Puppy growls while eating, why?
The last week or better my 5 month old cocker spaniel started growling while he eats. No one or anything is around him at the time.
Should I do something to stop this? I am assuming this is not something to be taken lightly and need to know what to do to stop this before it becomes something serious.
Your pup is an adolescent and he's starting to 'flex his muscles' as it were! You're right to be concerned about this growling, as he's trying to exert a certain amount of dominance by protecting his food. Untreated this can lead to serious food-guarding which is never good.
You'll need to show him that it's okay for you or anyone else for that matter, to be around his food dish or him while he's eating.
I would start by changing the time he normally eats, just a little - say push it back an hour, or move it up. Also, if he's used to having his food bowl in a certain spot, feed him in a different spot tomorrow. Changing his routine like this shows him that he's not in charge of his food, YOU are! Make him "sit" before you put down his bowl too.
Also, I'd suggest you start to feed him at least one meal every other day by hand, piece by piece. Fill his bowl then put it on the table, or your lap, and hand feed him. This will help him build good associations between your hands and his food. After you've been doing this for a week or so, put his food in a different bowl on the table (or lap) and put his own food bowl on the floor, then drop the food into his bowl a little at time and let him eat it that way.
While doing this it's a good time to introduce the 'leave it' command. When you tell him to 'leave it' he needs to stop eating, then you can say "okay, go ahead" or something similar to allow him to resume eating. Do this for a couple of weeks or until he is reliable about 'leave it'.
Once he's taken all this in his stride, you can go back to giving him his food in his bowl, on the floor (but don't forget to make him 'sit' first). After he's eaten a little bit, tell him to 'leave it' and then take a very tasty treat (something he really loves) and slowly put your hand down and drop the treat in his bowl. Then tell him "okay" or whatever is his release word.
Do this a couple of times every time he eats and he'll soon associate your hand near his bowl with some extra tasty morsel. Once he's totally okay with you doing this, you can encourage other members of the family to do the same, but always be with them and be vigilant and aware of any resistance on your pup's part. If he growls or anything like that, have the other person repeat the whole process the way you did.
Also practice the 'leave it' command with his toys, bones, treats etc. It's very important that he leaves anything when you tell him to, and do remember to always give it back to him with lots of praise and even a treat, so that he knows he's done well!
Best of luck!