Increased Resource Guarding Behavior

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Increased Resource Guarding Behavior

This is a discussion on Increased Resource Guarding Behavior within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; I have a 9 month old beagle mix who recently discovered the wonderful game of playing fetch. Initially, I was thrilled to have another exercise ...

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Old 04-24-2018, 03:34 PM
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Increased Resource Guarding Behavior

I have a 9 month old beagle mix who recently discovered the wonderful game of playing fetch. Initially, I was thrilled to have another exercise outlet.

However, she has increasingly become more possessive of tennis balls when we go to the dog park. She "growls" (or in her case, high-pitch "yells" with teeth showing) and moves any dog away from any tennis ball she deems "hers." She gets pretty angry when she's in the middle of a game of fetch, drops it for me, and another dog snatches it before I can. (We are still working on drop-it INTO my hand.) Unfortunately this is not the only scenario that she guards though. She likes to run under the benches with a ball/frisbee and then proceeds to scare away any dog that tries to come near her.

This behavior has started recently, like within the past month or so. We have been going to the dog park since she was 4 months old. I would really hate to have to stop going because when she's not guarding, she's playing nicely and having fun.

However, she has ended up getting into with a couple other dogs. Luckily, some of the "regulars" who I know personally now. She seems to now back off for these certain dogs even on different trips to the park that have happened after the trips when the "fights" happened.

We have tried leaving the park after she becomes "possessive," but I don't think she understands the association between: being mean = leave park.

I'm not sure what the next step would be in nixing this behavior. Is she just being a teenager? Do I need to go to a professional or is this something I can fix along with some of our friends with dogs?
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Old 04-24-2018, 03:47 PM
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IMO, it's totally normal behavior. Most dogs will resource guard *something*. That ball is hers and she doesn't want to share. The fact that she's growling and not outright escalating to an attack is a good sign, too.

I don't really think dogs should be expected to share things - it's not really a normal concept to them. In fact, if one of my dogs starts to guard an object, I remove the OTHER dog from the situation and/or redirect them to leave the first dog alone. I only remove the object itself if it seems like things are going to get out of hand.

My advice would be to leave it as it is, play some trading games so that she doesn't guard against you, and find a different place to play ball. I don't really like it when people bring toys/food into dog parks anyway, as this is just so common and someone could easily get hurt. I'll bring a toy in if the park is empty, but if someone else shows up I immediately take it back.
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Old 04-24-2018, 04:21 PM
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I agree with the above advice to a point. When my last dog started guarding food and snapped at my roommate and my cat over treats it had escalated. I was not going to allow people or other animals to be afraid to live in their own home or walk by a food dish. So we did nilif training and he never could eat until I said so. If he got possessive over a toy or ball I took it away until he wasn't possessive. He was large, strong and had snapped.
I don't bring toys or balls into the dog park unless we're alone there. My dog doesn't even play with toys or balls unless they squeaky. But I bring him there to be loose and socialize with other dogs. The vast majority of the fights he's had have been from people bringing in squeaky toys, him stealing them and then if the possessive dogs attack him to get the toys back he'll defend himself. He'll usually drop the toy and run away but if the dog starts fighting first he'll fight back, not hurting anyone.
He doesn't tolerate being bullied. If another dog tries to chase him away from their owners, he'll posture right back at them and bark and growl in their face and not back down. Usually they eventually give in and let him stay nearby.
I wouldn't let her continue to do this for simple safety in case she goes after a bigger dog who really does decide to fight back. I'd also only bring toys or balls in if you're completely alone. If you're consistent and take away the ball and hide it or throw it over the fence every time she guards it, she might learn not to guard it as that makes her lose the ball.
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Old 04-25-2018, 06:39 PM
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My concern is that this is occurring in a dog park. While it hasn’t come to bites, it might. And your small dog might wind up the worse for it. The point of the dog park is to be social with other dogs. If that isn’t what is happening, then stop going.
I’m not a fan of dog parks. It’s just one snark away from lord of the flies.
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agression, possessive, puppy, resource guarding, tennis ball

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