Go Back   Pet forum for dogs cats and humans - Pets.ca > Discussion Groups - mainly cats and dogs > Dog training - dog behavior

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old June 18th, 2011, 01:20 PM
Hatchman's Avatar
Hatchman Hatchman is offline
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 11
One more problem...

(Sorry if this topic has been handled previously...)

My dog Max occasionally displays what I believe is resource guarding behaviour. But it is very inconsistent and selective. He will only do it sometimes, and only with his Nylabone, or a clump of grass he's found on the sidewalk, or something new he's found lying around, such as a soft stuffed toy. When we tell him to drop it, sometimes he's great and drops it and moves on even with the things I mentioned above (Nylabone etc.), but at other times, he clenches his teeth very tight like a clamp, lets out a long growl as I go to remove the item from his mouth, and even snaps at fingers while barking. It's pretty scary even for a little dog.

Our response has been to praise him lavishly when he drops on command, and not back down when he refuses to comply. We read somewhere that if we stand tall above Max in a sort of threatening way while saying drop it and putting our hand near his mouth, he will eventually quietly comply. This has worked sometimes. Other times, I've risked fingers yanking out the item from between his teeth, or Max has successfully eaten the item (only if it's grass of course). We have also taken all toys and Nylabones off the floor. He is offered one of these at his usual chew times or play times. Same with his food: off the floor, offered several times throughout the day. If he doesn't start to eat within 5 minutes, food comes off the floor and is put down again a few hours later, say after a walk or a nap.

Are we handling this correctly?

Thank you.

Last edited by Hatchman; June 19th, 2011 at 04:56 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old June 19th, 2011, 07:46 AM
millitntanimist's Avatar
millitntanimist millitntanimist is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Kitchener, ON
Posts: 129
Resource guarding is a dog's fear of losing something he/she wants. It is a totally natural behavior. In the wild, a dog who would willingly give something up to another dog is a dog that would starve to death.

By intimidating him, you only give him more reason to be afraid that you will try to take his things - thus he will become even more secretive about what he takes and try harder to keep it away from you (escalating his reaction).

What you want to do instead is practice doing trades for other objects and/or food (also practice giving the original object back after the trade) so he learns that:
A. he always gets something good when you ask him to give up an object
B. just because you ask him for an object does not mean that he loses it.
Start with lower value objects and build up to that nylabone he loves

A good "drop it"
When you need to take something away from him, just slide a treat under his nose and pop it in his mouth when he releases the object to take the food. You can then add a "drop it" or "can I have it" cue just as you do this (make sure it's in a happy and friendly tone, NOT intimidating). He will gradually associate the cue with something positive happening, then you will no longer need the treat.

You can also practice hand feeding to teach him that hands near the things that he wants mean good things for him.

Here's a really good, short (and cheap) book on resource guarding
http://www.dogwise.com/itemdetails.cfm?ID=DTB740
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old June 20th, 2011, 05:49 AM
Hatchman's Avatar
Hatchman Hatchman is offline
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 11
Thanks for that reply.

I just wanted to share a few things as a response to your post.

We can't really equate a domesticated pet with a dog in the wild, can we? I mean Max has access to food and water all day, every day. He never begs when we humans are eating. And actually, I have hand fed him his food on many occasions. I can put ten fingers in his food or water bowl if I like. He doesn't care. As I said, it only happens with certain items like a found object outside, a grass clump, and his Nylabone, and it does not always happen, In fact, it's pretty infrequent. What disturbs us is that it happens at all. Our thinking is: why would he be protective of certain things when he is otherwise perfectly well provided for in terms of food, water, affection, comfort, love etc.?

