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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've browsed this topic many times on Poodle Forum, and have noticed it only seems to come up when the behaviour is severe. So I was wondering if anyone else out there has experience managing moderate or occasional resource guarding (or "RG") in their household?

Here's a great article on the topic, which I read when I'm in need of perspective:


It was written by a certified animal behaviourist, whose words have helped counter some of the "My dog would never do that!" comments I've gotten over the last year. (Trust me — until I saw resource guarding escalate firsthand, I'd have also said my dog would never do that. Or I'd never tolerate it. Or some variation of that. I know better now. Be kind.)

Resource guarding doesn't always read as "scary" to the unfamiliar eye. It can be as subtle as a head bent low and still over a chew toy, or it can seem like "typical dog stuff," like frantic eating or gulping of food (or even non-food items) when you approach. It can even seem "cute" sometimes, especially in small breeds: "Aw! She loves me so much, she doesn't want any other dogs to enjoy my affection! I love you, too, Rover! Silly puppy."

When I surveyed friends and family about whether or not they've dealt with RG, they at first didn't know what I meant. When I explained, I got responses like, "Ohhh like when he growls if we try to take his toy? That's how we know it's his favourite! Lol!"

Since Peggy's first episode, I've made some mistakes (so many mistakes), but I've also made some progress. When I started to see subtle shades of anxiety around the acquisition and possession of socks, for example, I successfully turned it into a game. Now she's more than happy to trade socks for treats. (A little too happy, if I'm honest.)

But...I'm accepting that this might be a lifelong management project—less about extinguishing RG altogether than preventing any embers from flaring up or (worse) spreading.

Yes, we've gone I-don't-know-how-many months now without a serious episode. But how do I know if that's because we're being careful not to trigger Peggy's anxiety around resources or because she's genuinely getting better? How do you ever know? And if I don't know, how can I ever fully trust her?

Simple answer: I can't. And that stinks.

I'd love to use this space for ongoing discussion or commiseration. I'll be "attending" a 3-part resource guarding webinar over the next few weeks and will be sure to share any revelations.
 

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Interesting thoughts. Peggy is so lucky that she has humans in her life that work so hard at understanding her.

There’s a video trend that was going around tiktok (I think anyway, my husband showed me some of these videos) where people would “trick” their dogs by only putting a small portion of a meal then follow with the camera to catch the dogs reaction. There were some funny confused dogs but also some examples of RG behavior and the humans comments were almost always along the lines of “haha, look how mad Fido is at me for only giving them a mouthful of food”. It made me wonder if these people knew what the dogs were doing and were just making a joke for the camera, or did they genuinely not know it was RG?

I personally do not have experience with RG. I do watch all interactions between our guy and my family closely. The other humans don’t always recognize his very subtle poodley communication that he’s uncomfortable and I don’t want him to feel like he has to escalate to be respected. Dog body language can be misinterpreted if you don’t really understand what you’re seeing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
There’s a video trend that was going around tiktok (I think anyway, my husband showed me some of these videos) where people would “trick” their dogs by only putting a small portion of a meal then follow with the camera to catch the dogs reaction. There were some funny confused dogs but also some examples of RG behavior and the humans comments were almost always along the lines of “haha, look how mad Fido is at me for only giving them a mouthful of food”. It made me wonder if these people knew what the dogs were doing and were just making a joke for the camera, or did they genuinely not know it was RG?
Yes! I saw one of those videos and was horrified. It's also pretty common to see "funny" videos of snarling Chihuahuas who appear to be fighting for their very lives while the humans laugh.

The other humans don’t always recognize his very subtle poodley communication that he’s uncomfortable and I don’t want him to feel like he has to escalate to be respected.
Are there any particular signs of discomfort you've noticed?

