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Let me just say I am so thankful to find this forum. Our home consists myself, my 16-year-old son, our 9-year-old yorkie (male-not neutered) and a 5-year-old cat (female-spayed), and this is the first time I have experienced anxiety after bringing home a new furry baby.

We eagerly adopted a beautiful 4-year-old lab (male-not neutered) from one of my son’s friends who could no longer care for him. We brought him home on Tuesday – our new addition did have anxiety (barking) when my son left for a few minutes that evening, but quickly stopped barking upon his return. Yesterday (Wednesday), my son worked so I was eager to spend time with our new addition alone. I brought him home a giant bone, which he protected. He protected it so much that he was aggressive towards our yorkie. This morning, (Thursday), when I woke my son up, (our new addition has been sleeping in my son’s room), our new addition growled at me, then got aggressive with my yorkie again. I am very concerned. This is a 100 lb dog and he clearly can sense I am scared of him.

I love our new addition and realize we may not have made a smooth transition introducing him to his new family. I desperately need help and advice on how I can start from zero again, but now I’m concerned about our yorkie.

Any advice is greatly appreciated.
 

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It rather seems the dog has taken over ownership of many things in your home in a short period of time. You and your son need to be a team, show the dog what's good and what's expected so to speak. If the bed is an issue, get him off the bed - that needs to be earned. If you're scared of him, maybe just put a leash on him so you don't need to be grabbing him and risking defensive growls. Close the bedroom door so the dog can't get in - problem solved.

Our pup has his kennel, that's his place - the rest is mine and it's a privilege for him to use it basically. If I give a raw bone, he goes to his kennel - leave him alone. If he's anywhere else in the home - and he growls - all bets are off and he will lose the bone.

Resource guarding isn't always true aggression, sometimes its just a show of force - but only you can know if the dog will defend over the bone. What I would do personally is tie a string to the bone, if he starts guarding, wait for your chance and yank the bone from him and put it away. Some don't agree with this, but the bone in this situation is the problem - removing the problem will get the point across in a hurry. The bone is yours, not the dogs.

You can't be scared of your dog, nobody should live like that. You need to build confidence in yourself and your dog - step by step.
 

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Taking the object he is guarding away from him may be effective, but there is a risk to that method. Yes, the dog may realize that every time he guards something he loses it. If so, great, problem solved. However. Simply put, dogs guard things because they do not want to lose those things. Taking the thing that they are guarding away might serve to teach them that when they start guarding things, they lose them, but it is equally as likely to reinforce to the dog that yes, you need to guard your resources (toys, bones, space, access to your people/favorite person), because yes, you are at risk of losing those resources. In this situation, the dog will up the ante, so to speak. Instead of growling when he has a bone and you reach out towards him, he may start snapping. Or he may growl when you come within 2 feet of him with his bone if you look towards him. Bottom line, their is always a chance that taking the resource away from a resource guarding dog will cause them to escalate their behavior, whether it means in the moment going from a warning growl, to a snap, to a bite, or whether it happens slowly over many encounters. If I was face to face with this dog, had worked with him, and assessed him as having a temperament I thought likely to respond well to the method of taking away resources when he guarded them, then maybe I would suggest that. I don't think it's super safe to give advice to take resources away from resource guarding dogs to "teach them a lesson" over the internet, without meeting the dog. There are dogs out there that that is a very dangerous thing to do.

From what you describe, it sounds as if this dog is "resource guarding" his bone and either your son, your son's room, or your son's bed. Did he know your son (and perhaps not you, or your son more than you) before coming to live with you? I'm sort of assuming the answer is yes, since you said he was re-homed from a friend. Why was he rehomed? Is it possible to get in touch with his old owner/is he a good friend of your son's? I would highly recommend finding out whether this was an issue in his old home, and if so how they handled it. I'd also be curious as to what kind of training/how much training was done with him in his old home, and what kind of training was used. These aren't necessarily things that will help you fix this issue, but when re-homing a dog into you home (rescuing or home to home re-home), it is good to have as much information about the dog's past as possible.

