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Old July 30th, 2005, 09:53 PM
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Having problem with food aggression/gaurding

I'm having a problem with Tosa and food aggression. I'm somewhat confused as to what I should do when the problem happens. I have done alot of research on how to handle it but nothing seems to be improving. I feed twice a day, no free feeding and the problem came up all of the sudden one day a couple months ago. This only happens at meal times and sometimes with a new raw bone that she is really into, but the bone is not nearly as bad and I can get her to drop and leave that with no problem.

Here is how I feed her. I make her wait in her crate while I get the meal ready. I then call her to me and have her sit or lay down and then she doesn't get to eat untill I tell her it's OK so she knows I control the food. I can pet her while she is eating and she will slow down and start gaurding. Then when I put my hand in the bowl she will growl and bark and start devouring the food as fast as she can as if I am going to take it away. If I start with my hand in the bowl she gets about half way through and then the aggression kicks in.

I in no way pull away or let her bully me when she does this. At first I would tell her no, push her away from the bowl and make her lay down before she could continue. After that she is fine and continues to eat normally. Now I don't push her away as I thought that might be to strong of a correction and increase the aggression. I now tell her to leave it and make her lay down untill she calms down and then with my hand in the bowl she gets to finish her meal.

I am wondering if as soon as she begins the aggression if I should correct her and take the bowl away and not give it back to her untill the next meal time. This seems like a double edged sword since she is gaurding thinking I'm going to take it in the first place and taking it away would enforce this thought. She is very submissive for the most part and I'm wondering if this is part of the problem. Does she feel threatened that I as the alpha am going to take her food so she has to bump up the display of aggression? After she is done with her meal she will come and want to lick me and in very rare instances will submissive urinate at my feet when I lean down to pet her. It's almost as if she is appologizing for her bad behavior.

So where should I go from here?
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Old July 30th, 2005, 10:12 PM
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This is what has worked for me.

Get a pot with a handle on it.
At mealtime, put something in her food that she really likes, a treat, we used pieces of hot dog, for example.

Extend the pot out to her.
MOst dogs will eat the treat part first, and then you can put the pot down and let her finish. Do not challenge her during the rest of the meal.

Do this for a few days so that she becomes accustomed to the treat being a part of the meal.

Then try just putting the pot of the floor with her food, but no treat. Some dogs might even wait for the treat to be put in. At this point let her start to eat and then approach the bowl with her treat. At frist she might growl a bit , but show her the treat. She'll be more receptive to you as you are changing the mindset she has when someone approaches her food--now she thinks she's getting something good.

Good luck, and btw does she guard anything else?? You're best to nip this in the bud before she does.
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Old July 30th, 2005, 10:15 PM
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Something you may want to try is to make her work for half her meal, sit, down, etc, maybe even a trick or two. Then for the rest of the meal, place your hand in the bottom of the dish and scoop up handfulls and feed her w/o lifting your hand out of the bowl. All the time praising for positive behaviour.
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Old July 30th, 2005, 10:35 PM
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Thanks, I'll give those things a try. She doesn't gaurd anything else and I have always worked on taking toys and chews away from her since I got her. When she is chewing on a hoof I make it a point of walking up and taking it from her at random, look at it and praise her for letting me take it and then give it right back to her. I usually always get a happy tail wag from this. I will also sometimes make her bring it to me and drop and do the same thing. She also has to work for anything she gets. NILIF for attention, going outside, going for walks, eating, playing, etc. etc. she always has to correctly do a command.

As for having her eat out of my hand with it in the bowl. She doesn't have any problem with this. That is one of the things I've tried. She also won't show aggression if I am holding the bowl a couple inches off the ground while she eats and my hand is in the bowl. Very strange. It's like she has a very definate trigger that makes her start to gaurd.

Am I right in making her leave it and lay down before she gets to continue when she starts gaurding? Should I then take it from her all together 'till later and try again?

Thanks all
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Old July 30th, 2005, 11:03 PM
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I think you might be confusing her. I was doing the same thing...

