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Discussion Starter #1
I'm sure there are threads on here about this but I can't find the search button and I'm too discouraged to keep looking right now. Our 10 month old minipoo mix growled twice this week when he had something he wasn't supposed to. We've had this dog since he was 6 months old and he has never shown any food or toy guarding before. I've played the game many times where I have him drop a toy for a treat. He will happily do it if he wants the treat and if he doesn't (he hates giving up the toy on the end of the flirt pole) then it doesn't matter how good the treat is, he won't drop it unless I hold on to the toy and don't let him keep playing, and then he eventually drops it.

We were camping with him, which we had done once before so it wasn't completely new but there were a lot of new aspects so maybe he was a bit off-kilter anyways. In the middle of the night he got my husband's mouth-guard and growled when tried to take it. I got it by pulling him away with his leash when he dropped it to reposition it a minute later. I was so shocked (and half-asleep) that I wasn't thinking about the best way to handle it so I didn't try to give him a treat in trade or something. Then two days later he got a bird feather my daughter wanted and when my son reached to take it he growled again. I wasn't there, my daughter took the feather when the dog was distracted.

All I can think to do is tell the kids not to take things from him and then involve them in doubling-down on associating our hands with wonderful treats, and to take away and then give back things whenever we can, and maybe even use a feather and a mouth-guard as part of this training. I'd really like to hear someone else say that their dog did this but grew into a wonderful trustworthy animal. I am so sad and worried, and am probably overreacting but aggression is the thing that scared me the most about training a puppy, and I had no idea it would show up based on how things were going. He hasn't been the easiest in some ways and I'm losing my confidence.

Any thoughts and encouragement would be appreciated. We will find a trainer if needed, but we live in rural Maine literally hours from anyone so that is not an easy answer.
 

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I don’t think you’re over reacting at all. You have young children and you need to protect them. Resource guarding is a serious issue and it needs to be addressed by professionals. It’s not something you want to try fixing by essay/error.

I would find a behaviorist and have your dog assessed as soon as possible. In the meantime, strictly forbid your kids from taking anything from him, and even going too close when he’s eating.

When I was young we had a dog who was resource guarding. My brother walked by him while he was eating a bone, not even touching him, and he went for his foot. Needless to say the dog was gone pretty fast.

I hope it works out for your dog and I’m sorry this is happening.
 

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Yikes!!!! Hope you find something that works for you, and some one with more experience chImes in. 10 months is still in that difficult period where the most dogs end up in a shelter....your hard work will pay off, and it will get better! You are on the right track by addressing this now though, before it gets any worse. And yeah, definitely see a professional if it escalates at all or continues, and keep your kids safe.

For reassurance: My childhood cockapoo had a few episodes of resource guarding. She lived a long and full life, and I miss her. I was too young to remember how we solved them. When I was very small, my parents had a kuvasz (similar to a Maremma), who also had resource guarding issues as a puppy (won first place at puppy school graduation, then stole the bones from the second and third prize winner, and growled and refused to give them back:angel:) . She was my dad's second favourite dog ever.

One suggestion, and others can say if it is a good one or not in your situation, is to get him used to the idea that all things are yours, and nothing is free. Not just he gets something if he gives up something, but he doesn't get it in the first place until he works for it and gets permission. So, for example, with our dogs, we make them sit or down and wait for permission before eating, or put their treats or bones on the floor and make them wait until we say ok to eat them. With my puppy, I can even walk out of the room with the treat on the ground. I do this with toys, etc. If we walk by they back off from the food bowl, and we can pick it up and put it back down(honestly,they have trained themselves to do this). If Annie wants a walk, she needs to sit calmly to get her leash on, if she wants out of her crate, she needs to sit and be calm. If she wants me to kick her soccer ball, she has to back away. If I pick it up, she has to sit before I will throw it, and lie down if she is being really crazy. It's not foolproof - (large dead birds are apparently not covered by the leave it command) but it really helps. Not sure if this would solve your issue, but I find it good for my relationship with dogs. ***If you want to try this technique, I would start with something he isn't resource guarding yet ***

Ah! Wait! My mom's 4 yr old dog recently had a spell where she growled at me if I tried to go near her bone whIle she was chewing. Nope, not acceptable. We solved it by taking away all bones for a few weeks, doubling down on the all food and toys are mine and you have to work for them thing, then doing the "this is my bone and you can have it after you work" thing, and letting her chew it only with it in my hand. Fingers crossed, but so far no further issues.
 