Peggy, for example, will turn her head away in an exaggerated way. (Or at least it seems exaggerated to me. I'm sure some people might miss it altogether.) Tonight she had a chew in her bed that she usually likes me to hold for her. But when I sat down next to her, she turned her head towards the wall and I immediately left her alone, passing by again only to drop some cheese in her bed. She quickly joined me on the couch to see if I had more cheese, and then ran back to her bed to bring me her chew to hold. Good Peggy. :)

Those are the sorts of management techniques I use—respecting signals and very basic counter-conditioning. I'm not following any sort of program because her episodes are so few and far between. Plus they're not specific to food, toys, found objects, etc. which certainly makes things trickier. I'm hoping the webinar will help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
And P.S. We're lucky to have Peggy, too! She's a fabulous companion in nearly every way. This paragraph from the article I posted above really resonated with me, and especially the very last line:

"Resource guarding is both common and absolutely normal canine behavior. I’m not excusing it or saying that it’s not a problem, but like barking and chewing, it is accepted by many people as part of living with a dog—although clearly, it’s nobody’s favorite part. As is true of other undesirable behavior, though it can be changed and improved with behavior modification, tons of people choose to accept it, figuring that life is too short to demand perfection of their best friends in all contexts."
 

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Yes, I have experienced it, when I gave my first papillon (and first "own" dog) her first ever raw bone and she turned into a snarling, bug eyed monster. I never gave her a bone again. She also used to guard the warm spot in the bed from me if I got up in the night, although we worked through that one. I hope I am a little wiser these days and more able to recognise and circumvent RG - when Poppy as a puppy decided my lap was hers I immediately started praising and rewarding her for sharing, and putting her down on the floor if she refused. It was many years ago, but she will still - with a rather bad grace - move over when asked to make room for Sophy or one of the cats.

I agree absolutely - it is yet another natural dog behaviour that we humans find unacceptable - more so now than when I was a child, when we were warned not to disturb a dog if it was eating or sleeping, and most especially when it had a bone, with the words "If you do and get bitten then it's your own fault!".
 

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I'm looking forward to hearing what you learn, PTP. With my first dog, I had heard of RG described in terms of things, especially food and toys, so it was a surprise to discover Zulu guarded space, sometimes an entire room, and Mia learned to guard me.
 

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And P.S. We're lucky to have Peggy, too! She's a fabulous companion in nearly every way. This paragraph from the article I posted above really resonated with me, and especially the very last line:

"Resource guarding is both common and absolutely normal canine behavior. I’m not excusing it or saying that it’s not a problem, but like barking and chewing, it is accepted by many people as part of living with a dog—although clearly, it’s nobody’s favorite part. As is true of other undesirable behavior, though it can be changed and improved with behavior modification, tons of people choose to accept it, figuring that life is too short to demand perfection of their best friends in all contexts."
This really resonated with me as well. While I’m all about good training, of course, I sometimes feel anxious or frustrated because my dog doesn’t “measure up” or isn’t on the right timeline. I think a lot of dog owners can get like this as we expect more and more from our dogs. I have to talk myself down and remind myself that my dog is a dog and he has his own personality and quirks, just like we humans. It’s a great thing that we are learning more and more and we definitely should train to the best of our ability but sometimes, as my husband tells me.... “he’s just being a dog” and that’s ok.

Sometimes it’s a matter what you feel comfortable with. Each dog and each family situation is unique. Bobby....wait for it....is a master counter surfer. 🤣😱 I’m sure there are all kinds of training tips but for us, we just manage it. We keep the counters clean, he knows the word “Off” quite well...we can live with this. Because it’s just the two of us this is fairly easy to manage and it’s pretty easy to keep an eye on things. If we had a bustling household with children the situation and training would look different. Would I love a dog who wouldn’t even dream of counter surfing? Ever? Absolutely! But for us, we just accept that as dog behavior, definitely impolite and it’s not allowed but it sometimes happens because he is the smart and opportunistic dog that he is. Someday I may work harder with this behavior but that’s another thread.

As far as resource guarding we have been super lucky with Bobby. However, I was making some mistakes early on when he would grab things he shouldn’t. I would just take things right out of his mouth. No issues.
But as he started maturing he wound start holding on with a vice grip. Never once growled but I did realize I needed to change things up. So we started doing the “Trade.” We still work on the “Drop” indoors and out. He still loves to find and
steal “treasures,” especially pens and the remote when indoors and nasty face masks when we are outdoors.😉 He responds pretty fairly consistently to both approaches although sometimes he has to take a moment to think about it. 😉
 

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I haven’t experienced it with any of my dogs that I can remember. When I was young, we had a schnauzer mix that went for my brother’s bare foot while he was walking next to him eating a bone. Back then there was no trying to fix these behaviors and the dog was euthanized.