We tend to think that if we can pick it up, give it back and then go for it again that will encourage an easy-going dog, but I think it just confuses them. When it is in your hand, it's yours. When it hits the floor, it's hers. Going for the bowl again might signal to her that you are waiting to eat after her and thus "lower" on the alpha chain than her, hence the confusion as I'm sure you are working on alpha issues 24/7 with NILIF and the like.

Confrontation may fuel things at this level. This is why I find it helpful to change the way she feels about the approach on the bowl.
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Old July 31st, 2005, 12:50 AM
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First don't interrupt your dog needlessly while feeding, there is no cause for it. If you want to establish a non food aggressive dog then you can do so by feeding the dog from your hand, each piece or portion of it's food.

Start off by keeping the dish of food on the counter near you and take from behind the bowl a piece of food for yourself (ie cracker/cookie...something)
Eat your treat (LOL) then begin to feed your dog...piece by piece allowing the dog to take the food gently from the PALM of your hand.

Of course before you begin this routine you should have your dog sit first, do not begin until the dog is seated and not jumping, barking, growling, pushing.

After a day or two of feeding this way, begin with the same routine....then half way through stop feeding from your hand and let the dog eat directly from the bowl.

Constantly praise and encourage but do leave the dog to eat in peace and quiet. Once done the meal remove the food dish until the next feeding.


After you begin to see a difference in attitude begin feeding from the dish only. Although it may be helpful to give the 'first' piece of food from your hand.

There is no reason to remove or take away food or irritate the dog while eating. Sometimes too much is just that too much, and though you may be trying to test to see if your dog has food aggression you can CAUSE it yourself by constantly disturbing your dogs meals.

Best of luck.
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Old July 31st, 2005, 11:22 AM
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Thanks Luba. I started with your suggestions this morning. I guess I would get irritated and aggresive too if someone always had their hand in my food. I have no problem getting her to sit before eating. Her butt hits the floor in the blink of an eye when food is involved. Very food motivated.
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Old July 31st, 2005, 11:42 AM
Lucky Rescue Lucky Rescue is offline
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Am I right in making her leave it and lay down before she gets to continue when she starts gaurding? Should I then take it from her all together 'till later and try again?
Don't do this. It will only convince her that she's RIGHT to guard her food, since it might be taken from her.

What you want to do is teach her that having your hands near her bowl is a wonderful thing!

Stop messing around with her bowl. Put her food down, then get something irresistible, like beef jerky, and as you walk by her bowl, just drop it in without bending over or stopping. Make sure the treat is absolutely fabulous, and one she gets ONLY at feeding time.

Keep doing this every time you feed her, always getting closer until you are placing the treat right in her bowl by hand as she eats.

Quote:
Then when I put my hand in the bowl she will growl and bark and start devouring the food as fast as she can
By the time you are at the point of actually placing the treats in her bowl, she should actually be eagerly looking forward to seeing your hands anywhere near her food.

Her reasoning should be: "Oh I hope my owner puts her hand in my bowl, because such yummy things appear when that happens!!"
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Old July 31st, 2005, 11:45 AM
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By the time you are at the point of actually placing the treats in her bowl, she should actually be eagerly looking forward to seeing your hands anywhere near her food.

Her reasoning should be: "Oh I hope my owner puts her hand in my bowl, because such yummy things appear when that happens!!"



