Dear TCC,

My Chow Chow, Little Bear, seems to be getting a bit food aggressive/protective. This is only toward other animals, not me or other people. I am able to take things away from her easily. I noticed it first when my brother’s dog, CoCo, came over. Little Bear nipped at her while my brother and sister in law were there, but once they left, Little Bear was fine. I was able to give food, water and treats with no problem. CoCo even found one of Little Bear’s hidden bones and Little Bear did not mind her chewing on it. Then when my brother and his wife came back, Little Bear went after CoCo again! I picked up the bone which helped, but she still nipped at her once or twice more. She isn’t full out biting, just doing that annoying “nip at your face” thing.

She has also been chasing the cats away from her food bowl. I gave her a rawhide bone last night and she seemed to chase the cats more, like she was making sure they stayed away from the bone. I was able to take it from her without a problem.

Over Thanksgiving, Little Bear also attacked Bert (my sister’s dog). I was in my bedroom with Bert and I was petting his bum and saying things to him when Little Bear went after him. It made his head bleed and he got a cut under his eye. My sister pulled them apart, getting a puncture wound in the process. I think this may have been her protecting me (thinking I was getting attacked in our bedroom) but I am not sure if it is connected somehow. There was no food involved. 

Just wanted to put these out there and see if you had any suggestions. I do not need her getting food aggressive!!!

Meghan W.

Hampden, MD


Dear Meghan,

I am sorry to hear that Little Bear is reacting like this towards your family and their pets! You are right to be concerned at this stage, and thankfully there are many ways you can start to manage this behavior before it gets worse.

Here’s what’s going on: Little Bear is guarding her resources, which in the world of dog behavior is called… (wait for it, wait for it)… Resource Guarding. 🙂 “Resources” can be anything from her food, place or people. She has learned that when she is uncomfortable in a situation, she can make it go away by chasing, nipping, and even biting. These are all self-rewarding behaviors, and dogs repeat behaviors that are rewarding, so definitely nip this thing in the bud before she nips someone else! Nipping is a precursor to biting, and it will turn into biting if nothing is done to manage her behavior.

You can use the clicker to create positive associations with CoCo , Bert, and your siblings.* Click for anything and everything that is good. The more clicks she gets, the more positive associations you are creating, and these will eventually replace the negative associations she’s created. It is important to know that even though she is only reacting this way to your siblings and their pets, these behaviors can very quickly transfer to other things,

Click and treat Little Bear for being calm while being around people and their pets. Click and treat the moment she makes eye contact with one of them. Give CoCo a treat, and then click and treat Little Bear for remaining calm while CoCo chews it. Click and treat Little Bear for hearing the door open when people come over. Click and treat her for watching people as they come in. You get the idea. Click and treat for everything that is good!

It is very important at this stage to supervise her while she is with other pets and people, and remove her from situations before they have a chance to turn nasty. Remove her from every situation on a good note, right after she’s received a click and a treat for something and before she lets you know she’s had enough.

Keep in mind, behavior isn’t something that is fixed; it is something that is managed. This is only just a small way you can begin to manage Little Bear’s behavior, and by no means is it the only way. Your success will depend greatly on consistency and patience, so give this time and keep us updated!

Happy training,

The Canine Clique


*NOTE: If you have never used a clicker before, do not start without personal guidance from a professional clicker trainer. The clicker is a valuable tool that leaves little room for error.

The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.