Our mostly good dog

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Resource Guarding

One of the most difficult things about Dalton so far has been his resource guarding. We learned fairly quickly that he was going to be a resource guarder when we he started to get possessive over his toys and food. Thinking back, I believe that the way the puppies were fed and socialized with each other before we got him was part of the problem. All 9 pups were fed from one bowl, and had to fight for whatever they could get.

 At first, not really having any experience with this sort of thing, my first reaction was to gently put him on his side in a submissive position and use what Cesar Milan refers to as the claw. We tried this a couple times when he would get possessive, but it didn’t seem to work. Then we started trying the trade method. This is where you give them a low value object, such as a toy they don’t really care for, and trade it for a higher value object such as a treat, or their favorite toy. It worked fairly well, but we found it harder to be consistent with this method, especially if we were frustrated with Dalton already.

 We also realized that just handing him a new toy or bone right away was a bad idea. If we weren’t diligent about making him think it was “our” toy/bone he would immediately become possessive. They way we established it was ours was by allowing him to chew on the bone or smell/tug on the toy while we held onto it. We would never play with the object, but sit on the floor and hold onto it calmly while he chewed/sniffed etc. We would introduce it slowly, never letting him take whatever it was until he basically became bored with it. Once he got to that state, we could give it to him and take it back whenever we wanted without a problem.

The “ours” method has worked pretty well; the only problem we still have is if the object can break into smaller pieces or rip apart. The other day he ripped the tail off one of his toys and when I tried to throw it away he snarled at me, this is where we are still sort of at a loss. If it can break up, or rip, he thinks that the pieces in his mouth or the pieces that broke off are now his, and we have a really hard time getting them away from him. It’s also getting to the point where he is big enough to hurt us if he were to get to the point of biting. This is especially unnerving for me since out of the two of us, Nate is the “more dominant” one. I am still above Dalton, but Nate has a much easier time getting him to do what he wants than I do.

The one area he has improved almost %100 is guarding his food. The way we accomplished this was by hand feeding him most of his meal. After filling up his bowl, we would have him go to his kennel, sit, and feed him small handfuls at a time out of the bowl. We read that if they have to work for their food (going to the kennel and having to sit) and if the food is coming from you (hand feeding small bits at a time) the dog eventually learns that you control feeding time, and they have to behave a certain way to get what they want. Eventually we would feed him smaller and smaller amounts by hand, but we would make him wait in the sitting position before he could start eating. Then we would set the bowl in the kennel, and by hand, put a small handful in the bowl, working our way up to more and more food. Now, as soon as we have his bowl filled, he’ll run to the kennel sit, and wait to be told “okay” before eating.

I think this is something we will always have to work on with him. I still can’t decide if I think the cause is how they were fed/socialized as puppies, or if this is something he inherited from his parents, but either way he is getting much better, and we are continuously finding new ways to fix the issue that work for him and us!

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