Beckie does guard her valuables against Merlin. But not against me. I allow it as long as it stays mild, and it always does. But I would intervene if I had to. Merlin doesn’t seem to resource guard but I wouldn’t take anything he likes away from him. I feel he might bite although he never has. In general, I just don’t mess with my dogs eating. I’m horrified when I see videos of people tormenting their dogs and laughing at them growling.

Great subject PTP !
 

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It is interesting to me how resource guarding can take different forms. Early on we had virtually no resource guarding issues with Pogo and Snarky. Part of the reason was inherent temperament. Part of the reason was that I always made sure each dog got the same presents and treats. I trained them together to take turns: Pogo would sit and get his treat, then Snarky would sit and get his treat. I think the taking turns training I did with them created confidence that they did not need to compete. Ultimately there was no reward in doing so. Simply wait your turn and good things will come.

However, as he got into his senior years, Pogo got to be very protective of my husband. He would occasionally give me or Snarky the stink eye when we got too close. I think, without ever realizing it, both Snarky and I simply deferred to him or redirected his attention. Snarky would lie on the floor instead of climbing on the couch. I would call Pogo into the kitchen for a treat or call him to go on a walk. The problem is that the cat, being a cat, didn't have the same ability to read Pogo's signals that Snarky and I had. He would approach my husband for pats, and Pogo would react with a snap and and outraged yip. Sometimes it even turned into a chase. Eventually Pogo succeeded in training the cat to steer clear.
 

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Are there any particular signs of discomfort you've noticed?

Peggy, for example, will turn her head away in an exaggerated way. (Or at least it seems exaggerated to me. I'm sure some people might miss it altogether.)
Many people would choose to ignore it even if they noticed.

The signals I’m watching for are mostly during play. We like to play you chase me, I chase you in the yard, and it’s all fine until one of the humans catches him in a corner or there’s accidental contact that’s too hard (he crashes into a knee or something). His body language to my eye immediately switches from happy bouncy poodle to I’m feeling nervous about this. Tail drops, face tightens and his whole body stiffens slightly. When I’m playing with him if this happens I immediately disengage and sit down, he takes a moment then comes and sits for snuggles and we recover quickly. The rest of the family doesn’t always catch this and will keep trying to chase him. I don’t as much worry about him doing anything to them (I believe he’s had some unkind treatment from people in the past and from what I’ve seen I think would completely shutdown long before before he acted out, he’s a very soft dog) but I am conscious of his feelings and trust in us. He’s the type of dog where you have to work for everything, I want to keep building up the trust bank. Although I haven’t seen anything RG it’s on my radar and I’ve tried to do some trading work.

I have to continually remind everyone that he’s not Buddy, an opinionated mixed breed shepherd we had when the kids were younger, he was very nice but very clear and direct in his communication. Came off the streets and was tough. Displayed some RG tendencies in very specific circumstances but we just managed the environment to never create those situations (bones).

It’s interesting to hear how this changes over time too with age, life experiences and circumstances. Thanks for sharing everyone!
 

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I am struggling with this one a bit. Especially with the dynamics of a multidog household.

I was also always taught as a child that resource guarding is normal dog behaviour - more of a surprise if the dog doesn't resource guard than if they do! I think because we never took it for granted, it never really developed much in the dogs we had. I have learned more about how to prevent it, but it's still well in the range of unsurprisingly/ expected to me. I basically expect any dog that is not mine to resource guard from me. There is a huge amount of trust involved for a dog to relinquish something valuable to a human.

Annie has never resource guarded from ME but Trixie is a nuisance dog and likes to steal. Mom just laughs "oh how cute! She stole Annie's toy/Kong etc". I worry and try and block her from stealing because I am watching how Annie turns her head and occasionally warns her off with a low growl which Trixie ignores. If Annie choses to snap it will be a big issue! But frankly, if someone came up to me while I was lying down relaxing with a toy, snatched it from me and then ran around the room crowing about it, I might growl or snap too. And then if Trixie has it, Trixie will sometimes snarl over it (other times she tries to get Annie to chase her around the house). So now I often encourage Annie to sit with me on the couch with her toys so Trixie can't get them. Or sit on the ground between her and Trixie and run defense or try and distract Trixie with another game that isn't 'Steal Annie's toy and make her chase me, then growl if she gets too close!"

