Any tips on how to curb toy possession aggression towards other dogs?

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by LittleDingy, Dec 16, 2010.

  1. LittleDingy

    LittleDingy New Member

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    Hi All,

    My dog Dingo (best guess - Jack Russell / Basenji mix) is a generally well trained, obedient, and loving dog to people and dogs. I should note that he is my first dog and that I rescued him off of the streets when he was about 8 weeks old off.

    As a puppy, he would always tend to be overly submissive and roll on his back when meeting new dogs at the dog park.

    However, now at a little over a year old, he has started to become extremely possessive over toys when other dogs come near him. The toy might not even be "his," but a communal toy at the dog park. He does not show aggression towards people in the same situation, but the hair on his back will stand up and he will growl and even lunge out at other dogs if they simply come near him when he has a toy in his mouth.

    This is quite a difference in behavior that he is developing and I would greatly appreciate any techniques or tips anyone might have for mitigating this.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this.
     
  2. Fran101

    Fran101 Resident fainting goat

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    I am not expert.. but this is what I did.
    Maybe when he does this behavior.. you go up to him, leash on, and walk straight out of the park. Sit in the car or in a secluded boring area for 5-10 minutes and TOTALLY IGNORE HIM.

    Romeo used to have an issue with being a bit cranky with other dogs and "cool" stuff at the park and this seemed to do the trick. He quickly learned that toy guarding meant the fun was over and he lost both the toy and fun times at the park.

    I would just wait in the car for 5 or 10 minutes, and then let him back in and try again.
    at first it felt hopeless, he would just do it again. but it did eventually click!

    Hope it helps! I'm sure a few here will have better advice, but this is how I dealt with it.

    Oh and I recommend a harness.. its a lot easier to just clip the leash on there (since its on the top) and get the dog away from the toy/situation.

    and also, plenty of encouragement when he is playing with other dogs and a toy nicely :) When Romeo shares a ball or a rope, I give him one of those silly "OMG GOOD BOY!!!" and I play with him and the other dog with it or when hes done, he gets a special treat (something small and easy to swallow like a tiny bit of hotdog, you do NOT want to give him anything he has to chew/will start guarding) and be sure to treat FAR AWAY from other dogs.
     
  3. LittleDingy

    LittleDingy New Member

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    Hey there,

    Thanks for the response. I will definitely try this technique tomorrow at the dog park. Much appreciated.

    Cheers
     
  4. milos_mommy

    milos_mommy Active Member

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    Toys really don't belong in a dog park. Many dog parks have rules about bringing in toys other than a plain tennis ball for this reason.

    I'm not so sure leashing the dog and removing him each time another dog approaches is such a good idea. I'll let someone more experienced chime in on that, but I would think your dog will associate the other dogs approaching with a negative event (being removed from the situation) and become more defensive?

    Don't put him in a situation where he feels the need to guard something. You might want to enlist the help of a friend with a dog. Have your dog, leashed, with a toy. Let the friend and dog approach but from a distance you know your dog will be comfortable with. Give your dog a super-yummy treat (like hot dog) as the other dog approaches. When your dog starts to look uncomfortable, eyeing the other dog, raising his hair, it's time to move the other dog back and continue rewarding when your dog is calm.
     
  5. LittleDingy

    LittleDingy New Member

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    He does the behavior no matter what is involved, regardless of whether it is a toy like a frisbee or a tennis ball. When dogs try to come up and play with him it seems like he thinks they want to take his toy and he immediately becomes defensive and aggressive.

    Thank you both for the feedback. I will see if I can strike up some experimental compromise.
     
  6. Kayla

    Kayla New Member

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    My friend and I are planning to tackle this in the new year with her dog. She's a great dog when it comes to play skills, but she has a very strong resource gaurding reaction.

    Duke and her have literally played dozens of times successfully, go hiking and have healthy play togther on a weekly basis. It's only happened once, but while they were hiking, her dog got a stick, Duke walked to close, her dog postured for a second and then grabbed him on the side of his neck and chomped down and began shaking. Duke's much bigger then her, so he walked away almost completely injury free, just a few little itty bitty puncture marks.

