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Discussion Starter #1
Hey all!

I know I know...not another resource guarding thread....but bear with me, I just wanted to see what you thought of these two scenarios.

So ever since I started feeding Mia on raw she's been resource guarding her food. I wouldn't say it's mild, it can escalate pretty quickly.


Scenario 1:

If I'm holding her bowl I will have her sit and wait before she eats. I avoid eye contact because I notice she will start growling right away when I look at her, even before I lower the bowl.

If I lower the bowl and make her wait before I say "ok", sometimes she growls and if I say "ah ah, Mia" she will bare her teeth, hackles up, body tense. I raise the bowl, put it on the table and walk away. She then panics, runs to me like..hey! where did my food go?? runs back to the kitchen and looks up to the counter waiting for her food. I have read different things about removing food if she growls. On on side, it only encourages her to growl because it proves to her that I could take her food away at any given moment. The other side says that it will teach her and make her realize that growling doesn't get her food. So far she hasn't "gotten it".

At the moment what I've been doing is making her sit, then I'll sit on a chair (she doesn't like it when I sit on the ground because I'm eye level to her) and I'll say, "ok ready?....ok go". She will let me hold her bowl with my thumbs inside the bowl. I don't think she even notices it because she's inhaling her food.

If she is eating out of her bowl on the ground, she has no issues with me standing right in front of her, I can walk around her, I can even wipe the ground around her. It's mainly when I'm holding her bowl and about to lower myself to put the bowl on the ground or if I make her wait just a second too long.

I've already tried the following:

-Hand feeding
-Walking away with her bowl if she starts growling
-Walking by and throwing in food/high value treat
-Tossing treats from a distance
(the problem with the latter two is that she eats wayyy too quickly, like in 5 seconds the food is gone.)


Scenario 2:
- When I feed her raw bones she gets REALLY excited and almost immediately starts growling as I'm holding the bone. Because I don't have a yard or a patio, I have to go into her crate with a plastic mat on the bottom and she can happily eat her bone in piece (without my senior dog coming to sniff her). She knows the command "inside" which means go inside the crate. However, when I make her go inside first while I'm still holding her bone, she will start to growl. I will then turn my back and walk away. She then immediately comes out and confronts me and growls. Sometimes if I just sit outside the crate and wait until she stops growling she will also come out and sit right in front of my face and bares teeth sometimes.

The funny thing is..say we're in the kitchen and I make her sit nice and quietly, I will hand her the bone and she runs into her crate on her own no issues. I can then close the door and she's fine. No growling. Every once in a while she will growl if I walk by (no eye contact) but for the most part she's ok.

Can anyone help me understand/explain her behaviour? What am I doing wrong? What am I missing?

She's not protective over her toys. She's a little protective over her bones and chews with me but not with my senior dog. She will let him sniff and lick them (his teeth are horrible so he has no interest in chewing them) but when she sees him walk by and lick one of her bones, she watches from a distance and when he goes away she will go grab that bone and chew on it for a bit and then leave it).
 

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I wouldn't avoid eye contact with the dog, to me, that's showing submission in a way. A dog that growls or guards eats on my terms - if they go hungry overnight, too bad - they will be a little more apt to be calm in the morning. It's not being mean, it's called tough love.

Prep the meal, let her do the default behaviour. If the dog show any sign of guarding - don't let her get to the point of growling - put the meal in the fridge. Remove it altogether so it's not a temptation sitting on the counter.

Shrug your shoulders and walk away, don't make it a big deal. Wait for a couple of hours, if any signs again, let her go hungry. Pits aren't stupid, you can either play their game their way - or reverse it.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
@jagger I always thought eye contact makes it more confrontational but I get it, I'm going to try that tonight. I'll just make sure my other dog eats first in case she tries to steal his food if she doesn't get it eat lol.
 

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@jagger I always thought eye contact makes it more confrontational but I get it, I'm going to try that tonight. I'll just make sure my other dog eats first in case she tries to steal his food if she doesn't get it eat lol.
Have a staring competition if you have to, it's your dog, not someone elses that you're trying to make nice with. I've stared dogs down, it makes them a little uncomfortable, when they break it's a submission.

Try it and let us know how it goes. It'll take more than once to win the game. Bar Mia in a room and feed the other first - then reverse it. When you feed Mia, remove the other dog from the situation so it's one on one, you and the dog.
 