I've been doing an experiment with Max since yesterday and the results have been really interesting. He's half poodle, and I read that poodles like to play and hunt. He always stalks birds on our walks and tries to chase them when he thinks the time is right. So, since yesterday, I've been bringing along a "kill" on our walks: a little stuffed toy monkey, just the right size for Max's mouth. After he's done his business, or maybe halfway through our walk, or when he shows me he's keen to stalk birds, I get him to sit and I offer him the toy. He takes it and carries it proudly for the duration of the walk. He's even learned to do his bathroom duties while still carrying the toy. I'm trying to satisfy Max's hunting tendencies here. The result is that he has become much more relaxed on his walks and he no longer seeks or picks up found objects. When we get home, he sits nicely for me while I remove his leash and harness. Then I trade him a Charlie Bear treat for the monkey and tell Max to go upstairs. It all goes smoothly. He doesn't even want the monkey back. What is also interesting is that, if Max does drop the monkey in order to better sniff around in an area or at the base of a tree, he lets me pick it up. He is not "fighting" me for it or guarding it to the exclusion of other business/interests. If he were worried about keeping something he likes for fear of my taking it away, I think he'd be behaving a lot differently.

I believe there are situations in which a dog has to drop something which he should never have back, such as something he might choke on or something that is toxic or dangerous if swallowed. Isn't that the whole point of "drop it"? We do not just take things away from Max when it is something good for him that he enjoys. Grass clumps found on the ground I think are pretty harmless, but we're trying to discourage the behaviour of eating just anything found on the ground. It might be a nasty thing. The monkey has eliminated this habit of Max's. The Nylabone we never take away (unless it's time to put the harness on and go out, in which case he's never refused to hand it over), but the other day, he was chewing happily, and when my finger went near his face to clean a spot of goo from his eye, he started growling. Instead of walking away, I guess I tried to win the battle. I got him to jump off the couch, come to me, and sit. At this time he gave up the bone. I'm not sure if this was intimidation, but it seemed to work. I was not threatening. I was firm and persistent. I didn't pry the bone from his mouth; I repeated the "drop it" with my hand below his chin waiting for the bone to drop into my hand. After maybe 20 seconds, Max dropped it and I rewarded him with tons of praise, got him to sit and give paw, and he got the bone back. He was quieter after this. I'd say this was a happy ending to a bad situation.

Anyway sorry for rambling. I'm trying to give the complete picture, which is often hard to do on a forum.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old June 20th, 2011, 09:12 AM
millitntanimist's Avatar
millitntanimist millitntanimist is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Kitchener, ON
Posts: 129
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hatchman View Post
We can't really equate a domesticated pet with a dog in the wild, can we? I mean Max has access to food and water all day, every day. He never begs when we humans are eating. And actually, I have hand fed him his food on many occasions. I can put ten fingers in his food or water bowl if I like. He doesn't care. As I said, it only happens with certain items like a found object outside, a grass clump, and his Nylabone, and it does not always happen, In fact, it's pretty infrequent. What disturbs us is that it happens at all. Our thinking is: why would he be protective of certain things when he is otherwise perfectly well provided for in terms of food, water, affection, comfort, love etc.?
There's a lot of evidence to suggest that resource guarding is a totally instinctive behavior that is triggered in a more primitive part of the brain (related to sympathetic nervous system). He is not consciously trying to keep something from you, it's just that in certain situations (when he has been chewing that nylabone for a while it releases a lot of positive endorphins and he gets really worked up over it) your hands near his mouth trigger his response. It's not rational or thought out.
I never like using naturalistic arguments with dogs because in most cases they are totally irrelevant, but they do have some instinctual behavior left over from their wild canid cousins. Resource guarding is one of them.
We expect a lot out of our dogs, giving up any object at a moment's notice for reasons that the dog has no way of understanding is a tough sell.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hatchman View Post
What is also interesting is that, if Max does drop the monkey in order to better sniff around in an area or at the base of a tree, he lets me pick it up. He is not "fighting" me for it or guarding it to the exclusion of other business/interests. If he were worried about keeping something he likes for fear of my taking it away, I think he'd be behaving a lot differently.
Dog's rules of possession are really different from ours. Once an object is out of the mouth or outside a small immediate radius around the dog's body, it perceptually no longer belongs to that dog. And besides, I think this is only happening in situations where he is getting over-stimulated by the toy and then you approach him and move your hands near his face. Normally he is not trying to keep objects from you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hatchman View Post
I believe there are situations in which a dog has to drop something which he should never have back, such as something he might choke on or something that is toxic or dangerous if swallowed. Isn't that the whole point of "drop it"?
Absolutely, but like any type of training (asking an individual to give up something in its mouth is totally foreign to dog etiquette) its important to build up to real life situations with training games in an easy environment. Practicing taking objects away and rewarding compliance builds the dog's positive association with giving objects up to you, making your "drop it" in an outdoor environment with an object of interest a much easier thing for them to do. You are conditioning the dog to find giving objects to you rewarding, eventually that impulse becomes stronger then their desire to retain any object. This training has saved the lives of many a small animal that our Malinois mix has run down and caught in the woods. A struggling squealing rabbit is a pretty hard "drop it" for a dog

