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It's been a few hours and I'm still pretty shaken up about it. Coco, my six month spoo bit me so hard, it drew blood and my fingers are still throbbing. Here's what happened - I received a package and left the open box by the door while I stepped away to the bathroom. When I came back to the living room, walking past Coco, I noticed he growled as he was guarding something. He usually only does this when he has a bone. He's been getting into so much trouble lately, putting everything in his mouth so I immediately went over to see what he had gotten in his mouth. I noticed it was a long piece of tape. I knew if I didn't get the tape away from him before he swallowed the entire thing - it would be an incredibly painful ordeal for him. I cautiously inched over, as he was already on attack stance and growling. My sister quickly brought over some kibble to distract him from the tape - it only worked for a split second. When I went to grab the tape he clamped down on my thumbs and wouldn't let go. I let out a scream and pulled my fingers out of his mouth with the tape intact. My sister immediately took him to his crate. He's bitten before but we knew it was due to teething, and even then, his bites were never this strong. I've walked by his crate and noticed he's uneasy, hasn't sat down, and is having a hard time looking me in the eyes. I'm beyond heartbroken and on the verge of tears.
 

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Ouch ! I can empathize with you, being bit by your own dog is traumatizing. I’ve experienced it but mine is a toy, so it didn’t hurt as much.

I would find the best dog trainer around. Until then, don’t try to take stuff away from him unless you have a very yummy treat, like cheese, ham, or something really extraordinary. Get him away from the object, in another room.

And of course, don’t let anything he can get into on the floor or anywhere he can reach. I’m really sorry this happened. It sucks. :-(
 

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Oh no. I can see why you would be upset.

What disturbs me in your description is that it seems like he has been rehearsing resource guarding, to the point where today you got bit. Maybe, hopefully, he didn't really mean to bite that hard and is now thinking "Oops, let's not do that again." However, I wouldn't consider it a sure bet. In your shoes I would consult with an experienced trainer. Many vet schools have a behavioral program associated with them, if you aren't sure how to find a trainer qualified to help.
 

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I'm so sorry. :( Resource guarding is scary stuff.

Peggy does it on occasion and she is absolutely NOT herself when it happens. Her eyes glaze over; she's operating on a very primal level. Once she is "released" from the fear that her treasure will be stolen, she visibly shakes it off and actively tries to appease me. The one time she guarded a chew (it's usually super random stolen items, like a clump of grass or a piece of bark) she brought it to me a minute later and kept nudging it into my hand.

In his own doggy way, Coco is sorry. I promise. I find reading Patricia McConnell very soothing:


I agree that it's time to find a trainer if you haven't already. Coco has now crossed a line and may be more likely to cross it again now that he has reason to believe his non-confrontational signals (stiffening, growling, etc.) don't work.

But proceed with caution. You want someone who has studied animal behaviour, like cowpony said. You don't want someone coming in your front door, spouting stuff about showing Coco "who's boss." Resource guarding is not a dominance issue, so keep that in mind as you proceed.

If your vet can't recommend someone, call around to other vet clinics as well as your local animal shelters.

I'm actually "attending" an online resource guarding seminar in December. It's the first three Saturdays of the month, and you can watch live and/or view the videos for one year afterwards. Let me know if you're interested and I'll message you the info.

My fear is what happened to you today: That Peggy will guard something dangerous and I'll have no choice but to ignore her warnings. You were in a very tough spot.

I recommend keeping something extremely high value on hand at all times. This is wise even for those whose dogs aren't known resource guarders. Then just toss! toss! toss! Keep tossing a little further away until even a clever dog like our poodles can't resist.

And keep in mind that this is only for an emergency. Generally speaking, it's good to pick your battles and give non-dangerous items right back. I sensed that wool dryer balls were getting a little too high value for Peggy, so I practised this regularly. Now she brings them to me, so it really is possible to make progress, even if it's just baby steps.

Keep in mind, too, that Coco is at a very mouth-oriented stage in his development. It's maddening how much they will pick up and "explore" with their mouths through puppyhood and early adolescence.

Have faith. Sending hugs.
 

