When your dog nips and growls when you get near him when he is eating, he is exhibiting food aggression. You may not think this is a big deal because you have decided just to stay away when he is eating. The problem is that these actions may be caused by more serious issues.
Your dog should understand that you are the ultimate protector and provider for him and the rest of the pack. When you give him food, it should be your right to take it away or manipulate it. Nobody except you should touch the food you have given him.
When your dog starts to take the role of “food protector”, the natural balance in your overall relationship has been disturbed. Robin and I have a great dog training article that explains what has happened and provides you with a very detailed plan to resolve this serious behavioral and social issue. Please read our dog training article titled “How Do I Teach My Dog Good Food Manners”.