- Pet forum for dogs cats and humans 


Need Help with very strange Toy Aggression.

Sadie's Mom
March 10th, 2005, 11:32 PM
Hi guys!

I' have an important question for you all. Sadie has been exhibiting the strangest toy aggression lately. :evil: She's been so nasty, it's driving me nuts. It's so horribly frustrating! Please please help me figure it out.

She only does it with edible toys, such as dentabones or rawhide bones. She'll take the bone and hide it in her bed very carefully. Then, if I come down to her level to give her a kiss, she'll growl at me and bare her teeth! She's even snapped at me before. The strange thing is, I'm able to take the bone out of her bed no problem. She only freaks out if I touch her, or try to remove her from her bed when the bone is in it. Also, she'll play fetch with the bone and bring it to me repeatedly, but the moment I pick her up and the bone is left on the floor she'll growl and snarl.

I've searched all over the net and in books, and this aggressive behaviour is never described.

Please offer any advice you may have, I really want to stop this behaviour now when she's young (She's 9 months old). I would hate for it to develop into more aggressiveness. She's such a great dog otherwise.

Thanks a ton!

March 11th, 2005, 02:16 AM
I think this could be classed as resource guarding? Here's a link about it and how to handle it in a positive manner. Someone correct me if I'm out in left field on this one but it sounds like early stages of it?

Sadie's Mom
March 11th, 2005, 02:26 PM
Thanks BMD, that article was helpful because it was more generalized than most, but it still doesn't completely solve Sadie's problem. I'm able to take her bone away no problem, that's not when she growls at me. If I take HER away from her bone by picking her up, that's when she freaks out.

But the last part was particularly re-assuring because I just threw out the bone that was causing the problem and I wasn't sure if that was the right thing to do. I guess so though. :confused:

March 12th, 2005, 02:36 PM
I'm not sure if this would work because it depends on the size of your dog. But if she is still small enough to pick up off the ground and there's not too much of a danger element there, when she starts growling you can pick her up and hold her up off the ground until she calms down and then she gets to get down (hold her out away from your body if she starts having a fit). Eventually this is supposed to teach the dog that you are bigger and stronger and showing agression isn't going to get them anywhere. The first few times you try it it may take a while for her to calm down, but after a while she should start calming down right away. Of course I don't know how your dog would react but if you think you can do this safely it's worth a try. We tried this with our pitbull when she was 4 months old, she started showing agression when she was guarding edible type items (but only when she would chew on them). Unfortunately that didn't end up solving the problem because as soon as she got it back she would guard it again if we tried taking it. We ended up resorting to a quick vinegar/water squirt in the mouth as soon as she would show any sign of agression when we reached for her item, this only took two tries and she never showed agression toward us again. Obviously this approach has to be used with caution and discretion too and is not for all dogs.

Sadie's Mom
March 13th, 2005, 01:50 AM
At 9 months, Sadie is most likely full grown at about 9 lbs. I don't know if the picking her up strategy would work, she is SO focused on getting back to her bone when I pick her up, I don't think she would calm down. Although, I have been picking her up, flipping her over and rubbing her tummy to show my dominance when she exhibits this behaviour. That seems to settle her down a bit.

I was thinking the squirt gun would be another approach I could try, but now that I think about it, I would really rather use positive reinforcement if at all possible. Maybe approaching her with a treat and giving it to her after I pick it up would work?

I don't know, but I did take the easy way out and got rid of the bone when she wasn't paying attention. That has stopped the behaviour for now. :)

March 13th, 2005, 05:30 PM
Sadie's Mom- Basically you are doing the same thing by flipping her on her back and holding her to show your dominance.

My dog has never shown this behaviour, so I'm not really sure how to assist.
My thought is that going back to basic obedience in regards to this 'toy' might be helpful.
Teach the dog that she has to wait for the edible item. Have it in your hand, and if she lunges for it, tell her "No. Wait". Once she stops being agressive or insistent, give it to her, for a short amount of time. Take it back from her, pretend that you are looking it over (thats what I do with Justice, I check her nylabones to make sure there is no large peice that is about to come off), and if she is agressive with you, tell her "no, wait" and don't give it back until she calms down. It may be going back to a basic obedience that you have already trained into her, but it might help.
Is she also agressive when it comes to her food at all?