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I think you need a behaviorist not just a trainer. I agree with cowpony that it sounds like he has rehearsed this resource guarding before and that you should take an approach that will help you understand how dogs develop this behavior and how to make meaningful change occur. I was bitten on the hand once (really just caught an air snap from Peeves that was meant to tell Javelin to back off) but caught me between two knuckles on one hand. He never closed his mouth but it did snag me on a GSD canine. It was deep and it was painful both physically and psychologically. I understand how upsetting this is. A good behaviorist will help you both move past this and get your boy out of that behavior pattern of guarding.

Here is a link to a place where you can find rigorously certified trainers and behaviorists. Certified Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant Directory - CCPDT
 

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Tonight at 2 AM remember: Coco is not a Bad Dog. He needs further training.
You are not a Bad Owner. You need some training guidance.
All trainers aren't necessarily helpful. Find one who shares your attitudes and goals for Coco.
You can do this.
 

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You’ve received some outstanding advice above. You need to get ahead of this before it becomes a lasting behavior. From day one, I made sure Happy was comfortable with being handled and touched anytime, anywhere – especially when food and toys are involved. I think once Coco understands you’re not a threat to his stuff, he’ll be more cooperative.
 

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I had two foster dogs with owner possession. They were both papillons and from puppy mills. This is a problem with the breed if they are poorly bred (puppy mill). Owner possession is considered to be resource guarding with a singular person being the resource guarded. The dog is fine with everyone until his or her favorite person enters the room, then the dog chases everyone away from the person. It is not from bad training, but from bad breeding. I have not heard of it in poodles, but I would not rule it out. As suggested above, you want a behaviorist who is familiar with poodles and familiar with resource guarding.

The red flag for me is that Coco gave you a real bite, not a warning snap and snarl.
 

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Michigan Gal, I had a pomeranian that was so bad at resource guarding, I had to rehome him to my Mom. My first born child was 7 months old and becoming mobile.

My pom growled at my stomache when unborn child moved, attacked my husband if he dared to sit next to me, attacked anything that moved outside. He was an amazingly loving dog, to me only. He died young ( 8 yrs old ) . I don't think he ever adjusted to being rehomed. I loved that dog.
 

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I had two foster dogs with owner possession. They were both papillons and from puppy mills. This is a problem with the breed if they are poorly bred (puppy mill). Owner possession is considered to be resource guarding with a singular person being the resource guarded. The dog is fine with everyone until his or her favorite person enters the room, then the dog chases everyone away from the person. It is not from bad training, but from bad breeding.
I'm not sure that's entirely accurate. There may be a genetic component, but there are other suspected causes, too. And a lot of question marks. The variables are extensive and I know of no information out there that suggests a particular breed may be excluded.

Peggy, as I mentioned above, has occasionally guarded random items. (So random that we've been unable to recreate it for our trainer, but that randomness makes it trickier to manage.)

She came to us malnourished because she wasn't properly digesting the breeder's food. None of her siblings are resource guarders. Did she learn this behaviour because she was desperately hungry and had to defend her food? Maybe.

I also chased her when she was quite young and had stolen something utterly forgettable. Seems so silly now. I could've done that with my last girl (likely a puppy mill dog) no problem. But....it may have planted the RG seed in Peggy. Or perhaps it "watered" it. I'll likely never know and neither will Coco's dear human.

I linked this above, but it's worth sharing twice as it's a lovely little overview, which I believe strikes the perfect tone for such a common but alarming behaviour:


An excerpt:

I would argue, based on the little research we have and my own experiences with hundreds of RG cases (1,000’s?), that there is a genetic component to the behavior. I’ve worked with litters of 11 dogs in which the biggest and strongest (and first to get to the nipple) pup became the RG dog very early in life. On the other hand, there is a great deal of research on a variety of species that reminds us that experience plays a significant role in “winning” and “losing” competitions. (See Hsu & Wolf 1999 for example.) One early win makes subsequent wins more likely, and vice versa. I suspect that this is one of those complicated behaviors that has both a genetic and an experiential component, and that the resultant behavior is some kind of interaction between nature and nurture. But again, we really don’t know. Anyone looking for a PhD topic?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Ouch ! I can empathize with you, being bit by your own dog is traumatizing. I’ve experienced it but mine is a toy, so it didn’t hurt as much.

