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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all!
I have a 10 month old moyen poodle named George. We absolutely love him and he is the best most kind hearted dog. However, the main issue as of late has been him stealing items (literally anything, like socks, underwear, phone chargers, parts of a vacuum etc) and then guarding it. We have been working through this the best we can. We always trade him for a high value treat. I’ve also been letting him go back to the item he had, and then lure him again with a treat. We repeat this until he is no longer guarding the item. It is good in the sense that he no longer growls at us, but it’s bad in that I worry we are reinforcing this behavior. It seems like he steals something all the time now. He is not a food guarder as I did a lot of hand feeding him and still do. So he is never bothered by me walking past he with food or loving his ball slow feeder when it gets stuck and there is still food in it. We don’t know what to do! He also ingests all of his plush toys, so we had to remove them all, so now all he has are bones and hard toys. Because he eats stuff I worry that he will pick something up on the floor, eat if and it will be very harmful to him. Any advice would be appreciated!
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1) It sounds like you need another round of puppy proofing your home. Rearrange your house so that there's nothing in his reach that you don't want to tempt him to steal.

2) When you get the feeling he's about to nab something, give a loud and deep "NO". Enough to startle him a little and think "oh, Mom caught me. I better not do that."
 

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Ooh, it sounds like you should check out Peggy the Parti's thread on her experiences with resource guarding.

I don't have nearly the same experience with it as she does, since my guys never had the habit, but I have had some trouble with my current boy stealing things. I play off his Fear of Missing Out to get the stolen item back. I pretend I am completely uninterested in whatever he stole. I don't want to increase the item's value, in his eyes, by acting as though I want it. He will just make a game of keeping it away from me if I do.

Instead I find something completely different that he wants, and I go play with that toy instead. Usually his squeaky Kong Squeezz ball or his flirt pole are high enough value to capture his attention. I make a big deal of playing with the ball or the flirt pole without inviting him over. Usually his FOMO kicks in, and he comes over to try and play with the toy. I continue to ignore both him and the stolen item, whether he dropped it or still has it. Instead I keeping pumping up the FOMO. I want him to think it's the biggest tragedy in his young life that I have a Kong ball I'm keeping all to myself. Eventually I accidentally on purpose let him have the toy. At that point he usually runs off, gleefully, with his captured Kong ball, and I can retrieve the stolen sock.
 

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You have a teenager on your hands! This will require training and patience. We have many members with experience in resource guarding and hopefully they will chime in since I am not experienced. But my initial observation is that he may have too much freedom. I would restrict access and enforce strict rules to ensure he does not have access to his favorite items to nab. You can work on the issue but it is best not to have him reinforce his desire to steal things.
 

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Poodles could start their own crime organization. Buck is a Master Criminal! He loves reading glasses, pens, documents. Known to run with sharp objects like scissors and knives, that have a hint of a scent of food or his favorite human. Forget socks, he has stolen cash and a passport! The thing about poodles, is they sense that desperation. Trading up has never worked with Buck. He’s high stakes. I WISH he only stole socks or underwear. Luckily, nothing bad has happened and I can be amused, in retrospect:)
 

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Try goung through your house and re-puppy proofing. I would work on 'leave it', so that is leave it is really solid. As cowpony said, work on resource guarding and maybe have him on leash with you around the house so he doesn't get into everything. Good luck :)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Ooh, it sounds like you should check out Peggy the Parti's thread on her experiences with resource guarding.

I don't have nearly the same experience with it as she does, since my guys never had the habit, but I have had some trouble with my current boy stealing things. I play off his Fear of Missing Out to get the stolen item back. I pretend I am completely uninterested in whatever he stole. I don't want to increase the item's value, in his eyes, by acting as though I want it. He will just make a game of keeping it away from me if I do.

Instead I find something completely different that he wants, and I go play with that toy instead. Usually his squeaky Kong Squeezz ball or his flirt pole are high enough value to capture his attention. I make a big deal of playing with the ball or the flirt pole without inviting him over. Usually his FOMO kicks in, and he comes over to try and play with the toy. I continue to ignore both him and the stolen item, whether he dropped it or still has it. Instead I keeping pumping up the FOMO. I want him to think it's the biggest tragedy in his young life that I have a Kong ball I'm keeping all to myself. Eventually I accidentally on purpose let him have the toy. At that point he usually runs off, gleefully, with his captured Kong ball, and I can retrieve the stolen sock.
That’s a good idea with the flirt pole. We recently got one and he goes nuts for it. That may be a good distraction!
 

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That’s a good idea with the flirt pole. We recently got one and he goes nuts for it. That may be a good distraction!
The key, I have found, is to avoid any sort of trade or transaction. Instead, change the activity completely. Play with the flirt pole long enough that the stolen sock is no longer at the front of his memory. It's even better if another household member can discreetly spirit the sock away while you are busy playing with the flirt pole.
 