Not sure what else to say!

March 13th, 2005, 09:13 PM
I am very interested in this thread and thank you BMD for the web site. I have experienced something similar to this with Molly. We had never had any problem with toys and such. Molly is used to me opening her mouth and fishing out things like tissues, socks, toys from the kids and anything she finds on the sly. She doesn't like opening her mouth to give it back but she doesn't growl at me over that. She also doesn't growl over her food or any treats that we give her. The one thing that we do have a problem with is when she gets a bone (it was a raw bone that I had cut out of a steak that I was going to cook for dinner), I walked by where she was lying on her blanket chewing on it and she growled at me. This was the first time she had ever growled over anything! I just left her alone for awhile and went past her again awhile later and she growled again not a lot but enough that it bothered me, but later after she had chewed all the meat pieces off and it was just a clean bone (the next day) she brought it to us to throw for a game of fetch. I have not given her another one because I did not want to reinforce the growling behavior. I would really like to give her one now and again for special treats but because she does not growl over anything else I don't know how to correct her doing it over bones. Didn't mean to be so long but just thought I could maybe get some tips on this thread too with something that seems similar.

Sadie's Mom
March 15th, 2005, 03:17 AM
^^^It does seem similar Katherine. I bet you wouldn't have a problem getting the bone away from Molly, but she just seems to need to let you know that she's scared it's going to be taken away before she's done with it. It's the exact same thing with Sadie. I can easily take things away from her, which is why the whole going back to basics thing that Safyre suggested doesn't seem like it would work, UNLESS, maybe if I reverse it? Like if I pick Sadie up and take her away from the bone and then take her back after a few seconds if she behaves. That could work. The problem I have is not her growling when the object is taken away from her, instead, she growls when SHE is touched, or moved away from the object.

It's so bizarre, I know! For now I'm just leaving it. I've taken away the problem bone, and that seems to have worked. But I'm scared it's a quick fix and this could develop into more of a problem.

Thanks for all the suggestions so far, but keep them coming! :)

March 15th, 2005, 09:55 PM
Sorry that my advise was a bit backwards... yes, in this case, it would be to pick up and play with Sadie, and once she calmed down, put her down with the toy again.
Sorry, get soo confused with all the posts, probly wan't paying enoguh attention when i typed my response

March 15th, 2005, 10:33 PM
But if she is still small enough to pick up off the ground and there's not too much of a danger element there, when she starts growling you can pick her up and hold her up off the ground until she calms down and then she gets to get down (hold her out away from your body if she starts having a fit). Eventually this is supposed to teach the dog that you are bigger and stronger and showing agression isn't going to get them anywhere.
If you do this, the dog should only be lifted a couple of inches off the ground. Any higher and you start to put the dog in a dominant position and that makes the situation worse. (Stanley Coren suggests that technique before buying a puppy as a test of dominance and possible aggression).

Then, if I come down to her level to give her a kiss,
Don't ever go down to a dog's level unless the human dominance is well established. When you go down to her level, she sees you as vulnerable and less of a threat, physically, and is way more comfortable asserting herself.

What I would do in your case, if this is the only dominant behavior you have noticed, if you are not afraid of your dog at all and not worried of an actual bite, I would approach slowly, on your feet so that you are not facing her straight (be a little bit turned to the side) and I would try to pet her ear with one hand only, comfortably at arm's length (not stiff or anything, just not too close). Not fearful but just not threatening. As you would approach a lost child you don't know. (Confident but with non-threatening body language). I believe that if the dog believes you can grab her (with fast access to a second hand and being closer than arm's length) and with direct eye contact and antagonistic body position, the dog will feel very threatened. This way we eliminate the threats of the body and the other hand and keep a little eye contact and a not-too-useful hand.

