Is Resource Guarding a "breakable" behaviour?

Discussion in 'Dogs - General Dog Chat' started by Locke, Oct 14, 2012.

  1. Locke

    Locke Active Member

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    Is a dog who resource guards always going to resource guard? Or can proper training break the behaviour entirely so that it never rears its ugly head ever again?


    I ask because there's this dog that fits all my criteria for my next dog, but he has a pretty bad case of resource guarding. The foster family is working on it (using the trading game mostly I believe), and I would continue the training if I were to adopt him, but I'm wondering if it will ever "go away"?
     
  2. BostonBanker

    BostonBanker Active Member

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    Yes. I don't know if it *always* is, but it certainly can be.

    My friend is a trainer who once took in a dog from the humane society to work with who had severe resource guarding issues. Not only against humans, but she'd go after dogs or cats who walked by when she had something. We played the trading game non-stop with her, with anything she had, for a while. My friend actually wound up keeping her when the dog started having seizures and the humane society wanted her to come back to be put to sleep. Within a few months, not only could you take anything from the dog, but she'd pick up everything she could find and bring it to you hoping for a trade. "I have a sock! Look! Don't you want it? How about this shoe? I have a ball. I'd give it to you for a cookie."

    I've heard from more than one trainer that it is the most easily corrected behavioral issue, and I've seen enough dogs worked on with it to agree that it is fixable.
     
  3. Brattina88

    Brattina88 Active Member

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    I'm no expert, but I think resource guarding is something that has to be managed - it doesn't go away. I had a couple fosters with the same problem, and after some training it didnt seem like there was a problem, but with poor management itd be easy for them to go back to their 'old ways' :p
    But I'll let some others chime in who have more experience than me. :)
     
  4. Danefied

    Danefied New Member

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    Depends on the dog, depends on what the dog guards, depends on the home, depends on the training.

    In our case, Lunar was very food aggressive but only with food - very manageable. Actually he did try to guard the bed when he first discovered beds, but that was very short lived, we nipped it right in the bud and it hasn’t been an issue.

    He was also 40# underweight when we got him. (Though interestingly his guarding didn’t show itself fully until he gained some weight.) He also guarded mostly with humans, not so much with dogs - our other dogs respect his signals and he doesn’t escalate with them like he did with humans.

    It has been 3 years, and we have ZERO issues with him. It was intensive management and training there for a bit, but once he figured out he could trust us, he’s never looked back.
     
  5. Shai

    Shai & the Muttly Crew

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    Webster was a pretty bad resource guarder...bad enough that he would've been put down if he ever made it to our city shelter (which is where he was heading when we rerouted him) and bad enough that he chomped my hand when I didn't realize that his guarding wasn't just food but also locations and I sleepily tried to move him over in the dark and didn't see the warning signs before teeth hit skin.

    He also spent a year doing therapy dog work and was certified. Legitimately so.

    It can be done.

    I do however agree with Brattina that with poor management it would probably come back. Fortunately his managers are the same folks who helped him in the first place so that's unlikely.
     
  6. Kat09Tails

    Kat09Tails *Now with Snark*

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    IMO resource guarding is a hard wired dog trait - just as much as the wag or the bark. You can mess with thresholds or manage it but in the end the trait never completely disappears.
     
  7. Danefied

    Danefied New Member

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    I do think this is true. RG is a *normal* dog behavior. Kind of like marking. You can teach the dog to pee outside but he’s going to pick the spot he wants to pee on if that makes sense.

    I don’t consider guarding from other dogs a problem behavior - especially in a household where the dogs respect the possession is law rule, which mine do. If you’re having fights - yeah that’s a problem.

    With humans, I want them to know to trust us implicitly around food.
     
  8. Fran27

    Fran27 New Member

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    We had a dog that had it. We tried to work on it, but with two little kids, it was hard. I remember being stuck on the stairs with my kids crying downstairs while the dog was growling at me at the bottom of the stairs after he stole a sock. We had to find him a new home eventually because he snapped at the kids, but was barking all day if we put him behind a gate.

    We saw a trainer at the time and she said it could probably be fixed. I don't know about 'easy' but I guess it depends how comfortable you are with training etc. I wasn't comfortable at all dealing with a dog that was growling at me. Even if we had managed to fix it though, I don't think I would ever have trusted him around my kids.
     