VERY good suggestion there LR
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Old July 31st, 2005, 01:45 PM
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Guarding food or toys is all about her being in charge of you and all things.
So she needs to understand that all things belong to you and when she has good manners you are willing share. It should be that you can take anything away from her at any time - I don't care what it is. You want to have the kind of dog that a child could walk up to and take a toy away from it with out any fear of retaliation from the dog. *I am NOT encouraging anyone to actually have a child do that with a dog but you need to raise your dog so that if it were to happen that the dog would never consider even twitching in the childs direction.
This means that this dog needs to have you work the 'drop it' and 'leave it' commands through out the day. You should be able to call your dog to come away from her meal at any time during the meal. You should be able to walk past and pick his meal up examine it and then put it down again without one hair out of place on his part. A dog who trusts you, loves you and respects you will allow this to happen with out any concern at all.
Placing treats in the bowl is great but it needs to be a bigger picture than she just thinks you are there to bring more goodies to her world.
Work the 'drop it' and 'leave it' all day randomly. If she is guarding some things then put the leash on and work with that item even more until she is respecting your words more.
Keeps doing commands before the meal and when you place her in the sit/stay and put her food down - she needs to look in to your eyes before you release her. Getting her to look at you first is like her asking you for permission - good manners.
Have your hand on the bowl at first and let her eat for 1-2 bites and then have her back away from the meal with a "leave it" and sit. You put your hand in the dish like you are examining it and then release her to the food when she looks at you again. Do this afew times and when she is consistently good then have your hand on the bowl then start to take your hand off and put it right back again or just shift the bowl a little with your hand or put your hand in the bowl pushing the food towards her. Like you are helping to make sure she gets every bite. If she gets one hair out of place you correct her, place her in a down/stay and take the food away for 5 minutes. The start again.
Use this as an opportunity to teach her manners. Be firm when she challenges you and soft when she is good. I really don't care if she thinks the food will disappear - Absolutely it will disappear if she gets nasty. It will stay if she is good. Her choice.
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Old July 31st, 2005, 02:10 PM
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Aahh...Thank you Tenderfoot. That is what I was going for when I would make her leave it and lay down before she could continue. Not that the other advice was bad, they do make sense also. The main thing I wanted to accomplish is make it understood to Tosa that I or anyone can take anything from her at anytime without any guff from her. The last thing I want is for her to nip at some child or person and lose her to an over reaction from the parent. Most of the time she is good at asking permission with eye contact. It's one thing I have enforced since I started training her. She gets nothing 'till she does the command and gives eyes. We need to work on the leave it command a bit more though. When she is really into something she has temporary deafness. All in time, she is still young and learning I guess.

So should I leash her at feeding time to enforce my leave it command if she doesn't listen?
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Old July 31st, 2005, 02:14 PM
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Absolutely - the leash empowers your word and gives you control. Try hard to just use your attitude and energy (that's what she needs to respect) but the leash is there to back it up and ensure that it happens and that you don't get biten.
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Old July 31st, 2005, 02:36 PM
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Placing treats in the bowl is great but it needs to be a bigger picture than she just thinks you are there to bring more goodies to her world.
That is not the message being conveyed. It's that having you touch, or lift the bowl (or anything else the dog has in her mouth) is a good thing, and not a threat to her survival.

I personally would not use mealtime to train "Leave it". I train it when much less is at stake, and once learned, this command can be used anytime at all.
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Old July 31st, 2005, 02:48 PM
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Well kids shouldn't be sticking their hands in dogs food bowls while they're eating and the kids need to be taught that as well. Never leave a child unattended with a dog and I also wouldn't teach leave it or off around meal time. Thats my own personal decision, I used that with toys and things unrelated to food.
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Old July 31st, 2005, 03:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LuckyRescue
That is not the message being conveyed. It's that having you touch, or lift the bowl (or anything else the dog has in her mouth) is a good thing, and not a threat to her survival.

A dog who loves, trusts and repsects you should never regard you as a threat to their survival - you should always be a welcome part of their world. My dogs bring me their toys & bones to share with them as they chew.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LuckyRescue
I personally would not use mealtime to train "Leave it". I train it when much less is at stake, and once learned, this command can be used anytime at all.
Agreed! Teach with the easier items first and then as you are successful go for the tougher challenges. That's why I said to practice throughout the day with lots of things.
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Old July 31st, 2005, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Luba
Well kids shouldn't be sticking their hands in dogs food bowls while they're eating and the kids need to be taught that as well. Never leave a child unattended with a dog...
I completely agree Luba, but it's those unexpected times that you can't account for that worry me. For example I do alot of camping in close proximity to other people and sometimes children. You never know if you turn your back for just a few seconds when a small child that doesn't have the most attentive parents will come and want to pet the puppy when she is eating or chewing a treat. Yeah I know I shouldn't leave Tosa unnattended while eating but still the instance could come up.