    It took us what seemed like forever to get her off, all the while Duke was yelping, which was heart breaking for me but he was ok.

    None the less the incident, which occured in the fall has not affected their relationship on the whole. Duke and her dog still go hiking on a regular basis and do play successfully but Duke gives her a wide berth around anything she picks up.

    I ditto what others said about not putting him in a situation where he will feel the need to gaurd. This means either finding a new dog park that does not allow toys, or finding an alternative way to exercise him, and let him play with dogs.

    This is the biggest thing that will impact your success, as the more you dog get's put into situations and resorts to gaurding, the more classical conditioning is at play. The more he is conditioned to feel the need to gaurd, it stands to reason that with time the gaurding reaction could change in a few ways:

    1) It could become more intense, this means if the other dog doesn't back down your going to have a pretty serious fight on your hands. If the other dog is bigger then him you risk your little guy suffering serious injury or death.

    2) His threashold may grow, where as a dog walking by his object at 10 feet away used to be ok, in a few months of rehearsing he could begin pre-emptively charging/gaurding his object even when dogs are far away (which previously never bothered him). Again, with the wrong dog, you could have a serious fight on your hands.

    3) It could generalize into many area's of your dog's life not just at the dog park, making bringing him to other friends and family members house holds difficult as he could start gaurding you from other dogs, or even random objects.

    The three things specifically that my friend and I were discussing working on/teaching to her dog included:

    -Classically conditioning her to recieve lots of goodies when Duke walks by her while she is in a crate or tethered when no resource is present. (Just so that later on we can begin adding resources, but will have already shown her that this context produces good things)

    -Begin counter conditioning her to expect good things when Duke walks by at a far away distance, with a low value resource and dish out a steady flow of high value treats when Duke appears and stop when he disappears.

    -Slowly over whatever amount of time frame it takes, begin working through a hierarchy of high value resources, while Dukes distance is far away, and then slowly increase distance, while reducing resource value and then increasing resource value at new distance.

    -Teach her dog a strong drop it and back up from dropped object, eventually add in Duke with a barrier and at a distance

    These are all exercises that you could use with you guy, with a friends dog but keep in mind resource gaurding is a normal canine behaviour, that's hardwired in a lot of dogs. Punishment and corrections may suppress it in some circumstances, but it would be like trying to suppress a herding dog from ever showing any characteristics of it's hard wired stalking, staring and nipping behaviour, or a sighthound from ever showing any characteristics of it's hard wired prey drive.
     
  7. Danefied

    Danefied New Member

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    ^^This.
    I also agree that toys at the dog park is to be approached with caution if at all.

    Here's my take on dog-dog guarding (different rules for dog-human guarding). I think dogs are perfectly justified in telling other dogs to back away from any goodies they might have. Think of it this way, if I'm eating out with friends, some friends would be comfortable with me reaching to take a bite off their plate, others would not. Doesn't mean they're socially backwards or have aggressive tendencies. Just means they don't want to share. Or like on the subway it bugs me if someone were to lean over and read the newspaper I'm reading - others could care less. Doesn't mean I get to reach over and deck the person reading the paper, but I can give them a look or say "do you mind?"

    Same as with humans, with dogs there are rules of conduct when it comes to this sort of thing. Its rude for a dog to run up to another dog and just grab a toy, but often, there is subtle body language saying "I'm going to grab your toy unless you tell me not to". Dogs who have been corrected for growling and other forms of communication, may not know how to say "no thanks" and have to resort to over-the-top reactions to keep their stuff.

    In our household with (now) all stable dogs, I allow them to sort this type of thing out on their own. No one HAS to share. And if someone is being rude about space, you're allowed to say something about it. BUT these are dogs who live together 24/7 and I'd be going bonkers if I had to mediate every interaction. I only step in if someone is being particularly pushy or grumpy, and then all it takes if just me saying the offending dog's name.