Resource guarding can be the result of a dog who has poor boundaries and is being a d*ck, or it can be coming from a place of true fear/anxiety. The dogs that are just being little turds are the ones that will often knock it off if you take their prized possession away every time they do it. The ones that are doing it from a place of anxiety/fear are the ones more likely to escalate their threats in response to you trying to actually take the item away. Given that this dog has just experienced a high degree of upheaval in his life, and that you describe him as maybe having some separation-anxiety related problems (ie, barking when your son left him alone with you), I would be more inclined to think he falls under the latter category. If this is the case, it will take longer to train out of him, but is something that can be done, often with great success. He may never be the type of dog that it's safe or a good idea to literally reach into his mouth and pull things out of, or the kind of dog that is super comfortable with people entering his space, but you can get him to a place where he isn't aggressive or threatening, and understands that no one is out to take everything that is his, and has a repertoire of other behaviors to perform aside from threatening people for getting to close to him when he is somewhere valuable or has something valuable.

Because you have a small dog in the house who he has guarded against and because you seem to be nervous around him, I would highly suggest working with a professional on this issue. I would also suggest looking for someone who- if not completely "force free" in their training methods- employs what they describe as "reinforcement based training" and tries force-free/reward based methods first before moving to anything harsher. This kind of trainer may call themselves a "balanced" trainer, which means that they may employ "correction" (also called "aversives") in their training, using the addition of something the dog doesn't like to cause a behavior to occur less frequently. I encourage you to do some reading on the use of force in dog training. It is a highly contentious issue, and I won't derail this thread by going into it, but IMO the biggest decision any owner/trainer can make in training their dog (whether for obedience, sport work, or behavioral modification) is how much force they want to use, are willing to use, and think is fair and in what situations. Steer clear of anyone touting anything that uses words like "dominance", "alpha", "pack leader", or seems to base most of their training on concepts such as "leadership". IMO, that points towards a faulty understanding of how dog's conceptualize the world, learn, and why dogs "misbehave".

In the short term, I would suggest managing the environment so that the dog doesn't have the chance the guard things that he's likely to find valuable. Keep toys picked up, don't give him bones when he and the other dog are loose together. You know know he has a history of guarding the bed/you son's room. I would suggest blocking access to the bed. The easiest way to do this is to have him sleep in a crate. If he's not crate trained, I would highly suggest crate training him. IMO, the best management device you can have for a resource guarder is a crate, especially in a multi dog household. If he is crate trained, you can safely feed him and give him high value toys like bones in the crate where even if the other dog or a guest or child wanders over, he can't actually hurt them. It will also likely give him a sense of security to have a place that is his, where no one will bother him and he can go for time alone. I have never had a dog that didn't love their crate (when they have been properly introduced to one) and voluntarily bring toys there to chew or sleep in there with the door open.

I would highly recommend this dog and the current small dog not be left loose when no one is home or supervising. A large dog with resource guarding issues and a small dog that isn't highly familiar with the big dog and may wander too close at the wrong time IMO is setting up a situation where a fight could break out while no one is home, which could end poorly. Really I don't suggest leaving every 2 very well behaved dogs together unless you are very sure about how each will react when loose and unsupervised, and this kind of understanding of a dog usually takes having owned them/lived with them for awhile.

For changing the behavior itself, you need to work on changing the emotional state causing the behavior and teaching alternative behaviors to the one he is currently using (ie, calm behavior aggressive threat displays). I would suggest looking into Counter Conditioning and Desensitization (Desensitizing and Counter-Conditioning: Overcoming Your Dog?s Issues) for the first part of that, and BAT 2.0 or "Behavioral Adjustment Training (2.0)" (BAT 2.0 Overview | Grisha Stewart) for the second. IMO, BAT is a really groundbreaking way of treating behavioral problems in dogs, relying on the dog to decide the pace and very gracefully using "functional reinforcers" (ie, life rewards) to reward good choices on the dog's part. The reward for the dog not growling, in this case, is that you get further away.

All three of those things sound very easy to do in theory, but in practice there is a steep learning curve. In order for them to be most effective (spend the least amount of time having to do them before you see improvement, see the behavior improve the most/disappear) they really need to be done in concert with someone who has experience doing them. This is where a professional behaviorist or trainer with experience doing behavioral modification comes in handy. A great deal of modifying the behavior of an animal you cannot communicate with (ie, any non human animal) comes down to reading the animal's body language well and good timing, and both of these things are rarely things that people are good with unless they've had a lot of practice doing them. Very few people are intuitively good dog trainers. Especially if you're feeling fearful or nervous about the situation, it is helpful to have someone with experience guiding it.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
What amazing advice, Moonstream! I have a trainer coming to our house on Sunday to work with us. I do believe it's "resource guarding".

Thank you so much for your response!
 
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