I think I will take a little of all advice and see what works best. Every dog is different right?

Thanks guys!
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Old July 31st, 2005, 03:01 PM
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I don't expect that my kids will be putting their hands in the food dish but I also want to know that if they did the dog wouldn't have a problem with it or anything else the kids touch that the dogs have. If you teach them from day one what is expected of them then they will have no problem with it.
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Old July 31st, 2005, 03:05 PM
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Yes of course you're both right, for those just incase times I completely get ya on that note!

I still feel if you aggrivate the dog while eating you're probably going to cause more of a food issue then if you don't.
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Old July 31st, 2005, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Luba
Well kids shouldn't be sticking their hands in dogs food bowls while they're eating and the kids need to be taught that as well.
Children are inquisitive and get their little hands into many places you don't want them to the second your back is turned. I would much rather teach my child proper dog manners AND back it up with a trustworthy dog.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Luba
Never leave a child unattended with a dog and I also wouldn't teach leave it or off around meal time. Thats my own personal decision, I used that with toys and things unrelated to food.
I don't understand why you wouldn't want your dog to be able to back away from his food? What if he was eating something dangerous to him?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Luba
I still feel if you aggrivate the dog while eating you're probably going to cause more of a food issue then if you don't.
Why avoid the opportunity to teach good manners and live in apprehension for the life of the dog around his food rather than teach good manners and have confidence in your dog around his food for life?
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Last edited by tenderfoot; July 31st, 2005 at 03:12 PM.
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Old July 31st, 2005, 03:10 PM
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Okay please don't misunderstand me. Yes teach the dog to drop it leave it off or whatever, including any food in it's mouth.

I managed to teach my dog 'off' without using food at all. Now when I use that word she drops anything in her mouth, including any nasty food she may decide to pick up like a bone from a garbage ripped open while we're on a walk.

IT doesn't take a dog long to eat their meal, if you are at a cottage or visiting someone or at home and have kids or kids over, you can supervise the meal. It usually takes all of about what 1/2 minutes SCARF LOL they're fast eaters! So I dont think it's too unreasonable to suggest a careful eye when kids are around and the dog is eating.
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Old July 31st, 2005, 03:25 PM
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A dog who loves, trusts and repsects you should never regard you as a threat to their survival
Agree totally! My dog loves and trusts me and I can do anything with whatever she has, including taking a bone from her mouth if necessary.

But the dog needs to learn that you aren't a threat, and I like to use positive ways to teach this and I just don't think ordering a dog to "leave" it's meal, or messing with the bowl is the best way to inspire trust.

But that's just my opinion of course, and we all have our own ways of doing things!
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Old July 31st, 2005, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by LuckyRescue
But the dog needs to learn that you aren't a threat, and I like to use positive ways to teach this and I just don't think ordering a dog to "leave" it's meal, or messing with the bowl is the best way to inspire trust.
What if he were on my plate of food (say I left the room to get a drink and he was on it) and he thought he could protect my own plate from me ? I have every right to step in and back him off.

The 'drop and take it' commands can be played like a game as can the 'leave it' command. It doesn't have to be all serious and mean - you can treat it like a game "okay, now leave it" "good, now let's eat!" - be enthusiastic but also be ready to meet a challenge.

I do tend to get serious if the dog has proven himself to be aggressive only because I want him to understand that I am taking charge now and challenging will not be considered an option. Aggression is serious business and I am more than happy to let a dog know that it is a bad choice. I am also even happier to let him know that he can make good choices. I do not think that my firm tone or a leash correction are inappropriate to the situation when a dog is trying to snarl me away from his/my food.

Again, we all have our own tried and true methods and philosophies that work for us - this is why this forum is so great for people to come and get lots of ideas and opinions to find the right one for them.
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Last edited by tenderfoot; July 31st, 2005 at 08:14 PM.
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Old July 31st, 2005, 04:26 PM
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Again, we all have our own tried and true methods and phylosophies that work for us - this is why this forum is so great for people to come and get lots of ideas and opinions to find the right one for them


Completely agree
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Old July 31st, 2005, 08:02 PM
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Great advice.