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hatchman View Post
Instead of walking away, I guess I tried to win the battle. I got him to jump off the couch, come to me, and sit. At this time he gave up the bone. I'm not sure if this was intimidation, but it seemed to work. I was not threatening. I was firm and persistent. I didn't pry the bone from his mouth; I repeated the "drop it" with my hand below his chin waiting for the bone to drop into my hand. After maybe 20 seconds, Max dropped it and I rewarded him with tons of praise, got him to sit and give paw, and he got the bone back. He was quieter after this. I'd say this was a happy ending to a bad situation.
I only mentioned intimidation because of the advice you mentioned in the previous post of "standing tall over him."
In this situation you were doing perfectly - you got him to come to you, you didn't try to take the object by force, you praised him for the release and gave the object back afterwards. All I would suggest is turning it into a training game you play together - work with a variety of objects, use a food reward to stimulate the "drop it," and work when he is not overly obsessed with the object in question (you need to build up to that point).
What you never want to do is trap him by standing over him or forcing him into a corner, try to take the object from his mouth (unless it is an emergency situation), or raise your voice or get angry for his non-compliance.
Emotions form strong pathways and connections in the brain. The more your dog responds fearfully in a given situation, the harder it is to alter their emotional response and they greater the likelihood of escalation. That's why it is important to start doing these exercises now, before the behavior starts getting worse.
We just finished working with a dog who was guarding food and food objects. A snarling, snapping 60 pound black lab is a pretty scary sight. She was the sweetest dog otherwise, a total love-suck, but her owners had handled the behavior in completely the wrong way and it had become very exacerbated.
(not trying to scare you, just using it as an example)
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old June 21st, 2011, 05:03 AM
Hatchman's Avatar
Hatchman Hatchman is offline
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by millitntanimist View Post
Dog's rules of possession are really different from ours. Once an object is out of the mouth or outside a small immediate radius around the dog's body, it perceptually no longer belongs to that dog. And besides, I think this is only happening in situations where he is getting over-stimulated by the toy and then you approach him and move your hands near his face. Normally he is not trying to keep objects from you.
I think you've hit on something here: The growling Max does happens mostly when there are lots of us around and he's having a chew. He really works that Nylabone almost as if he's trying to release the excitement and energy caused by being surrounded by his loved ones. This then re-expresses itself in guarding behaviour when he perceives someone is trying to take his possession.

And outside, I guess it's the raised level of excitement just from being outside that brings out the guarding instinct when he finds something edible which I want him to give up.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off


Forum Terms of Use

  • All Bulletin Board Posts are for personal/non-commercial use only.
  • Self-promotion and/or promotion in general is prohibited.
  • Debate is healthy but profane and deliberately rude posts will be deleted.
  • Posters not following the rules will be banned at the Admins' discretion.
  • Read the Full Forum Rules

Forum Details

  • Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
    Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
    vBulletin Optimisation by vB Optimise (Reduced on this page: MySQL 10.00%).
  • All times are GMT -5. The time now is 07:08 AM.