I would find the best dog trainer around. Until then, don’t try to take stuff away from him unless you have a very yummy treat, like cheese, ham, or something really extraordinary. Get him away from the object, in another room.

And of course, don’t let anything he can get into on the floor or anywhere he can reach. I’m really sorry this happened. It sucks. :-(
Dechi, thank you so much for the kind words of reassurance ❤ I’ll make sure to keep some very yummy treats on hand in the event I’m ever in this situation again.
 

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Oh no. I can see why you would be upset.

What disturbs me in your description is that it seems like he has been rehearsing resource guarding, to the point where today you got bit. Maybe, hopefully, he didn't really mean to bite that hard and is now thinking "Oops, let's not do that again." However, I wouldn't consider it a sure bet. In your shoes I would consult with an experienced trainer. Many vet schools have a behavioral program associated with them, if you aren't sure how to find a trainer qualified to help.
I agree! This isn’t the first time he’s resource guarded. He’s done it with a bone before but through much training I was able to get around to picking the bone up without so much as a glance. The fact that it wasn’t a high quality treat, it was just a scrap of tape, took me off guard. It doesn’t help that he’s entering the teenage phase. He also has a bad habit of jumping on you and trying to put your hands into his mouth when you place your hands up to correct behavior. I’m now terrified of this.
 

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I'm so sorry. :( Resource guarding is scary stuff.

Peggy does it on occasion and she is absolutely NOT herself when it happens. Her eyes glaze over; she's operating on a very primal level. Once she is "released" from the fear that her treasure will be stolen, she visibly shakes it off and actively tries to appease me. The one time she guarded a chew (it's usually super random stolen items, like a clump of grass or a piece of bark) she brought it to me a minute later and kept nudging it into my hand.

In his own doggy way, Coco is sorry. I promise. I find reading Patricia McConnell very soothing:


I agree that it's time to find a trainer if you haven't already. Coco has now crossed a line and may be more likely to cross it again now that he has reason to believe his non-confrontational signals (stiffening, growling, etc.) don't work.

But proceed with caution. You want someone who has studied animal behaviour, like cowpony said. You don't want someone coming in your front door, spouting stuff about showing Coco "who's boss." Resource guarding is not a dominance issue, so keep that in mind as you proceed.

If your vet can't recommend someone, call around to other vet clinics as well as your local animal shelters.

I'm actually "attending" an online resource guarding seminar in December. It's the first three Saturdays of the month, and you can watch live and/or view the videos for one year afterwards. Let me know if you're interested and I'll message you the info.

My fear is what happened to you today: That Peggy will guard something dangerous and I'll have no choice but to ignore her warnings. You were in a very tough spot.

I recommend keeping something extremely high value on hand at all times. This is wise even for those whose dogs aren't known resource guarders. Then just toss! toss! toss! Keep tossing a little further away until even a clever dog like our poodles can't resist.

And keep in mind that this is only for an emergency. Generally speaking, it's good to pick your battles and give non-dangerous items right back. I sensed that wool dryer balls were getting a little too high value for Peggy, so I practised this regularly. Now she brings them to me, so it really is possible to make progress, even if it's just baby steps.

Keep in mind, too, that Coco is at a very mouth-oriented stage in his development. It's maddening how much they will pick up and "explore" with their mouths through puppyhood and early adolescence.

Have faith. Sending hugs.
[/QUOT
Thank you for the hugs and the kind words. I kept putting off getting a trainer because I thought I could handle all training, considering how well we’ve done with basic commands and how intelligent he is. But I feel I’m a bit out of my depth at this point.

