Dog Training World Forums Aggression Problems General Aggression Problem Discussion 6 mo, likely terrier mix pup, resource guarding & aggression toward owner Reply To: 6 mo, likely terrier mix pup, resource guarding & aggression toward owner

  • Allie Dellosa

    March 19, 2023 at 5:08 pm

    Stormy used to (when we brought her home at 2 months) resource guard her food so frantically she would vomit and then resource guard her vomit. She would also try to inhale chews and or hide with them or shake and be so upset about guarding them. She was the runt of litter with a mom who was emaciated during her pregnancy. Remembering that resource guarding can be worsened if we confirm that: when we are around her while she has food, there is a chance she may lose it, we went to work changing her perception.

    We first, had her chew and left her completely alone, but she was still nervous so she would inhale her bully sticks in a dangerous way…so we put a bully holder on them and fed her high high high value rewards for trading us… raw meat or lunch type meat. She would also swallow things if she thought we were going to take them…..super dangerous. So we managed her space carefully, and if need be, traded her a very high value and high VOLUME reward for a trade.

    Meanwhile she learned leave it, out, sit etc. so that I could give her a command to leave a food item and reward her for obeying, we didn’t really push this though, until she was well into her p3 for the out/leave it….that way we could follow through without touching her….although I don’t remember this being a huge issue, we did practice on toys first.

    The other half of her meal came directly from the treat pouch. Not always for training sometimes just for following me around and being cute. I just wanted food and me to be synonymous with being cool and not frantic. She is now not only not concerned about her food, she is quite comfortable having things removed as she knows it will always PAY out for her.

    This is her now (it only took about a month of doing this stuff to see her relax and change). I think there is definitely hope for your lil terrier. It sounds like you already have a plan for how to manage this stuff and help the owners, with you in their corner I think they will do great.

    I posted the write up below on my group page for my clients recently….for my peeps its a pretty common problem, many have come from trainers who say to practice taking the dogs food to show them who’s boss….or bug them while eat etc.

    Human behavior tip: trade your dog for an item rather than taking the item. Resource guarding is so easy to address, counter condition, and manage.

    First rule: don’t bother your dog’s food items. There are so many YouTube videos (or incompetent ideologies) that talk about taking your dog food items or bones away, so that they know that you are the “boss”. This is not only ethologically incorrect, it teaches them that when you are around their food or chew, they may lose it. It reafirms and can turn simple resource guarding into food aggression (where the dog goes from a defensive strategy to an offensive strategy).

    Dogs have the same family structures and values that we do. We do not take food from our children to show them that we are the boss, neither do canines.

    Adult canines will often feed their young and subordinates first, and often the most fulfilling parts of the “meal”, just like we would. Adult canines do not view resource guarding from puppies or subordinates as a challenge or behavioral problem.

    Second rule: go slowly. You can see Storm understands this process and is comfortable with it. At this point she looks at us when the bully gets down to the safety guard, waiting for her cookies. Brian asks her to sit with playful “command structure” so she moves into a more neutral position in a playful way, and then gently removes it as he treats her with high value rewards.

    We started by offering her an item that required more attention, like a small Jerkey stick or almond butter smeared on the floor, to show her we will always add to her and to give us more time to take the bully guard (if she left the other item to come back to the bully we had treats in our pockets and would offer those as a lure away).

    Rule 3: add don’t subtract. Storm came to us growling over her food and so nervous about eating that she would vomit and resource guard the vomit (as a 8 week old pup). We practiced giving her smaller meals and added to her meal by tossing higher value food toward her, from a distance she was relatively comfortable with (counter conditioning). Eventually the behavior disappeared.

    Rule 4: don’t punish growling!!!!!! Growling is beautiful communication. Respect it. Troubleshoot it. Do NOT punish it. Punishing communication will at best subdue your dog and damage your relationship, at worst it will cause your dog to skip steps in the bite sequence and lose that valuable warning.

    We still don’t take anything from her or bother her when she is chewing or eating, however, her perception of what will happen to her when we are around her and food has totally changed. She went from gobbling down her bones in an unsafe and frantic manner to enjoying a nice long chew at my feet.

    Understanding canine behavior is not a wild secret. If it makes sense for an familial animal (like a human) it probably makes sense for a dog.

    Humans often expect our dogs to be whatever we want them to be, like us, obey us, tolerate our mistakes, and fill in the gaps in our lack of education, we expect them to want to work for us no matter how poorly we behave or how unpredictable we are. Often times dogs are punished for for human error. Let’s do our best as FSDT dog trainers to do better and extend the compassion and effort that we want when we are learning.

    Temperament is definitely a factor. I love sharing my food, Brian doesn’t. If I want fries I better order some and that is OK. I respect his resource guard because I love him. Don’t our dogs deserve the same?