Dogs are defensive when it comes to their food. If you notice, every time you get near to their food they become aggressive by snarling or growling. This behavior is an instinct and is called resource guarding. Food is a resource that commonly triggers defensiveness in most dogs.

Unfortunately, it’s a common behavior that many homeowners gets to experienced. Read on to know why dog’s guard their food, and ways on how to help manage this behavior.

Why Dog’s Guard Their Food?

Dogs exhibit this behavior because of fear. They guard their food for fear it will be taken away from them. Although it’s undesirable, don’t forget that it’s a normal behavior and it is based on instinct. In the wild, resource guarding is necessary to help them survive.

The resource guarding behavior can range from mild to severe. As you approach his food bowl does your dog get slightly stiff? If he is, then most likely it is a mild case. But in severe cases, your dog can bite or growl when their food is approached.

A dog that is guarding his food does not mean he is aggressive, but he is just playing by his instinct. He is showing you that he is dominant and that he is ensuring that his food is his alone and should not be taken away from him. What’s important is that resource guarding is a behavior that can be managed. Unfortunately, no studies have been conducted yet to find out why some dogs protect their food while others don’t.

What is clear here is that dogs that guard their food are insecure and what triggers this behavior is that they are protecting their food and don’t want others to take it. So does this mean you have somehow made your dog nervous when around food? No, not necessarily. Thought to be caused by both genetics and environment, food guarding is an instinct.

The following are some of the theories explaining why food guarding occurs.


It has been thought that puppies that grew with other puppies learn to compete for limited supplies of food mainly their mother’s milk or from a food bowl. If you notice that those puppies that eat the most usually grow the quickest.

Due to Environment

Another theory supports that dogs that grew or are from shelters are more inclined to develop resource guarding. This can be attributed to the shelter’s stressful environment. That is why more and more shelters are not developing feeding programs that help discourage food guarding among its dogs. The program includes giving the dogs full access to food bowls at all times.

Additionally, studies have shown that food guarding is no longer observed on shelter dogs after they are placed on homes.


There is no definitive study just yet to support that genes play a role in food guarding.

In conclusion, there is no exact answer as to why some dogs exhibit food guarding behavior while others don’t.

What’s important is how to manage this behavior effectively with the help of a professional trainer.


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