Q. Food Guarding? A. Treat and Adopt (and we have the data to prove it)
I have written a few times about the need to reassess protocols and procedures regarding how food guarders are handled in shelters. With the simple protocol we have developed (and protocols others have developed), there is such a strong likelihood that the behavior will be eliminated that dogs should just be treated while awaiting adoption and sent home.
We have just published research we conducted back in 2006 at the Wisconsin Humane Society that involved us following a group of 96 dogs with food aggression identified in shelter. The only intervention conducted in shelter was a free feeding program and the availability of a food- dispensing enrichment device at all times in the kennel. Adopters were given a protocol to follow in the home and were asked for permission for us to follow up post-adoption. We followed up at 3 points in time — 3 days, 3 weeks and 3 months. Sixty adopters were reached at least 1 time. Reports of guarding or aggression were scant, with just three dogs guarding at the time of the first follow-up of 3 days. One of those 3 was returned. Two more dogs showed aggression at the second follow-up, but by month 3, three of the dogs no longer exhibited aggression, and only one new report of food aggression in the home was reported.
It is important to point out that these dogs did not receive a full behavior modification protocol in the shelter, but just a free feeding program. It is also important to note that while we sent folks home with a food guarding protocol to conduct in the home, most adopters did not follow the full protocol. This makes the results even more powerful.
Since the time this data was collected, many shelters have implemented our food guarding program and have saved countless lives because of it. It is time for all to adopt a program to save these dogs–they should be able to go home. We hope that this research will help you overcome any hurdles toward saving dogs with food guarding issues.
Click this link to go directly to the behavior modification resources for shelter dogs on our website, ASPCApro.org – and remember, we are only an email away to answer your questions at SAFER@aspca.org.
If you have implemented a food guarding program we would love to hear how it is going – please tell us!
Behavior Modification Protocols and Adopter Handouts
“Time to Change Our Perspective Around Food Aggression”
“Playing It SAFER With Food Guarding”
Video: View how SAFER Food Guarding protocol addresses Billie, adult dog with food aggression