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Resource Guarding and How to Deal With It

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

  
Bailee

Here\'s my Wubba- - now play with- me!!
 
 
Barked: Mon Jun 11, '12 7:46am PST 
I know this topic has been covered plenty of times in the past but I feel like Bailee's issue is a bit unusual - perhaps I'm just kidding myself! Sorry this is rather long...

Some background: Bailee is 3, and we have an 8 or 9-year old AmStaff who has been around since we brought Bailee home (at 14 weeks). They get along fine, or at least they always have in the past. I bought Bailee a new Wubba (the Kong toy) a couple of weeks ago, it's her favorite even though she destroys them relatively quickly. The last one she got was at Christmas, and she was fine with it - didn't care who took it, what was done with it, etc. The AmStaff happens to only like tennis balls, ropes, and nylabones, so he doesn't even mess with her wubba. Anyway, Bailee had her wubba and was chewing intently on it...the other dog happened to walk past - not even showing a passing interest in her toy - and she growled at him. My husband went to reach for the wubba and she growled at him. We corrected her for that, obviously, but she did it again...and was corrected again.

Fast forward a day or two, and we're outside after their walk and they are chewing on bones. The other dog stands up to go out further in to the yard, walks past Bailee, and she growls and bares her teeth at him.

A couple of weeks go by, and yesterday we take her to the first dog park she's ever been to. Lots of other dogs, she's playing, sniffing, running, everything's good - she even got in the water a little bit. We have a portable dog bowl on the ground, under the picnic table we're sitting at, because the AmStaff hates water and would rather die of thirst than go near the lake to get a drink. Bailee's fine for a while, but then she sees another dog go to the water bowl and get a drink...after that she stayed very close to the water bowl, intently watching any dog that even came close to it, even when they weren't interested in the bowl, and she was quick to show her teeth to any dog that got close to the bowl, even if they didn't realize it was there. I picked the water bowl up and put it on the table where she couldn't see it, but she was still being a nut about it. We packed up and headed to the other section to let her run in the field and try to break her focus on the bowl, which she wouldn't even drink out of anyway. We left shortly after. Last night after dinner my husband gets two treats out and puts them on the table, then tries to play rope with the dogs...Bailee wants none of it, can't get her focus off of the treats, and any time the other dog even walked in the general direction of the table where the treats where she tried to keep him away and did her new growling/teeth baring thing.

Where did this behavior come from, and what do we do about it? Up until recently she was so laid back about everything nothing phased her - we weren't even aware she was capable of growling LOL
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Tanuk CGC

Sherpa Tanuk of- Everest
 
 
Barked: Mon Jun 11, '12 9:25am PST 
Firstly, never ever correct her for growling. That can all too easily teach to give no warning and go straight for a correction or bite. You want her to growl, she's letting you and the other dog know she's uncomfortable. It's perfectly acceptable dog language and behavior for her to do this, and I wouldn't be too concerned. All she's saying is that it's her toy/chew/etc and she would prefer your other dog not get too close.

With you however, you need to be able to take things from her. I would work on teaching a rock solid drop it/leave it command and using the highest value treats for this. Whenever she has a toy or chew, just casually walk by and drop a treat for her. This will teach her that you being in the area is an okay thing. I would not directly try to take something like that from her without working with a certified behaviorist. Although teaching her the drop/leave commands can keep everyone safe and happy.

As for the guarding the water and OCDing about the treats, that is more concerning. Whenever Tanuk gets guardy with something or freaks out about it being out, typically he gets a time out in his crate to take his mind off of it and calm him down. Taking away the item isn't necessarily the best method b/c that reinforces their fear of loosing it, which is why they guard. Taking the dog away instead calms the situation.

Another consideration since this is a new behavior is having a vet check with a full thyroid panel run. When Tanuk's resource guarding got really unbearable it turned out he was hyperthyroid, and being on the meds has mellowed him out a lot.
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Bailee

Here\'s my Wubba- - now play with- me!!
 
 
Barked: Mon Jun 11, '12 11:42am PST 
Thanks...I was thinking about the comments I've seen on here before about not punishing a dog for growling, that's why I'm seeking advice on what to do with this.

We did do the wrong thing by taking the toy from her, so we'll both have to work on remembering how to handle that. She hasn't been growly with us since that one day, and never with a treat or food or anything else for that matter. She also didn't bare her teeth at us that day. Except for that one incident we have always been able to take anything from her, we specifically worked on that and continue to reinforce it - the day with her wubba was just weird, at least with how she reacted with us. She does have a good "leave it" normally.

With the water bowl yesterday my husband did correct her and told her "no" for the teeth baring/growling thing, that was when she was being snotty and the dog that she was acting that way with wasn't even aware of her water bowl being nearby. I then redirected her to a different area of the park, further away from the water bowl, but I couldn't distract her for the life of me, she kept intently watching the bowl and the dogs around it. After a few minutes of unsuccessfully trying to distract her I put the water bowl on the table and we walked up the hill and completely away from the area where the tables and other dogs were.

We want to take a ball with us to the park next time but I don't want her to overreact if another dog wants it - not that I think she should roll over and give it up, but I also don't want her starting a fight. I will say that from what we saw yesterday there were a lot of well behaved dogs and a few little tussles broke out but all of the owners were close by and paying reasonable attention to their dogs. I would guess there were about 25 dogs in total, and Bailee favors dogs that are smaller than her - labs freak her out a bit, and there were a lot of them there. I can say for certain that we didn't do a good enough job of getting her around other dogs and socializing her as a pup. Won't make that mistake again!

Again, thanks for the insight...we will be working on this tonight when I get home from work!
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Kodiak

The cheese ninja
 
 
Barked: Mon Jun 11, '12 2:42pm PST 
I think you are very smart for wanting to nip it in the bud now. I recommend this site: dog-dog resource guarding (thanks to Dogster Cohen for posting this one) as well as the book "Mine!" I see that the Kindle version has lending enabled, so shoot me a pawmail with your Amazon email address if you'd like me to lend it. Both deal with positive conditioning using treats, and give good step by step instructions.
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Kodiak

The cheese ninja
 
 
Barked: Mon Jun 11, '12 3:08pm PST 
D'oh. Thanks to REXY for that link.
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