  9. sassafras

    sassafras mushinois

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    I think between training and management, it's an "I can live with it" behavior. Some dogs I don't think it ever completely goes away, but you can get it to a level where management takes care of the rest.

    I know I've told this story before, but my old Roxy was a horrible RG of food against other animals. Back in the day when we were relatively ignorant, she put two of our cats in the hospital before we realized exactly what we were dealing with. A lot of training and very, very strict management of food later, and everyone lived harmoniously together for the rest of her life.
     
  10. Maxy24

    Maxy24 Active Member

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    My thoughts are for most dogs it can be trained away and the dog can stop being uncomfortable with you around his stuff. But I also think there is a personality/temperament/genetic reason some dogs are so much quicker to guard than others, regardless of how they were raised. Because of that I think even if you change their logic, teaching them to become happy when you approached their food/toy/whatever so that the no longer guard, it will be easier for them to revert back to guarding if training is not kept up. I don't think it's the sort of thing where you work with the dog until he stops guarding and then he's done with training. I think resource guarding training needs to be continued throughout the dog's life even if he hasn't shown any signs of discomfort with you around his food in years. You are relying on his logical reasoning to override his instinct, which can of course be done, but you must remind the dog now and again that there is a reason he's not going with his gut feeling. I also think it means the dog might still guard if startled while he has something, thus he does not have time to use his logical brain.


    But that's just a theory really...counter conditioning may be able to entirely change the dog's gut feeling.
     
  11. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    Dogs...all living things are pre-programmed to defend their food and valuables. If we weren't, we'd all starve. Some dogs will never do this guarding stuff because somewhere along the line, they've figured out that they don't need to. But some dogs have had things taken from them too much or scolded in association with their feeding or swiping things. You know...like puppies who grab something off the coffee table and they're told, "no." And the thing is ripped out of their mouths. When these things happen too much, some dogs will get growly and even snappy when they fear something will be taken. And many dogs will just resource guard regardless because it's an instinctive thing and some dogs are more instinctive than others. lol.

    The idea of a systematic training protocol is to re-program their brains, their natural wiring to protect their belongings. (No Cesar M....it is NOT your food because you bought it or because YOU think you're the "pack leader.") lol. Once the dog has it, it's his. We can not go by our rules on this. We must go by the way dogs ARE.

    Dogs can be re-wired to learn that their food or other valuables will not go away when people or dogs come near. And if they are taken, they get them right back again and besides that, they get even more fantastic stuff added to the loot. It becomes a win-win thing for the dog. Once this re-programming gets solid and consistent, it's unlikely that the dog will go back to thinking the way he use to. He will have a new lease on life. When he's eating, he'll look up and ask you, "well? Are you bringing something more? Come over here will ya."

    Now, some cases are harder than others and some are extremely dangerous. If you ever feel truly unsafe or nervous, do get a positive reinforcement trainer to help you. I do not think that every single case will necessarily be worked though. But most can be.

    There are lots of good links with information on this. Look for Ian Dunbar on resource guarding. He has good articles. There are many others too. Just don't believe anything that tells you that you are the pack leader, the alpha and it's your right to do anything or take anything you please from your dog and they should put up and shut up. No scolding, force or dominating your dog. You must change his mind about coming near his stuff...so he thinks it's a fantastic deal. And this can be done. There are loads of good tricks and recommendations. For instance....no food bowl at first since that makes it HIS. You control his resources. You're God to him because you provide everything. Since he doesn't own it in the first place, there's nothing to guard. Anyhow, it's too much to go into now for me, but hunt for Ian Dunbar, Jean Donaldson, Kikopup has some wonderful videos. Look her up. There are others too.
     
  12. Shai

    Shai & the Muttly Crew

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    Yeah a couple caveats to my previous post:

    -- In Webster's case he had a good warning system in place. The whole progression of warning signals really. So as long as you weren't an idiot and surprised him in the dark, it was easy to see coming and the situation could be mitigated

    -- One upside of getting chomped was I discovered for certain that Web has pretty good bite inhibition.

    Both are pretty important when it comes to successfully rehabing a resource guarder with minimal risk, and preventing relapses, at least IMO
     
  13. *blackrose

    *blackrose "I'm kupo for kupo nuts!"