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I would do just as you plan - tell the children not to attempt to take anything from him, and play lots and lots of happy games of swapping, and giving back. I would also do some research into how dogs use body language to signal their mood, and, if they are old enough, involve your children in that too. There were a lot of other things going on - stress from travel and camping, everyone tired, pup hitting adolescence - all of which no doubt contributed to an unfortunate blip in your dog's behaviour. But remember that it is absolutely natural for a dog to guard a treasure they have found - giving it up is a very unnatural behaviour, and it takes lots of reinforcement over the months and years to make it the default response. And growling is good - it is a warning to those who have failed to read all the other silent signals, and not something to discourage. A dog that is not allowed to growl a warning may be pushed into snapping, and that is much worse. Just make it very, very clear to your children that a growl means "Leave me alone - I mean it!", and that they should find a parent to deal with the situation if necessary.

And don't be too downhearted - have there not been occasions when your children, cross and overtired, have yelled at you? This is not the end of the world - it looks to me like a teenage dog feeling secure enough in his new home to throw his weight around a little - he needs to be gently taught better manners, but he has not turned into Cujo overnight!
 

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I've also done with for what of poodle said. Susan Garrett has a game called "its your choice" You basically hold treats of whatever your dog may be after in your hand and open your hand while you are not moving your arm around, just set it on your leg, if the dog goes to grab it close your hand. You repeat this and when you have your hand open and the dog no longer goes for it you can take a treat with your other hand and give it. I'm not good at explaining but you can google it. I also teach my dogs "drop it", doesn't matter what they grab I firmly said drop it and then gave a treat. You can find many of these tips on line.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks, everyone. I'll take all of the above into account.

I'll add that I have played "It's Your Choice" many many times, and the pup needs to wait to go out the door and wait for me to swing the flirt pole, and he needs to sit before I'll pet him when he's jumping around excited to see me again. He does really well with impulse control. I have also often hand fed and made him work for the food by doing tricks or playing It's Your Choice, and he always did great with all of it, which is part of why I thought I was doing a good job with him and was so distressed and surprised at this turn of events.
 

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Don't wallow in being "heartbroken." You will not find any good solutions in a state of high emotion and you won't help your pup by being emotional during your interactions.


I agree that this is concerning but I tend more to agree with fjm about looking at the circumstances that led to the particular incidents of growling. There may be some unusual aspects to what was happening that mean these events are not so likely to reoccur.


That said I would not ignore this situation but rather use it as a sign that you have to raise your training and expectations. There are a number of things you can do. First if there are very specific things going on to trigger these events you can work at making sure those circumstances don't happen again. Lily growled over possession of edible nylabones when she was young. For me the clearly obvious solution was to not give them to her anymore since there were plenty of other chewies she did not show that behavior over. I used those other things in swap it games to make sure she understood she had to surrender things. You can up the level on It's Yer Choice. Can you play the game with your hands open with goodies visible? Goodies on the floor? Longer amounts of wait time? I play that game very frequently with Javelin since he is the most impulsive of our dogs. I can now say that he has learned to wait so well that he has entirely stopped sending himself to his dumbbell or to take a jump without orders when he is in a very high state of arousal (he used to fail to wait for orders pretty frequently). Do you make your pup wait to be allowed to eat? Making it clear that the food and access to it is under your decision making is very powerful for virtually all dogs. Peeves eats on his own, but has to wait on a sit for me to let him have it. Lily and Javelin eat together (separate bowls) and have to do a series of behaviors (sits downs stands and offer and sustain eye contact to me) before they are released to their dishes. Some people may think that is unfair but I really don't have any problem with that since my dogs are very well fed and are not famished and being prevented from eating. Another thing you could do is hand feed your pup for a few days. Sit on the floor with him and offer just a few pieces of kibble at a time while asking for polite behavior in between servings.


This isn't a disaster as long as you manage it well right away.
 