Annie doesn't resource guard from other dogs at the park, just with Trixie. So I am not really sure how to deal with this. Trixie is a sneak and I don't know how to stop her either.

Because I EXPECTED resource guarding as just default dog behaviour, I did a lot of work with Annie as a puppy trading toys, random garbage outside, etc, for treats, inspecting toys and garbage and handing them back, and holding on to the end of things as she chewed in my lap. We even play fetch with her raw bones! I don't guarantee Annie wouldn't resource guard from someone else, though.

Lately she does occasionally grumble (not growl, different noise) at Mom when Mom sits on the couch next to her, then hops off. I don't think it is exactly resource guarding - Mom often sits kinda on top of her tail/butt! I would grumble too. I have asked Mom to tell Annie to get off the couch before she sits on it, since grumbling over the couch isn't okay. And... She did it for one day, and now she doesn't bother. I am frustrated.

I watched someone in the park the other day. He had complimented me on how nicely Annie retrieves. Annie brought and gave him a ball and he proceeded to tease her with it and took a good minute to throw it back. This was the first time she had brought him her ball, and Annie didn't bring the toy to him again - her trust that he would throw it was broken. I can see how that could eventually escalate to resource guarding if he tried to take a toy from her, got it, then didn't return it or teased her with it for a long time. I don't always immediately throw the ball, but we have enough of a relationship of trust for me to get away with it (and usually I am asking for something like a stay, a heel, or a sequence of behaviours so she trusts that when she is done, she gets the reward).

Trixie has resource guarded from me, and mom and Annie. She enjoys it as a game, but is sometimes very serious. Bones and high value chews from me, and toys from Annie - snarling and bluff charges. We had about 6 months where we refused to give her any sort of high value chew. I still won't give her any chew that needs to be taken away, and I feed Annie bones outside so Trixie can't get at them (she will steal them from Annie then resource guard them from all of us), and I leave Annie outside anytime Trixie has a chew. I give Trixie bones only in one particular room where she can't escape without human help so she doesn't start guarding where the bone USED TO be. I have done as ton of work to get her to let me hold them while she chews ( I have a duck wing tip offer it to her, and don't let go but let her chew the end) eventually, since she isn't really HAPPY about that, the moment she releases the bone to me, I drop it and leave the room (big reward). Wouldn't recommend the method to anyone, as there is definitely a risk of a bite. I have also done some work with coming back and giving her a SECOND chew, as me approaching was enough to trigger her at one point. It's gotten a lot better but I don't trust her more than 80%. Also have been working on trading 'toys' for treats.

Life would be a lot easier if I could fit a crate or an ex pen in the house!
 

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The family dog, Zeus will guard his toys. He growls at us when we get near him.. its SCARY because he has a big head, and he weights over 90 pounds. I'm not even sure how to begin training his out of him. I have been trying the "toy switch" to try and get him to let go of one, but he still ends up with another one in his mouth as soon as possible. Rewarding him for not growling also helps, but i'm really not as "on top" as it as I should be, sometimes I feel too overwhemed with my "heart dog" (who is also a family dog) who has sorta become my responsiblitiy that I don't quite have time to work with the other dog.. I do try though. That's something c:

Deacon has never had any issues, never once showed any sort signs of being uncomfortable with me around his food, or toys. He's never been around another dog with his food or toys, but he doesn't mind sharing with the cats.
 

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Kohl was terrible about guarding his food when he was a pup. I’ve had dogs all my life, and one thing that’s been standard is to regularly check that the dog will let me reach into his bowl, get a piece of food and feed it to him without any sign of stress. Did not have to check with Kohl. He seriously went for the cats when they just looked at the full food bowl - the cats that to this day are his boss at any other time. He growled at me if I approached before finishing his food. He is very, very food- and prey-driven.