I can definitely attest to Coco becoming a completely different puppy when resource guarding. I’d love more information on the seminar you’re attending in December. It’s funny you mentioned researching my trainer before letting him walk into my house demanding I show my dog who is boss. During Coco’s first weeks at home, I made several frantic calls to the breeder with questions about the incessant biting. His words were “Smack him and smack him hard. If he does it again, you didn’t smack him hard enough. He needs to know you’re the boss.” Needless to say, the calls to him quickly came to a full stop.
 

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Thank you for the hugs and the kind words. I kept putting off getting a trainer because I thought I could handle all training, considering how well we’ve done with basic commands and how intelligent he is. But I feel I’m a bit out of my depth at this point.

I can definitely attest to Coco becoming a completely different puppy when resource guarding. I’d love more information on the seminar you’re attending in December. It’s funny you mentioned researching my trainer before letting him walk into my house demanding I show my dog who is boss. During Coco’s first weeks at home, I made several frantic calls to the breeder with questions about the incessant biting. His words were “Smack him and smack him hard. If he does it again, you didn’t smack him hard enough. He needs to know you’re the boss.” Needless to say, the calls to him quickly came to a full stop.
MY GOODNESS. My jaw absolutely dropped reading that. And for such a little baby puppy, too!! I'm so glad that you recognized that as a red flag (and just plain horrible advice). Sad to say, a lot of folks wouldn't. :(

I'll message you now about the seminar. I hope you're doing okay. I've been thinking about you and Coco, hoping you've made amends at least for tonight.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I think you need a behaviorist not just a trainer. I agree with cowpony that it sounds like he has rehearsed this resource guarding before and that you should take an approach that will help you understand how dogs develop this behavior and how to make meaningful change occur. I was bitten on the hand once (really just caught an air snap from Peeves that was meant to tell Javelin to back off) but caught me between two knuckles on one hand. He never closed his mouth but it did snag me on a GSD canine. It was deep and it was painful both physically and psychologically. I understand how upsetting this is. A good behaviorist will help you both move past this and get your boy out of that behavior pattern of guarding.

Here is a link to a place where you can find rigorously certified trainers and behaviorists. Certified Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant Directory - CCPDT
Thank you for the link Lily!

I wish I could say Coco just nipped me, but in the adrenaline of it all, I vaguely remember trying to pry his mouth open to remove my thumbs. Although my memory might fail me, I have two throbbing thumbs and a long cut from where I ripped my finger out. I’ll be calling a trainer first thing Monday morning. It’s imperative we correct this dangerous behavior while he’s still a puppy.
 

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In regard to it being genetic, I would say there is for sure a genetic component. Wolves are incredibly intense resource guarders. It is the ancestral state. Even a dog that is a low percentage wolf is likely to have strong resource guarding tendencies. But certainly environment will shape the outcome of genetics. The issue can be improved or exacerbated based on the owner's actions. Even with a dog that is a high percentage wolf, it is possible to teach them positive trading.
 

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You have already received excellent advice, so I would just add that I hope you are coming out of the feelings of shock and upset, and feeling a little more back in control. My first papillon once horrified me by snarling pop-eyed over the first raw bone I ever gave her - back in those days there was little sensible advice on how to address the issue, and I simply stopped giving her bones. Nothing else was ever valuable enough to trigger the behaviour.

Coco is still Coco - funny, clever, loving, cuddly Coco. He needs to learn how to control his reactions around things he values highly, but with help you can do this. Did he learn bite inhibition as a puppy? It would be interesting to know how old he was when he left his mother, and what methods you used to discourage those puppy biting games. There is so little real research into resource guarding that every anecdote can help build up the picture.
 

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I hope you find a great person to work with. Again I suggest getting a behaviorist rather than a regular trainer if at all possible. Make sure you take good care of your injuries and nourish your mind too. If you can spend some time today doing some fun stuff with Coco. That will be good for you both.

As an aside for anyone who finds themselves with a body part in a dog's mouth under potentially damaging circumstances don't pull away. If the dog doesn't release then you rip yourself up in the process of trying to end the bite. I know that is easy to say, but hard to do. The air snap that I caught from Peeves was mostly a puncture, not a tear because once he were in contact so to speak I didn't move my hand. He withdrew almost instantly and never closed his mouth over my hand.
 
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