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Taking away what the dog has, pausing, and then giving it back will make resource guarding worse! Please don't do this. If I came in your house, took your computer, paused and gave it back, would you be glad I gave it back? What if I did this 10 times a day? At first, you'd be shocked. Then annoyed. Then really, really, angry. If you take what your dog has, pause, and give it back, you're teaching your dog that the house is full of thieves. You're teaching your dog to guard what he has.

Instead of taking what the dog has, pause, give it back, teach the drop it game. Drop what is in your mouth on cue for a high value reward. And then let the dog TAKE IT BACK 99% of the time. This will lower the value of what the dog has in their mouth, and raise the value of dropping an item on cue. It will lower the stress of dropping something because it won't be stolen.

Put your dog on a leash to minimize getting into trouble. Wait for the dog to have a toy. Bring five pieces of chicken to your dog and put all five of them on the floor by the dog's feet. Say nothing, stand still. When the dog drops the toy and eats the chicken, praise, and then, let the dog get the toy again. Wait, repeat with four treats on the floor. Add the word, drop while the toy is in mid-air. Give the reserve piece of chicken, let the dog have the toy.

Hours later, put three pieces of chicken on the floor, drop, two extra pieces, let the dog have the toy. Two pieces on the floor, three extra pieces. One piece on the floor, four extra pieces. No chicken on the floor, say DROP, and give five pieces of chicken. Then let the dog have the toy. Always stand still. Always let the dog have the toy after giving the reward. Play the drop for chicken game at least twice a day.

Please don't let the dog make any mistakes at all for the next several weeks by using a leash and a crate. Dropping what he has in his mouth should become a fun game you play together, never an opportunity for you to steal what he has. The goal is when you say drop, he drops what he has and looks to you for chicken, never worrying that you'll take what he has.

If you must take what the dog has, trade the drop game UP. Approach the naughty item in the dog's mouth the same calm way you would the toy. Only, this time, put several treats on the floor by the dog's feet, ask for a drop. Instead of grabbing the item on the floor, surprise your dog by throwing treats. Throw extra treats in the corner, grab the naughty item, throw more treats, get the dog moving. Keep throwing high value treats for the dog to chase, and keep this up for at least 30 seconds. Then offer a bully stick and praise.

Instead of being a thief, you traded up. Way up. You gave the puppy a chance to play a fun game in exchange for the item, and good treats, and a bully stick. Drop=fun starting, not Drop=fun ending.

But, do try to minimize any mistakes by using a leash so that 99% of the time, it's ok for the dog to take back what he has. This method uses the Premack Principle to assist your training. "More probable behaviors will reinforce less probable behaviors." Or, more simply, if you eat your broccoli, you can have ice cream. If you do your homework, you can play video games. If you do this unlikely thing, a better thing will follow. It is unlikely that a dog will drop what they have in their mouth, unless a better reason is given. And the more opportunities to practice Drop/treat/get the same thing back, the more likely drop will occur when you ask.
 

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Click that is a very good clarification on "swapping." The thing you give in return for a willing surrender has to be way better than the thing you took! Giving up your bully stick gets you nice fresh chicken for sure.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
The trainer came and boy was my dog a brat!! He smelled her dogs, he's not good with other dogs, so he did a ton of jumping, humping, and mouthiness. She is having us work on sitting, then walking in a heel, then going back into a sit, with lots of praise and treating for correct behavior, mixed throughout with copious amounts of "Off" and occasional shunning out of necessity. Also he'll have to stay on a mat with all four feet on the ground when people come into the house. They can come say hi to him and he has to stay under control, with the mat helping him understand what is expected. She also said (I know others in this thread have already disagreed with this somewhat) to make a game with his toys when he is playing with them, short and fun and then give them back so he sees they will always come back.
 

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Good for you in hiring a trainer. Resource guarding is something that usually takes a skilled intervention once it has started. I hope your trainer is as excellent as Catherine or Click :)
 

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Excellent, as long as the trainer does not believe in punishing the behaviour away. There was a famous UK tv show in which a young trainer tried to scare a dog out of resource guarding... To give the young man his due, he was willing to admit he might be wrong, and accepted the offer of training with Ian Dunbar!
 
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I am glad you found a trainer to work on this with. I look forward to hearing about your progress.
 
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