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I wouldn't advise a staring competition per se, however you could make eye contact and treat and repeat over and over again until she's more comfortable. I also would NOT start with a full bowl, nor would I be feeding her from the bowl anymore. Start with an empty bowl, approach, then give her one kibble. This is hand feeding, but you're also keeping it slow. If she growls when you get close, start farther away. If she growls while eating from your hand, withdraw hand and food for a few counts then come back. That way growling isn't getting her food, and when you disappear so does food. 100% of her food should be coming from you for now until she trusts you more around food. Please buy the book "Mine!", I just got it and its amazing. My dog is actually nearly 100% cured after a year of owning him, and I have followed most of what the book said, even without owning it. Now that I have it, even though my dog is beyond most of the training, I'm going to follow it cover to cover to make sure my dog doesn't have holes in his training. Don't give her things for growling, while you don't want to ever punish growling, you don't want to reward it either. if raw bones are too much, start slow.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
@wideturn She doesn't have a problem eating out of my hand. I have been hand feeding her since she was a puppy. The times when I feed her from her bowl is when I don't have time to make her work for it, or when I'm feeding her tripe. (It's dehydrated and you just add water, but it gets messy if I handle it with my hands).

Usually in the mornings, we'll play a game. I hide her squirrel toy while she waits in the kitchen. I'll make her do something like puppy push ups, sit/stay or a trick and I'll give her a piece of her meal and then she'll go find the squirrel. When she returns the squirrel into my hand, she gets another piece of meat. This usually takes about 30 mins so sometimes if I'm running late in the morning I'll just put it in her bowl and let her eat on her own. I guess I can just hand feed it to her instead but like I said, she's never had a problem with me hand feeding her. She will sit and wait patiently until I hand her the food.

Even when she's eating out of her bowl, I can sit there and wipe the floor around her, put my hand in the bowl and she ignores me. She's too into eating her meal. (I have dropped treats in there while I put my hand there in the past so maybe that's why she's okay with it now).

I just bought the ebook so I'll read it over on the weekend.

Update on last night:
I decided to try and give her a turkey neck. Even before me getting the bone from the freezer I told her "inside" and right away she sat there, stared at me and growled. I didn't move but looked right back at her. A few things happened:
- she continued to stare back and growl
- she would look down and growl
- she would lie down and growl
- she rolled on her side and did her "play dead" pose
- she tried to jump up on me
- she would open her mouth slightly and growl so it sounded like a "roooooooo"

We probably could have stood there all night she's extremely stubborn. After the first attempt I ignored her and sat down to watch TV. She kept looking for food, pacing and panting. She would run into her crate and sit quietly, sometimes she would go into the "down" position, sometimes she would go into the crate and growl. I ignored her the whole time. Eventually she calmed down (or so I thought) because she put her head down (she was still in the crate) and started to sleep so I thought, ok lets try this again.

As soon as I got up, again...she immediately got excited and growled again when I told her to go inside her crate.

In the end she didn't get her bone. I went to bed and she started pacing around the apartment looking for food. She played with her treat ball for a while thinking there was something still inside, she jumped on my bed and sniffed me and then jumped off, she went to the living room and started chewing on some old bones and her himalayan yak chew. Eventually she fell asleep on the couch and later jumped on the bed and slept with me. This is the first time she's ever missed a meal. I know she's young (10 months) so some of you might think it was cruel to have her miss her meal but I need to stop this as soon as I can. Hopefully the book with have some good tips.

One thing I find funny is that if I have a regular treat or even a piece of meat, if I say "inside" she will go into her crate no problem and wait quietly until I give her the treat/meat. I don't understand what she sees the difference is...even without something in my hand she will growl going into the crate. I'm so confused!
 

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What you're describing with the turkey neck certainty sounds like it could be arousal growling, not guarding. She sounds to have started growling at the sight of the turkey neck, not when you gave it to her, and she sounds like she was offering behaviors to try to get the turkey neck (which is typical of a dog who has done a fair bit of training, especially involving free shaping behaviors).

The thing with the crate sounds like it could be arousal growling too- she is growling before she's been giving the bone, and she growls/bares teeth when the thing she is excited about is withheld.

The growling when you make eye contact and hackling up/baring teeth/growling when you lean down around her with food sounds like she feels threatened, but it's hard to tell just from the description. Would it be possible to get a video of all of this?

I'm curious- does she tend to be a growling/vocal dog the begin with? Does she ever hackle up or bare teeth out of excitement? Does she tend to be a nervous dog, a confident dog, good with people, unsure of new people? Does she react negatively to you leaning down around her when she's not eating (even just by stiffening up)? How does she respond to direct eye contact outside of when you're feeding her? Have you done a lot of work with eye contact/focus exercises in training?

