Study: Dogs who guarded food bowls in shelter did not continue behavior in homes

News from Maddies Institute, 30/08/12

A study published in the journal Animals found that dogs who guarded food bowls while in the shelter did not continue this behavior in their adoptive homes, even when their new owners didn’t comply with all elements of a rehabilitation plan. Additionally, these dogs had nearly half the return-to-shelter rate of shelter dogs in general.

Published on August 12, 2012, its authors Heather Mohan-Gibbons, Emily Weiss, and Margaret Slater reported that food bowl guarding is one of the most common reasons for shelter euthanasia, and only 34% of shelters attempted to modify the behavior. 

“Food guarding” was defined as “stiffening, gulping, growling, freezing, and/or biting a fake hand during the SAFER® food bowl assessment.”

For purposes of the study, 96 dogs were identified as demonstrating this behavior in the shelter. They were adopted into homes on a modification program. From the study abstract:

By three months, those adopters reported no guarding behavior except one new occurrence of a dog guarding a rawhide was reported in the third month. For dogs identified with food guarding, the return rate to the shelter was 5% and 9% for adult dogs not identified with guarding behavior. Adopters did not comply with at least one aspect of the program, so it is unclear why so little guarding was reported. The key finding is that dogs that guarded their food bowl in the shelter were not guarding their food in their new homes.

Mohan-Gibbons H., Weiss E., Slater M. Preliminary Investigation of Food Guarding Behavior in Shelter Dogs in the United States. Animals. 2012; 2(3):331-346.

Original here

2 thoughts on “Study: Dogs who guarded food bowls in shelter did not continue behavior in homes

  1. Lyndsey November 4, 2012 / 5:07 am

    Good point i agree
    Could not have said it better myself
    Is this the right place to ask a question
    Can i ask a pet question here, i know its probably not the right place
    Does anyone here have a dog
    Does anyone here have a cat

  2. Rachael November 21, 2012 / 1:31 pm

    My last foster dog had that behavior. I had some excellent advice from a behaviorist for treating ‘regular resources food’ (regular meals, not treats) that worked well in her case.
    Utilise 4 or 5 bowls and divide the meal into them, just as she had finished gulping each bowl and just started moving her attention to look up at me for more, I would put down the next bowl. The aim was to show her via immediate reward that food is no longer scarce and more will follow.
    It worked well.

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