There was no way I was tolerating that, so for the next couple of months, I hand fed him all of his meals. I taught him ‘leave it’ and ‘take it’ using toys ASAP, then graduated to food. I’m lucky that Kohl is smart. The first time he very reluctantly spit out food when I said ‘leave it’ only to immediately get much more than he gave to ‘take’ as a reward he became 100% reliable on ‘leave it’, LOL. I went back to feeding him like normal and did the usual check. He’d stopped the guarding behavior.

However, I still have him eat in his crate to protect the cats even though he’s not seemed bothered by them since the training. One mistake there and the kitties are seriously injured or dead, so I’m not taking the chance. I‘m not confident that he’d let other familiar people near his food without a reaction either, nor am I interested in testing him. Other people can feed him or take an empty bowl and he’s fine.
 

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This really resonated with me as well. While I’m all about good training, of course, I sometimes feel anxious or frustrated because my dog doesn’t “measure up” or isn’t on the right timeline. I think a lot of dog owners can get like this as we expect more and more from our dogs. I have to talk myself down and remind myself that my dog is a dog and he has his own personality and quirks, just like we humans. It’s a great thing that we are learning more and more and we definitely should train to the best of our ability but sometimes, as my husband tells me.... “he’s just being a dog” and that’s ok.
I don't think I ever completely appreciated the difference between individual dogs before I spent a lot of time with two females, of the same breed, from the same breeder, living and raised by the same person. The difference between those two dogs is like night and day. I swear one of them must have doggy ADHD, its not the energy level per se but the lack of impulse control (I have ADHD myself). I know that the owner has put A LOT more effort and time into increasing the impulse control of that dog.

I know it was very hard on the owner because she was putting more work in that dog than she had with her other and was, as far as she could see, getting a fraction of the results. But as they live far away from us there would often be months between our visits. The difference that I saw from visit to visit was remarkable! There was a lot of progress happening if you compared the dog to how she had been before, rather than comparing her to her sister or to other dogs of easier breeds.

Sometimes the progress is so slow that if you are living with the dog everyday you don't see it as clearly. Especially when you are trying to change behaviour, not teaching obedience. One time when I would visit she would jump on me relentlessly (this was a rodesian ridgeback). But then three months later she would jump 3 times before pausing and think 'wait what was I suppose to do in this situation??' It wasn't perfect, there is still a long way to go, but it was tremendous progress. Very impressive considering that she was still a teenager.

It has really taught me that there is no right timeline for the most part. Of course early intervention is incredibly important but every dog is different and they need to learn things on their own pace.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
I should’ve known better, but I was actually starting to believe the resource guarding was behind us. Tonight I got a little reality check.

You may recall this:

Since Peggy's first episode, I've made some mistakes (so many mistakes), but I've also made some progress. When I started to see subtle shades of anxiety around the acquisition and possession of socks, for example, I successfully turned it into a game. Now she's more than happy to trade socks for treats. (A little too happy, if I'm honest.)
So you can imagine my shock when I saw my husband tossing treats down the hall, but Peggy standing frozen like a statue with a pair of my socks in her mouth. Before I could even ask what had happened, I heard an ominous growl. It was triggered just by me stepping out of the kitchen.

I told her to go to her bed, which she did immediately. But when I grabbed some treats to toss, just the slight bend of my body forward triggered another deep growl, socks clenched tightly between her teeth.

This has never happened with socks. This hasn’t happened period for months and months. So what went wrong??

Well....

Peggy has a strong drive to retrieve, but she also enjoys playing keep-away. Lately we’ve been playing games where she trades her ball in for a treat, so before dinner I decided to actively practise this with her beloved wool dryer ball: Toss, retrieve, trade. Toss, retrieve, trade. Toss, retrieve, trade.

After half a dozen enthusiastic repetitions, I noticed her growing reluctance. She wanted the treat, and was willing to drop the ball, but she was trying to put the ball out of reach before she reached for the treat. So I stopped. Shortly afterwards, she stole the socks.

I probed my husband: Did you initially bend over her to take them away? Did you toss treats towards her or away from her? But as I’m trying to understand the events so I can figure out a gameplan, the whole time I’m thinking, “How am I going to manage this around friends? Family members? Dogsitters? Is this really going to be a constant worry for the rest of Peggy’s life?” Even as I’ve got my problem-solving hat on, my stomach’s in knots.

