want to be able to stick my hand in my dog's bowl if I so desire. Not that I do as I think that's unfair, but I certainly think my dog should be able to stand that.

How rough should I let the puppies play. Jake is about twice Jet's size at the moment (he's about 8 lbs, she is 4 lbs). Jet sure isn't a wallflower and she seems to give as good as she gets, but I don't want either of them getting seriously hurt.
That's a tougher question I think. I think you just know when it's getting too rough by the dogs reactions to each other. I watched two dogs playing at the weekend, and it's astounding how rough they can appear to be without really being rough at all.

My main concern with regards to play-fighting is that if it's done too frequently, the dogs just teach other to become better fighters in later life, so I like to keep it to a minimum.


Experienced Member
I don't mind tussles as long as they remain fun. If at all unsure I usually pull aside the dog that looks a little beleaguered and if she wants to go back to it then I let her. Many tussles can sound horrible when in fact they are play.

I watch body language, my bigger dog will self handicap by lying down which is playful. As long as their heads are turning toward one another and both are reengaging I can tell they are still at play. I do often introduce a toy between them when I sense my older dog getting tired. They both love to run around each with the end of a large tuggy toy in their mouths. I don't like for them to just go nuts and start chewing on one another. Despite the tangles it also ruins their collars when they chew on them.

Discipline should be short and not terrifying. A growl and yip I watch and be sure it progresses back into play. I give them breaks by distracting and asking for a come/sit/get a treat etc. They usually shake it all off and re-engage in play.

One thing I do watch for is one dog being very tired and the other coming up and just irking her. When I see the ignoring or avoiding in this situation I do ask the offender to leave it. As for the play I don't allow stealing of toy or treats and I don't allow one dog to molest the other into giving up a toy. Once a dog finds out this works they will always want to do it. I don't mind tussles as long as they remain fun. If at all unsure I usually pull aside the one that looks a little beleaguered and if she wants to go back to it then I let her. Many tussles can sound horrible when in fact they are play.


Experienced Member
http://www.shirleychong.com/keepers/archives/many.txt is a good description of what I was referring to in multi dog management from Shirley Chong's site. That make things a little clearer than I did.

I agree Collieman that a dog should be touchable and his food moved when needed. I would rather teach a good positive leave it, give it, mine, take it with positive methods than just ram my hands in the dogs food constantly. That doesn't teach anything IMHO. That to me also seems unfair and pesky. If I train with rewards I introduce the positive reinforcers like dropping in a piece of chicken periodically during the week I teach human hands near bowl= goood but without the possibility of negative interpretation by the dog.

I think it was on Me or the Dog where a mother attacked and almost killed her maturing puppy whilst eating as they always had because the puppy permit expired. All of these are on line on animal planet's web site.

The main thing is you already see behavior you wanted to head off this is the safest method but not the only method. As long as you anticipate changes then you're gold. :dogblush:


Honored Member
Staff member
I think Snooks' point was not that your dogs should never be in contact or should never be touched during eating....

If two dogs are having issues already, fighting is self-rewarding. You are more than welcome to work on it with them, and should. But until they are very good and can be trusted together, then they should be separated by means of crates, leashes, distance, or anything else so long as FIGHTING is avoided. It sounds like you are separating them by means of distance. Keeping them separated is not avoiding the situation, but avoiding a much worse situation. If you had a dog that was very viciously dog aggressive, you wouldn't let him loose in a dog park. You would do your best to stay as far away as possible from other dogs, which would get him more comfortable with them at a distance. Eventually you would of course work your way up to having him closer to dogs, but avoiding them close up in the beginning would keep him from rewarding himself by attacking or lunging at every dog that came by.

Indeed, dogs should be touchable while eating. As pups I rubbed all over my dogs while they were eating(but didn't remove food), and I can still do whatever I want with them while they eat. But touching the reactive dog while eating is a different matter that must be treated differently. Plus, if you are petting your dog while he is in an aggressive mindset(even if he is not lunging and snapping), you're telling him that what he's doing is not only acceptable but preferred.

I adopted a BC who had been neglected and as a result was severely food aggressive. Her fosters had fed her in her kennel to avoid attacks with their 15 other BCs. If I had stuck my dogs in front of her kennel while she was eating, she would be 10 times worse than she was then. Instead I continued kennel feeding and kept the other dogs away at feeding time, but I worked on it at other times. I would leash one of the dogs and walk him as far away from her kennel as possible. If she was comfortable with them ten feet away but not nine feet away, then that's where we'd start. As she relaxed, we would move a little closer, and so on. I would also drop treats as we passed close by so that she associated dogs passing with getting food, rather than losing her food. With lots of patient work, she no longer is food aggressive at all. She went from launching herself at the bars of her cage with a dog 20 ft away to letting my Chihuahua sit in her bowl(not that he should, but just a test of self control--one that can easily end up in disaster, so I wouldn't recommend trying it unless under very specific circumstances). If I hadn't avoided attacks in the first place, then her aggression would have really escalated.

Good luck with your pups.


Experienced Member
Well said Tx_cowgirl. Thanks. Sometimes I wish I was much more eloquent than I am. :dogbiggrin: