Why Dogs Get Aggressive over Food and Toys?

Why dogs get aggressive over food and toys

Aggression is a trait in dogs when they become defensive while eating or playing with a toy. They use threats or force to keep people or other animals away from the coveted object. This aggression is not only manifested in food and toys only but also in mates, living areas or territories, chew bones and stolen or found items.

They display this behavior by stiffening their bodies, holding their head down, holding ears up, hoarding items, snapping at other dogs, jealousy, growling, snarling and holding on to items when asked to surrender them.

How does Aggressive Behavior Manifest itself?

Aggressive behavior can either be mild, moderate or severe.

In mild aggression, the dog runs away with the item in possession. Moderate would be when a dog growls at an approaching person or dog. Severe manifests in lunging and biting. And we don’t want our puppy to bite someone, that’s for sure.

aggressive dog barking

The most obvious reason for aggression is the natural instinct for survival. Dogs are originally wild animals, and in the jungle, they had to compete for scarce resources. As a result, they protected their food, territories, and mates from other animals.

Another reason dogs are aggressive is that past experiences have shown them that if a person or animal goes near their object, it will be taken away, hence the need to protect them.

Social Order and Hierarchy

Dog bullies other dog

Dogs have individual pack orders or social classes. There are alpha and others in lower cadres. Alpha dogs are quite confident and are less likely to get aggressive over food. Other dogs are aware of this, and they let the alphas have their share first. Dogs in lower cadres will fight since resources are already depleted by the time they reach them.

Training and Socialization

aggressive puppy biting his brother

Training and socialization are other reasons for aggressiveness. A dog that is poorly socialized especially as a puppy is likely to be very aggressive. In a litter of puppies from the same mother, some puppies are more aggressive and can grab and hog all the food at the expense of others. If this behavior is not capped at an early age, it deteriorates well into a dog’s maturity.

Genetics and Breeds

Bull Mastiff running

Genetics play a significant role in determining a dog’s aggression. Some breeds are more aggressive than others. Top of the list is the German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Pit Bull and the Bull Mastiff. The least aggressive dogs are the golden retriever, Siberian Huskies, and Labradors. It’s also important to note that bitches are more aggressive than male dogs, due to their natural mothering instinct.

Other Causes

Pit-Bull on a leash looking in distance

Other causes of dog aggression include underlying medical conditions, environment, inbred dogs, and sexual maturity, whereby the dogs compete for mates.

Some conditions also predispose dogs to aggressiveness. These include verbal and physical hostilities from dog parents and care takers, confinement in small spaces, e.g., cages and kennels, a lot of disturbances from noise, lack of routine, high competition for resources and lack of safety.

How to Deal with Aggression?

two dogs competing for toy

What can pet parents do to deal with aggression in dogs? There are many techniques for reducing aggression. However, the best solution is avoidance. Refrain from putting your dog in a situation that may aggravate them. For example, do not take away valuable toys or food from the dog. It is also important to not physically or verbally confront the dog, as this might aggravate it further, and it might end up attacking you.


Aggression is something we can tackle if we invest some time to get to the cause of what’s causing it. Usually, the simplest solution is to give your pets an interactive toy, and they will spend an entire day chasing balls in your backyard or apartment.

What is your experience with dog aggression? How would you handle it?