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Dog treat and cat aggression

September 30th, 2011, 12:29 AM
hi I could really use some help more like steps on how to stop/prevent my cockapoos growing aggression towards treats and my cat. just to give you an idea of how he acts.
I give him a treat he hoards it in a corner(depending on treat) then say my cat walks by,,, body language completely changes solid as a rock, then growl, then depending on how close my cat gets a quick snap at the cat, then grabs treat goes to different spot.
Know at this point i chase him alittle bit and grab the treat, he wont get it back. Now its getting more hes starting to do this with food. the problem i find is hes fine when it comes to me and the food but my cat he likes to push around.
and im starting to notice hes getting more protective of me he's always kind of been like this when my boy friend and i cuddle on the couch hes always right there but i shoo him away. but its getting to the point if my cat comes close to me and him he growls and snaps once in a while.
Ive tried a few things but i can tell if they help on of the thing ive done is sit in the hall and tell him to go to his kennel at the other end of this hall, then i play with the cat if he is calm and lays down not looking at us i praise him. and ive done this with food items too. anything else i can try or do you think this will help idk.... sorry this is so long your help will be greatly appreciated i just want my buster back.

October 4th, 2011, 11:57 PM
The behavior you are describing is resource guarding. It can be serious and I would recommend that you look into a certified animal behaviorist or veterinary animal behaviorist (be careful, animal behaviorists are not regulated yet, a true behaviorist will have an undergraduate degree in animal behavior or animal sciences or a veterinary degree) to properly diagnose and treat this problem.

Resource guarding is a very primitive response in your dog's brain. It's not rational or calculated (I don't think it is specific to the cat, it's more general), but there are a few things you can do to help.
First, don't leave anything your dog is likely to guard around the house (toys, bones etc.) and don't give him large treats that he is capable of hoarding. A good treat size is something the dog doesn't even have to chew, like the size of your pinky fingernail (though, at this point, I wouldn't be giving him anything high value at all).
Second, and this one is really important, DON'T TRY TO TAKE THINGS AWAY FROM HIM WHEN HE IS GUARDING. This will only re-enforce his behavior. He is guarding objects because he is afraid of losing them. Forcing him to give them up will only make him try harder to keep them.
If he does end up guarding something, use management. I'll give you a bunch of training exercises you can work on a bit further down. Ideally though, while you are working on this, he shouldn't get anything he can guard.
Third, start up a NILF program. Make him work and offer you good behavior for his daily diet. No more food in a bowl. Hand feed him throughout the day for things like sitting for leash attachment, walking well on leash, laying down quietly, coming when called and other general training that you do with him (tricks, feeding him around the cat for being non-reactive). This will reinforce to him that good things come from co-operating with you. If he is guarding you from your boyfriend, have him do a whole bunch of work with him to build his value as well.
It's important that this be food he is excited to get, but not excited enough to guard. Most dogs like their food, but not as much as other things so hopefully this won't be a problem.

* If your dog gets something and tries to guard it, try to entice him with another object or food item to leave the first so that you can pick it up or keep him on lead and try to re-direct him away. If your dog tries to guard you from your boyfriend he loses the resource. Gently take him to his crate or another room with a closeable door and leave him for 30 seconds. Then ask for a sit (or whatever he is good at) and let him rejoin you. If the behavior persists you can increase his time-out time. You can also have your boyfriend do a little obedience work with him after. Again, to build his value.

Desensitizing the food bowl.
Put a bowl on the floor next to your dog. Walk by the bowl and drop in 1 kibble. Repeat. Next, stand by the bowl and drop in 1 kibble. Repeat. Pick up the bowl and drop in 1 kibble. Put down. Repeat. Sit down beside the bowl and drop in 1 kibble. Repeat. Put your had beside the bowl and drop in 1 kibble. Repeat. Put your hand on the bowl and drop in 1 kibble. Repeat. Put your hand in the bowl and drop in 1 kibble. Repeat.
When he shows no reaction to any of the above, start dropping in more kibbles. Repeat this exercise works with multiple people so he generalizes. Work until you can put down a full bowl down on the floor and you can put your hand in it while he eats with no reaction. This is a gradual process, it should take many sessions but by the end you should have a pretty bomb-proof dog around his food bowl.

Work on a stay/leave it combo to build his self control.

Trade-up game
Pick something low value (if he is not guarding toys, toys will work well). Give him a toy for a moment, then ask “can I have it” and give him a kibble as you take the toy away. You can also use another toy as the trade- up. Repeat (either back and forth between the toys or repeatedly giving him back the toy and “trading” it for a kibble). When he is doing this reliably you can use a higher value toy, like a chew (only something he hasn't tried to guard though) and repeat . Keep working with higher value items until you can take away something amazing like a bone or large cookie. If he was guarding the full food bowl itself you could also play this game with an empty bowl and work up to taking away a full one).
The important thing for him to learn is that giving things up to you not only means he gets something else good (a kibble or small treat) but that he doesn't lose the first resource. He gets it back after the trade.

* If at any point during these exercises he starts freezing, licking his lips, showing eye whites, yawning, holding his body away from you, or shows any other signs of stress/aggression you have gone too far too fast. End the game on a high note and try again later at an easier level.