Preventing Aggression Over Possessions and Food in Puppies
Posted on Friday, March 01, 2013 8:37 AM
The best way to prevent food guarding is to go up to the puppy while it is eating (adults only; not children at first) and toss something extra yummy near the food bowl. Progress to adding the treats right into the bowl.
Recognize these warnings as an impending problem and go back to conditioning the dog to welcome approach by adding yummy treats once again. This approach can be used to prevent other types of resource guarding as well. For example, if the puppy is lying on his mat chewing a bone, the kids can walk past and toss really yummy treats onto the dog’s mat. Similarly if the dog has a toy, the kids can toss treats in the direction of the dog and keep walking. The puppy will soon come to view any approach by a person as benign and will not become defensive.
The action that occurs immediately following the approach of the person is the taking of the desired object. Even if the object is subsequently returned, it is the taking away that becomes associated with the approach of a person.
Using this approach could increase bite risk for children and visitors to the home since the dog will assume that any person intends to take his treasures and he may be less tolerant than with the ruling adult.
Another important lesson is the exchange. Obtain two identical bones or Kongs and stuff them with goodies and give one to the puppy. Take the second one and show it to the puppy right under his nose. When he focuses on the second one and starts licking it, take the first one away. Repeat several times per session by walking away and returning to make the exchange. The puppy will soon get the idea that people taking things away is a good thing.
Then if a child ever takes from the dog the possibility of a bite is greatly reduced (children should still be taught not to take anything away from the dog, but best to be prepared in case it does happen). The exchange can also be used to regain stolen objects from the puppy. Instead of punishing the puppy, trade for something the puppy wants more and say “give” or “off” at the same time. The puppy will learn to give up objects willingly at the “give” command, thus reducing the likelihood of a tug-of-war
If resource guarding problems do develop despite your best efforts to prevent them, or the dog is an adult rather than a puppy, don’t delay, seek professional help from a trainer that will use positive methods to solve the problem. Remember, it is critical that the puppy or dog learn that it is a VERY GOOD thing when people come near. Any training approach that involves punishing, startling or frightening the puppy to distract him from growling will make things worse. Never punish a puppy for growling, or allow others to do this. The puppy may learn not to growl and may go straight to a bite the next time, or when you are not there to mete out the discipline. The puppy may become even more worried about kids around his food or toys if bad things happen in the presence of kids.
Resource guarding can develop into a very dangerous situation – a ticking time bomb – with a tragic outcome becoming more and more likely as time goes on. Seek professional help before its to late, not after.
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