(Thousand Oaks, CA)
Hi — we have adopted a five year old neutered male. He is such a sweet dog, with a few concerning exceptions. He is psycho over his food! When I put his food bowl to the ground, he eats like it’s the first time he’s ever eaten, and if you get too close or bump him while he’s eating, he growls and shows his teeth! Any closer, and he will literally snap at you.
Also, I tried to take him to the vet today, and even with a nylon muzzle, our dog wouldn’t let the vet look into his ears or take his temperature.
Any insight would be greatly appreciated!
You’ve adopted a fully adult male, and there may be a lot in his background or history that you’re not aware of… and this will impact his present behavior.
It sounds as though he may have been hungry for at least a part of his life, or had to fight other dogs for his share of food. This would lead to the type of food-guarding behavior you mention. At 5 years old it will be an instinctive behavior by now.
Although this type of behavior isn’t acceptable, it is understandable in this situation and given that he’s had a big change in his life recently (and maybe several before that), I wouldn’t rush into dealing with this now. Let him adapt to the fact that he is going to be eating as much as he wants on a regular basis first. After a month or so you can begin to hand-feed him (literally let him eat out of the palm of your hand) so that he begins to see that your hand near his food isn’t a bad thing. Then you will slowly start to drop treats into his bowl when he’s eating, getting your hand closer to the bowl very gradually, eventually graduating to being able to pick up his bowl, put a treat in it and replace it in front of him.
With a puppy, or younger dog, this whole process could take a few weeks, or a couple of months to cover. With your dog it could be a much slower process, but it’s important to take it slowly and not to push him outside of his comfort zone or you’ll slow down the whole thing.
As for the vet scenario, again you probably don’t know too much (or all) about his background and he could have a reason to be nervous. He is also likely not socialized a whole lot and this is something you’ll need to work on. Again, taking it very slowly and carefully. I’d recommend checking out this page Socialize Your Puppy for help with this. The advice applies equally to your dog as to a young pup, so don’t worry about the title.
You may want to talk with a professional dog trainer or dog behavioral specialist to help you with some ‘hands on’ advice when it comes to training and communicating with your new dog, it never hurts to have a bit of help and it could make the whole adjustment process a little quicker and easier.
It sounds as though overall your dog has a good temperament, but his life experiences haven’t yet allowed him to reach his full potential and may have caused some fears. However, with love and patience I doubt that there’s any reason why you won’t be able to help him overcome these issues and develop into a confident, happy and friendly dog.
Best of luck with him.