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Peggy Sue, Standard Poodle Born May 2019
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The key, I have found, is to avoid any sort of trade or transaction. Instead, change the activity completely. Play with the flirt pole long enough that the stolen sock is no longer at the front of his memory. It's even better if another household member can discreetly spirit the sock away while you are busy playing with the flirt pole.
YEP. I honestly think poodles are too smart for a lot of the commonly prescribed resource guarding protocols. I’d give anything to travel back in time and manage Peggy’s petty thief moments differently. I would increase my already pretty decent puppy proofing and completely ignore all stolen items unless they posed a serious mortal threat.

So far (knock on wood) she only guards the things we’ve made a big deal over—and by guarding I mean running away with them, gulping them or frantically tearing them apart, or growling defensively—and that’s unfortunately going to require ongoing management. I have a phone call with a behaviorist this week to make sure we’re now on the right track.

Wish I could find one with a special interest in poodles.
 

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YEP. I honestly think poodles are too smart for a lot of the commonly prescribed resource guarding protocols. I’d give anything to travel back in time and manage Peggy’s petty thief moments differently. I would increase my already pretty decent puppy proofing and completely ignore all stolen items unless they posed a serious mortal threat.

So far (knock on wood) she only guards the things we’ve made a big deal over—and by guarding I mean running away with them, gulping them or frantically tearing them apart, or growling defensively—and that’s unfortunately going to require ongoing management. I have a phone call with a behaviorist this week to make sure we’re now on the right track.

Wish I could find one with a special interest in poodles.
Good to know! We have a call tonight with a behaviorist. I will definitely report back what they say, but I’m sure that we have been paying him too much attention when he takes things.
 

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That’s so funny 😆
I have 3 poodles all under the age of 2 years old. My puppies are a male miniature poodle and a large miniature/Moyen female. They are both under 6 months old.
being poodle are independent thinkers you are actually encouraging him to guard rather than teaching him not to do it. He gets a reward each time he does it.
my puppies are thieves so all doors are closed. I have a treat ball that they really enjoy. I put dry kibble in it and they love it as it rolls around they get a treat.
 

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Most dogs are thieves. The solution is to keep closet doors closed, keep attractive things out of reach, and never trade a stolen object for food. If you trade a stolen object for food, you are rewarding bad behavior. Be sure there are plenty of appropriate toys available.

Zoe's most common bad behavior is taking and shredding paper. I don't mind if she raids the wastepaper basket under my desk, but all other attractive things are put well out of reach. Not too much of a problem with a miniature poodle, but it would be a challenge to keep papers away from a standard!
 

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Peggy Sue, Standard Poodle Born May 2019
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There are two separate issues here: Stealing items and guarding items.

Every dog can carry the seed of resource guarding. It’s totally unnatural for a dog to hand over a prized possession. When we humans get so focused on preventing puppy stealing, and try to deal with it in our clumsy, impulsive, human ways (such as chasing or snatching items from mouths), we can inadvertently fertilize those seeds. Some RG seeds don’t need fertilizer. They’re gonna grow regardless. But others may have remained dormant without our careful tending.

Trading up is the gold standard for preventing resource guarding. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And it’s often advisable to give the original item back, too, or not even take it at all.

Until Peggy, I may have said what others have told me: “None of my dogs would ever guard something from me. Oh no. They’d never dream of it. They respect me too much.”

We often take credit for our dog’s good behaviour, even when so much of it is pure good genetic luck. I know I’m absolutely guilty of doing this on occasion. We also kick ourselves for things that may have been entirely beyond our control.

All this to say: You are not teaching your dog to guard items by trading up. You are teaching him to trust you enough to let go of something that everything inside of him is screaming at him to hold onto for dear life. But this approach is obviously not going far enough to address the underlying issue, and while you work on a new plan, management is key.

I hope your call goes well tonight! Looking forward to hearing about your next steps.
 

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So we just had a virtual call with a behaviorist. He had some really great points about dogs being scavengers and it’s very much a part of who they are to find things of value and want to keep them. It helped us feel a bit better about why he is doing this behavior. Our next steps are as follows:
  • practice with a low to moderate value tug toy. Play a bit of tug. Then drop it and throw treats around the floor and eventually 5-6 feet away from the toy. Then you can grab the tug toy.
  • when the situation presents itself it’s important t to look at the body language. If the dog is showing signs of aggression (turned head, rigid body, etc) then throw a treat scatter around and in front of the dog. The trainer said no amount of treats is too much in these situations.

we asked about whether the treats were rewarding the dogs behavior. He said that if George appeared to be excited about the treats as a reward then yes. But because George continues to guard his possession, then it doesn’t appear to think it’s a game. Therefore, treats are the best tool to use in our situation.

we plan to continue meeting with this trainer until we feel this is more under control. We will keep you all updated about any progress!
 

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Interesting response from the behaviorist. I wouldn't have thought of this. Let us know how it works!

What I taught my Spoo to do was 'Drop It'. And I meant on the floor. And then he would get a treat. And then I would change whatever we were doing right away before he went back to it.
That and 'Leave It'.
 
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