    If this were my dog, I'd watch to see if he's giving warnings first that are being ignored. If this is the case, instead of removing him, I'd back him up by body blocking the other dog. Effectively teaching your guy that his warnings will be heeded and he doesn't have to escalate - YOU will do the escalating if needed. This is also a great way to build his trust in you too.

    If he's not giving any warnings or overreacting in general, I'd remove the toys from the situation period until he learns more doggy social skills and self control. You can help with both of these by socializing with stable dogs in controlled settings. Dogs learn far more from other dogs than they ever will from us :)
     
  8. mypetiswoody

    mypetiswoody New Member

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    One thing you can try is when other dogs are near, give treats to your dog, as Milos Mummy has already pointed out - assuming the treats are more attractive than the toy. The reason is that it helps your dog to associate the presence of other dogs as a pleasant experience. Eventually your dog with the toy will learn the proper behavior when other dogs are near.
     
  9. wvhollardawgs

    wvhollardawgs New Member

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    I just wanted to write that I think the responses here are very thorough and I appreciate the time everyone puts into these threads. Lots of good information!

    I don't have anything to add to this as I have one that struggles with the same issues at the dog park. Most folks know when Shout is there, to please not play with any toys...As soon as we leave, many toys come out and balls are thrown.

    I feel really bad about this and knid of guilty, but as someone else wrote, "the dog park is no place for toys". At least not when other dogs are present IMO.

    I did want to add a caution regarding the person who writes, "One thing you can try is when other dogs are near, give treats to your dog, as Milos Mummy has already pointed out - assuming the treats are more attractive than the toy. "

    In my experience, the dog park is no place for food either.

    My boy was flat out attacked by another dog whose owner was sneaking my dog a treat. It got nasty and resulted in my boy with a punctured paw and shaking. I just hated that for him, that I brought him to a place where he was attacked. I felt so terrible about that.

    Of course, I didn't hold it against the other dog or his owner, and we made a pact right there not to bring anymore food, but many others do.

    Food and toys just don't have a place at the dog park IMO.

    There is a book I have that is somewhat helpful to us called: MINE! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding In Dogs by Jean Donaldson It would be more helpful, I'm sure, if I had more time to practice the exercises.
     
  10. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    This is expert advice. Kayla says it all. :hail:

    Good luck with your fella!:)
     
  11. SacredPaw

    SacredPaw New Member

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    A good thing to teach your dog is to take an object and release it. It's one of my top 5 things that every dog should know. Start small. Start with a treat. tell them to wait before asking them to "take it" Move on to an object and when they "release" or "leave it" give them the treat. then you can start adding distractions, tugging games and retreives, etc. I never start tugging games until I know that the dogs knows how to release the object. But it's an excellent step to teaching a dog to drop the object when there's a lot of excitement!!! Always take small steps. Then start adding other dogs.
    Getting your dog to release an object at a park like setting when excitement is at it's peak is asking too much. also making a general statement of saying toys are not allowed at the park is unfair to all the dogs that do play cooperatively.

    At my daycare owners bring their dogs toys but I don't allow those toys to go in the dog co-op. I don't want those toys to be destroyed. Do I have toys? Yes!! I have a number of rope toys which the dogs play with. As well as a number of undestructible balls. Have I ever had a fight over a toy? No. And I've had up to 15 dogs racing around chasing after the dog with the toy. all the dogs know the rules of play. And the new ones quickly learn those rules right away. And I know at any given time I can walk in, give a release word and that toy becomes mine.
     
  12. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    Training a release doesn't do a lot in terms of guarding toys against other dogs. Trade games, which is how a release is trained, can help for guarding against people, but dog-dog relationships are different from dog-human relationships. The other dog isn't going to give a treat when your dog releases, he's going to take the toy for himself. Resource guarding is a defensive behavior and for a dog to lose what he's worried about losing reinforces the need to be defensive.

    Doggie daycare is a bit different from a dog park. Dogs at daycare are (hopefully) screened to be sure they're not aggressive, staff at daycare (hopefully) is capable of managing any problem behaviors before they develop, the dogs get to know each other, the staff, the place, and how they're expected to behave.