It took me a long time to bond with Peggy, and a big part of our dramatically improved relationship has been the absence of guarding behaviours. Even at her last playdate, when she gave a little growl to a dog who tried to steal something from her, I called her and she instantly dropped the item and ran to me, all anxiety forgotten. I was overjoyed and the other humans present were amazed by her recall. Enough moments like that and it’s easy to forget Peggy still has a very real RG issue.

Probably, too, I’ve slacked on trading. Lately, if I’ve dropped a pair of socks while putting away laundry, instead of treating it as an opportunity to reinforce Peggy’s newly easygoing attitude around them, I was just picking the socks up from underneath her nose.

I’m rambling now. I just hate this. Intellectually I know resource guarding is normal dog stuff. But my heart doesn’t quite get it. In my silly human way, I feel....betrayed? And I’m also so scared it will someday escalate.

Thanks as always for the place to vent.
 

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That is truly not fun. At all. I don’t know what I would do in your shoes but I would be besides myself. In my opinion, you’ve gone wayyyyyy beyond what the average owner can do in such a situation.

There is a real risk here and I know you’re well aware of it. If she was a toy, okay. But a standard has a lot of power. Time to get serious professional help ! People ask for consults for a lot more trivial stuff. Get the burden off your shoulders. That’s what I would do.
 

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Isn't Peggy also in heat right now? A bit more temperamental and sensitive than usual? Didnt you have issues with resource guarding on one of the other heats, too?

Not excusing it, just wondering if that may be a factor.

I live with a resource guarder too - Trixie. I really do have to be careful and conscious, and yeah, it's a forever thing to be watchful for, even though things have really improved and I have worked a lot with her.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Isn't Peggy also in heat right now? A bit more temperamental and sensitive than usual? Didnt you have issues with resource guarding on one of the other heats, too?

Not excusing it, just wondering if that may be a factor.

I live with a resource guarder too - Trixie. I really do have to be careful and conscious, and yeah, it's a forever thing to be watchful for, even though things have really improved and I have worked a lot with her.
Yep, she’s about two weeks into her third heat. I did consider that might be a factor, but she’s been so docile this time around. Just an absolute dream.

I wish I could see how the scenario actually started with my husband. Almost every resource guarding episode I’ve experienced with her began with an interaction with him. I’m not saying he’s doing anything wrong. But it’s clearly a piece of the puzzle.

It’s frustrating because we can work through the standard RG protocols with no issue. I’m willing to keep working on it, but we have to work smarter not harder. I’ll take your advice, @Dechi, and ask our trainer for a referral to a behaviourist. We don’t have any around here, and travelling’s not an option with covid, but maybe they’ll consult remotely.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I just watched my husband put Peggy’s diaper on her—how she stood so politely and stands so politely for multiple changes each day. I think about all the tricks she knows, how she’s a masterful cuddler and how she walked so beautifully today, she literally stopped traffic...more than once! And it struck me just how complex our dog friends can be.

I sent emails to a couple of board-certified animal behaviourists, but I need to let go of my desire for perfection. Tonight was a setback. Tomorrow will probably be better. Onward.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
One more update for the night, because this whole thing is just so baffling to me:

I decided to see if I could rapidly lower the value of socks. I have a pair I was about to toss because they have holes in the heels, so I knotted them together, dropped them on the floor, and my husband and I sat down to watch a movie. As expected, she swiftly snatched them up and retreated behind the couch.

“Don’t make eye contact,” I said. “Don’t even look at her.”

Mere seconds layer, she came skipping out from behind the couch and tossed the socks in the air. As we continued to ignore her, she hopped up onto the couch, curled up, and put the socks on my leg. And that was that. As I type this, she’s curled up against me, snoozing.

Does this even sound like normal resource guarding? Or could it be something else?

I went back through my notes and the last time she growled while guarding something was two weeks after her last heat, when we were cooped up in the middle of all that awful wildfire smoke. I walked away and—moments later—she brought me the item in the exact same way she did tonight. Placed it right in my lap and everything.
 
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