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    Chloe has changed from a dog that would attack you if you approached her within 15 feet while she was chewing on a high valued item to a dog that will drop rawhides on command...but that was after a LOT of work and management, and she will still bite if you approach her wrong/are the wrong person/she has the wrong thing.
     
  14. Paige

    Paige Let it be

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    Bandit used to be a nasty resource guardy dog and now he will happily sleep on the floor while toddlers dump over his food dish and nom his kibbles.
     
  15. BlackPuppy

    BlackPuppy Owned by Belgians

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    My youngest is from a litter of 11. He had some serious resource guarding when he came here. I have 3 dogs, and they all get a fair share of anything and everything. I did the usual hand feeding and would body block if he went after anybody else's food bowl. It is very rare that he will do any guarding now, but sometimes I hear a growl when he spots what he thinks is food on the floor and somebody else is closer.

    I don't know if it's much harder with an older dog. Did you see that awful Cesar video with resource guarding? Don't do what he did!
     
  16. JustaLilBitaLuck

    JustaLilBitaLuck New Member

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    This. I think you need to combine training and management, and realize that it may NEVER completely go away - you may always be managing it in part.

    Jack was a terrible resource guarder when I got him. He has gotten so much better with training, but I'll never say he's "cured". We played lots of trading games. We did a lot of conditioning to teach him that people approaching your stuff is the best thing ever. And even now, when he rarely shows guarding behavior, we STILL play the trade game, we still do the conditioning routines.

    And I manage it. I would much rather be safe than sorry. When people are over, he eats food or chewies in a crate (or after the people are gone). If I can't trust visitors not to be stupid (like taking a toy away from him), then he doesn't get to be around them at all. When I had foster dogs, the fosters always ate meals and chews in crates so there wasn't the potential of a fight.
     
  17. Taqroy

    Taqroy Active Member

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    Like everyone else has said, I think it depends on a lot of factors. Murphy resource guards from everyone but me (and sometime me too just to mix it up). I've played the trading game with him, and we hand feed, but the number one thing we do is manage it. He only gets high value items when no one stupid is around to try and take it from him. And there's never food sitting out (see: hand feeding) so he has no reason to guard bowls. The girls are completely respectful of his space and his food so there's no issue there. And, he has fantastic bite inhibition. The ONLY time he's made contact with someone, it was her shoe and it was a muzzle punch as opposed to a bite. And she fully admitted that she made the wrong choice and that he was warning her as clearly as he could before he went for her shoe. (And all future dog feeders are warned that if Murphy gets ahold of something just to let him have it. I'd rather have an overfed dog than a bit friend.)

    On the other hand, Mu LOVES the trading game. And despite my early habit of just taking things from her, a couple days of the trading game and she will let me take anything out of her mouth. There are differences between her and Murph of course - Murphy had 4 years to refine his guarding behavior while Mu only had a few months, and Mu is much more "trainable" in certain aspects. But still, different dogs have different responses.
     
  18. Kimbers

    Kimbers New Member

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    I'd agree with Doverluv; in order to work with a RG dog, you show it that sharing or not aggressively guarding its possessions leads to really amazing things. You're conditioning their train of thought, changing it from "You'll steal my food, I'mma snap at you. to something like "Seeing you walk around my bowl and stick your hand in always leads to the most amazing rewards! I'mma let you do what you want!
    For some dogs, though, I think they are just so hard-wired to protect their resources that the responsive behavior to someone coming too close is nearly impossible to rewrite. You can make their response less aggressive and increase the threshold, but not always completely rewrite their reaction.

    For Kailey, I "rewrote" her response to other critters getting too close to her food by letting the cat nibble on her breakfast while she was on-lead and getting fed cheese. She used to snap at the cat, but now, she wags her tail and looks at me. She's even backed up a few steps and lay down just to watch the cat eat. After several weeks, I'd built up such a positive association with the cat eating her food that she actually almost enjoys sharing it. lol
     
  19. Paige

    Paige Let it be

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    I think Bandit was more insecure than anything. I would never leave him out in the house with something he REALLY values like a bone. I don't think he would do anything but why take the risk? Thats a solo activity he gets to partake in away from the rest of the family. I think his guarding of food though when he was young stemmed from the other dogs, not so much people. Ever since he's been an only dog he's been so much eaiser.
     

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