Stopping Labrador Growling At Meal Times
Labradors are, in general, incredibly laid back and docile dogs, this makes them the ideal addition to a family home. However, if you are adopting an older Labrador retriever, you may find that he has a few bad habits that need to be overcome. Growling over his food bowl or at meal times can be more than a pesky bad habit, it could also turn into a dangerous habit in the event that he snaps at another one of your pets or perhaps even at one of your children. It is vital that you work with him to gently overcome your Labrador’s growling habits.
Understanding The Reasons Behind Your Labrador’s Growling
Dogs, especially older dogs with an unknown background, are very prone to possessiveness over their food bowls. Perhaps someone has punished your dog by removing the bowl from him while he was eating or perhaps he has had to compete and fight for his food. Whatever the case may be, your Labrador has learned that growling around his food bowl is an acceptable thing to do and, in his mind, it may just be what he has to do when it is mealtime.
The key is for you to approach him with a sense of understanding that whatever may have caused this learned response may be related to a prior abusive household. Patience, love, and firm guidance and redirection are needed here in order to ensure that your Labrador’s growling is put to an end.
Step-By-Step Processes – Small Steps
- It may be that your Labrador is struggling to identify who the pack leader in your home is. Take the steps to firmly reassure him that you are, in fact, the pack leader. This can be accomplished with simple things like making him wait to go through the door ahead of you or not allowing him to sleep on your bed with you. Dogs yearn for leadership and without it they do tend to flounder a bit which is then demonstrated in their behavior, like food or bowl aggression.
- Teach your dog to sit before you place his bowl on the floor in front of him; by having him learn to wait for you to feed him you are reinforcing the fact that you are the pack leader in your home.
- Sit on a chair near where your dog eats; but make no efforts to approach him or touch either him or his food bowl while he eating. Allow your dog to become accustomed to your presence in the room while he eats.
- Talk to him in a reassuring voice and allow him to relax while you talk to him; it doesn’t matter what you say – your tone of voice is the most important thing!
- If your Labrador’s growling does not ease up then you should consider a different approach by offering him treats straight from your hand. Or – while he is eating, offer him a tasty morsel like a piece of chicken to lure him away from his bowl so that he associates only positives things with you and food.
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Every dog is different so you may need to take several different approaches with your pup; the most important step is to earn his trust so be sure that you never strike him or raise your voice to him in anger. It is important for you to recognize that this isn’t going to be an overnight solution for your Labrador growling at you and others while he eats. As with anything involving a dog that has been psychologically damaged, these things take time, patience, trust and a whole lot of affection. If you find that your methods have failed after your best efforts then you should give serious consideration to finding a reputable dog trainer with a history of helping rescue dogs be rehabilitated.