Slowly approach with the palm up and gradually put your hand on her cheek close to her ear and move it toward her ear without moving your body. If she is growling hard, you just say, "it's ok" and "no biting" softly and once you have touched the ear, withdraw slowly. If you repeat this successfully every time you walk by, eventually she will know what your intentions are when you approach and eventually be a lot less threatened and threatening. Of course, if your dog is not okay with touching the ear, you could just touch the cheek, but I wouldn't suggest the chin (very submissive approach) or the top of the head (dominant approach). Over time when she gets comfortable with this, if it works for you, you can move on to other body parts until she is comfortable with you touching her whole body...

To be honest, I'm a tester. What I describe above is a bit of testing but not too forceful. If one of my doggies growls at me, I push the doggy to the edge just to see where the edge is. I mean I have a trusting relationship and my doggy knows "no biting", "no growling" and "what's this?" (as in what is this growling? or what is this garbage all over the floor?). Our doggy growled at night, every night when we pet her. So I would pet her until she was ready to snap and then put one hand against her teeth (lips up with the growling) and one still petting her. I then say super calmly, Are you going to bite me? C'mon, bite me. And then she stops and turns her head away.

To me it's pointing out to her how she is treating her alpha dog and how she shouldn't be doing that. I don't let a dog treat me like that. MANY people don't agree with this approach and many people are afraid to test their doggies like this. I have never been bitten or really snapped at (I think it's because they know I am really not afraid of them).

I learned from a trainer in BC that you either tolerate aggression or you don't, there is no "in between". I understand that in cases where they are mounted by another dog, they may snap, but they still need to know that I don't approve. If you tolerate this growling, chances are the dog will think you tolerate all growling. And I believe that I should be able to do anything with my dog without having to deal with warnings. My doggies were abused and they have begun to realize that my intentions are always good and I will never push them around unless it's for their benefit in some way.

Was that long? whew... It's hard to explain when I can't show you...

Here is my proof of knowing what a growly doggy is like... Now she can growl on cue. I just say, "are you crabby?" and then she growls a bit.

March 17th, 2005, 02:17 PM
I would correct this ASAP. I realize that she is a small dog but have you thought of having her wear a choke collar( I actually use prong collars for my dogs) and as soon as she starts this grab the ring and give a moderate correction , followed by a "NO". Take the bone and keep it away. If she ever wants the bone back have her do some simple obedience. If this happens again I would correct a little stronger. I do not think this is a real example of "resource guarding" per say but an obedience issue. At this age it is also very unlikely that it is dominance(too young unless this is a guardian breed or herding breed). I'm not saying hurt the dog but be very clear that this is never to happen OR she will never see this bone/chew again.

March 19th, 2005, 08:57 AM
I'm inclined to agree with Matt...NILIF should be used with this dog. She is resource guarding, and needs to learn YOU are in control of the resources.

Put the bone away. Basic obedience work, sit, down , stand sorta thing....when she complies she gets her bone for 20 mins...then it goes away. Even if you need to distract her with a 'walk' or 'outside' to get her to leave it... when she does, put it up...

You don't want to encourage the growling behaviour... so for the immediate future you should not be trying to take it from her while she's guarding it... She WILL escalate the behavior if she feels she needs to... which translates into your getting bitten. At this point, it's gone way too far. I also don't reccommend Alpha rollovers (which is flipping her over to expose her tummy) or picking her up while she's stressing over the bone. Both methods of practice will eventually get you bitten.

Put the NILIF method to work, with everything... sit to go for walks, down to get petted...etc etc... You will begin to see a difference in her manner toward you and it will carry over to the bone guarding.

March 19th, 2005, 11:01 AM
Prin, I lightened the pic and omg she looked even more fierce :D . I bet she is a sweetheart.

March 19th, 2005, 01:24 PM
I too disagree with the alpha rollovers. People say that they think it works because that's what dogs do when they are submissive, but that's false. I've never seen a dog roll another vicious dog over to make them submissive. This is something a dog does on it's own when it is already submissive. To think that this will teach submission is like forcing the dog into a play bow and thinking that will make it instantly playful. I've seen dogs held in this position continuing to growl and snap at whoever is doing it so it obviously didn't cause the dog to feel any less dominant. You don't want to force the dog into submission, you want to teach it so that it will submit on it's own. The only merit I see in it is that you are actively asserting dominance by HOLDING the dog and not letting it move. You can just as easily do this by picking it up.