    The dynamics of a dog park are very unpredictable. People bring dogs there that have no business being in a group of dogs, owners don't pay attention to their dog or don't know how to read dogs or don't know when and how to step into a situation and mediate.
     
  13. Romy

    Romy Taxiderpy

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    When I brought the puppy home, she and my older dog started resource guarding food and toys from each other. Since they are big and I have a 3 year old daughter in the mix, this was a BIG PROBLEM because I didn't want her accidentally getting caught between them.

    First off, I took all their stuff away. It's mine and they have to earn it back.

    Second, they both learned the "trading with humans is fun" game. This game is part of the fiber of my older dog's being, but the puppy needed to learn it too. This must be solid because it's the foundation for the next step.

    Third, I took a low value toy and played a 3 way trade game with the two dogs. It went like this:

    1. Play tug with old dog for a minute, puppy wants the toy too but she won't take it from me. As she's watching us tug, I shove a bit of hotdog in her mouth.

    2. I tell old to to drop it. Shove hot dog in his mouth while puppy and I play tug for 20 seconds. Tell her to drop it, and shove hotdog in her mouth while I give the toy to old dog.

    This goes back and forth until both dogs are VERY cheerful and amped up about playing the trading game. At that point I stop, because I want things to end on a high note and I want them to be eager to play next session. What they are learning is GREAT things happen when the let go of the toy and the other dog takes it.

    After they get good with the low value toy, I progress to higher value toys until we are playing the game with smoky ham bones and tripe (the tripe is gross, but it's worth it to have dogs who get along).

    Now both of my dogs cheerfully share. They have plenty of chewy bones and toys laying around, but they will often choose to share the same one because they have such good associations with the other dog having the toy/food. They can even eat out of the same bowl at the same time with no problems now.

    I have no idea if they generalize this with strange dogs. We never had problems with visiting dogs or dogs that I dogsat after that, but I don't expect my dogs not to resource guard against dogs who are total strangers to them. So I don't put them in the position of having to do that.

    ETA: I guess another reason the 3-way trading game worked on them, is they see that stuff as mine and coming from me. So they don't guard something that doesn't belong to them.

    What might work is to have a super duper special treat that he loves that only comes out when other dogs are approaching him, and only when he drops whatever else he has and comes to focus on you. It's definitely something you would not train at a dog park, but at home or with a friend who has a stable well adjusted dog to be the "trigger" dog. We used hotdog because it's mushy and delicious, and instantly inhaled so they can't guard it.

    And you will want to start with lower value toys. The tennis balls and things seem to be high value. How does he feel about stuffed animals? Find something that he doesn't value as much to start desensitizing before moving on to high value items.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2010
  14. milos_mommy

    milos_mommy Active Member

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    True, but if you're there to reward your dog for releasing an object in front of another dog or giving that item to another dog, it becomes a "fun thing to do". **This is something to do with the help of a doggie friend (and their human owner), NOT at a crowded dog park.
     
  15. corgipower

    corgipower Tweleve Enthusiest

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    True. And yes, it's not something that should be done at a crowded dog park. And the other dog should be somewhat predictable, which means you have to know them and under some form of control in case the guardy dog still aggresses.
     
  16. milos_mommy

    milos_mommy Active Member

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    I would recommend doing it (if your dog isn't aggressive/defensive on leash) with both dogs on leash and starting out at a decent distance. Ex: Have your dog playing with a toy, and have the other owner approach. As soon as your dog seems to notice the other dog, even if it's 15 or 20 feet away, ask for a release and reward. Repeat this until your dog is more focused on dropping the toy and getting a treat than the other dog.

    And then keep moving the other dog closer and closer. If your dog gets uncomfortable (stiffening up, hair-raising, staring uncomfortably at the other dog, etc.), it's time to move back. Eventually your dog should be looking forward to the other dog coming towards him, like it's an opportunity to get a yummy treat.
     

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