I would just add that an empty food bowl can be just as much of a trigger with small children. It's important to remove the bowl once the meal is done, while you are working on this.
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Old October 3rd, 2005, 01:47 PM
WIBoxerMom WIBoxerMom is offline
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Question

I adopted Max three months ago. He is a nuetered boxer, 18 months, sweet and smart but also has food aggression issues. I've been working on him and have seen improvement. I'm taking it slow, though, doing some of the things mentioned in this thread. However, last week he attacked the pet sitter because he thought she was going to take his apple. She is not hurt nor is she sitting for us anymore. Anyway, I'm taking Max to see a professional this Thursday. Before I see her, I wanted to get your views on the sleeping arrangement. Max sleeps with us now and I would like this to continue. Would this have such a negative impact on the behavior modification? Can he learn in other ways that I am alpha while still sleeping with us?
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Old October 3rd, 2005, 02:10 PM
Lucky Rescue Lucky Rescue is offline
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Is your dog aggressive over anything else - treats, toys, etc? Can you approach him while he's eating and take things away from him?

Food aggression usually comes from insecurity and lack of trust and these things can take awhile to build.

By sleeping with you, do you mean on the bed? If so, I would get him off the bed and off any other furniture he might get on. He is a male nearing full maturity and may be attempting to establish himself as "leader of the pack", which is not uncommon with young male dogs, and WILL do this if you do not nip it in the bud. You must be a fair, but firm leader in your home.

Here is an ariticle on food aggression that may help you.
http://www.geocities.com/Augusta/2525/posses.htm

Also, I would use the "boot camp" method on him, particularly if he is showing signs of wanting to take over the home.
Alpha Boot Camp

Everyone in the home must follow this as well.
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Old October 3rd, 2005, 02:17 PM
WIBoxerMom WIBoxerMom is offline
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We, the BF and I (no kids in the house) can take away toys and sticks and stuff he shouldn't have. He knows the command drop it and leave it. There are times when we can reach and take something from him. He is good with a dog treat in his kong, but I have not tried to take away anything yummier than that. I should mention that we have another male boxer that is 2 years old this month who usually sleeps in a dog bed in our bedroom but sometimes joins us.
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Old October 3rd, 2005, 07:01 PM
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All of our dogs sleep in bed with us. The pack sleeps together often touching - it is part of keeping the pack close. Currently we have 4 males and 1 female. We have done this for 20+ years with up to 7 dogs at a time (yes, we have a big bed! ). The bed is not the issue - if there are problems around the bed/furniture it is a symptom of deeper issues.
The dog should always get on or off the bed/furniture on your behest - not because he thinks its his to do as he pleases. All things belong to you and you share them with the pack as you see fit.
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Old October 3rd, 2005, 09:41 PM
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Tenderfoot, I think you advice is extremely sound. Your methods are great. Food aggression is not an option for any dog, particularly one in a household with children or other fury folk. My expectation of all of my dogs had always been anyone, literally anyone can put their hand in their food bowl or take a toy from them, no exceptions.

From the time I get a dog and with exception of one puppy, mine have been resucues the youngest of which was 8 months I make a point of being able to put my hand in their food bowl and take it away if i choose to. I of course give it back, unless there is an adverse reaction. Always having a multi pet household (both cats and dogs) and frequent canine visitors I tolerate no "resource guarding". To do so is to loose whatever it is the dog feels it needs to guard, in one instance the water bowl. If it is a food bowl or a water bowl I may remove it or tell the dog to leave it or leave the room. If they ignore me I help them follow through on the command.

The leave/take and drop commands are invaluable. While still teaching it I have had more than one vet bill when my Kaos would go after her favoriate outdoor delicacy - good old cat poop. These commands are both for the fun and safety of people and the dog. Again, sound, sound, sound advice.
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Old October 3rd, 2005, 10:05 PM
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What I don't like at all is how at the park, people are so surprised that my doggies give up toys without a fight. It should be surprising when they don't. My doggies respect all the humans they meet, even little young ones.
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