Quote:
Originally Posted by yoshiposhi
@jagger I always thought eye contact makes it more confrontational but I get it, I'm going to try that tonight. I'll just make sure my other dog eats first in case she tries to steal his food if she doesn't get it eat lol.

Have a staring competition if you have to, it's your dog, not someone elses that you're trying to make nice with. I've stared dogs down, it makes them a little uncomfortable, when they break it's a submission.
Personally, I see this as a simplification of the behavioral mechanisms at work in this kind of a situation. Direct eye contact with a dog, especially with the human standing directly in front of the dog and leaning down- like you would if you had a food bowl between you and the dog and the dog was in a sit- is 100% a confrontational gesture to a dog.

A dog breaking that direct eye contact cannot be described simply as "submission". A dog looking away from direct eye contact is an appeasing gesture- the dog may be trying to deescalate what it sees as a tense/dangerous situation, the dog may be trying to communicate that it feels uncomfortable, the dog may have learned that in order to get access to the food it needs to look away (which is completely different from it "submitting"). There is a lot more at work than just "OK, that food is yours, you are in charge of me". In fact, I would argue that most of the time that is not the message a dog is trying to communicate when it breaks direct eye contact. Most often, I would say the dog feels uncomfortable with the hard eye contact and is trying to deescalate the situation. Alternatively, if the dog is always supposed to break eye contact before a meal because the owner likes the dog to "submit" to them before eating, I would peg that as a learned behavior similar to learning to sit for food, or wait until released for food.

In my mind, forcing a dog to look away from direct eye contact doesn't gain you anything. You aren't suddenly better able to train that dog. It isn't usually a necessary step in a behavioral modification process. What it is, IMO, is inviting a great deal of risk if you do it with the wrong dog (and over the internet, it is hard to know 100% for sure whether or not it is the wrong dog).

Also, having a staring contest with a dog to modify behavior of the dog relies on the assumption that the dog wants to deescalate the situation. There are plenty of dogs who do not want to deescalate this situation and will take the direct eye contact as a threat and it may lead to a bite. From what I know about this dog, I don't think it is likely to bite its owner in this situation- and I'm not 100% convinced this is true resource guarding- but there are lots of resource guarders that will bite if someone makes direct, hard eye contact with them and leans over them in a way they find threatening. All advice that you give has possible positive consequences (it changes the behavior/"works") and negative consequences (it doesn't "work" or it escalates the behavior). Some things are more likely to escalate a behavior than to work to change the behavior for the better, and direct eye contact to a resource guarding dog is something that is more likely to escalate the behavior than work to change it for the better.
 

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Also, in terms of withholding food for an entire night because the dog was growling- to me that is useless. I understand waiting another 5 or 10min to try again to offer food, but IMO if you're going to be using negative punishment like this (removing something the dog wants to make a behavior occur less often), you need to be keeping the period that the thing the dog wants has been taken away to punish short enough that they don't forget about it and don't find something else to do. You also are ideally ending the session with the dog exhibiting the correct behavior and then earning the resource that you took away in the first place.

In this case, the dog has pretty much forgotten about being offering food and growling by the time you give it its next meal. The dog has likely forgotten about it within 20 minutes of the event. Then, it moves from "I didn't get my food when I did this" to "I'm hungry, where is my dinner".

Also, if this is not just arousal growling and is in fact resource guarding, this isn't going to do anything to change the way your dog feels about you being around her food at mealtime, just the way she expresses how she feels. She may well stop vocalizing, but if she still feels the same way, then your problem hasn't lessened and arguably may have gotten worse, because she would then no longer feel that she can let you know she feels uncomfortable by vocalizing and may escalate without warning (likely not right to biting, but possibly to something like air snapping).
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
@Moonstream wow! thank you for taking the time to reply back. I had to re-read your posts a couple of times because it was really informative.

arousal growling vs. guarding
- that's a really good point and I have considered that. For example, if I hold the turkey neck and feed it to her, she will growl the whole time she eats it. It sounds kind of funny because it sounds like shes just really enjoying her food and eating out loud like "OM NOM NOM NOM". But I switch hands or shift my body position slightly she will growl loudly but still still continue to chew.
- I used to hold herring while she ate because I was afraid that she would just swallow it whole but i noticed she would gulp it down chunks too quickly and then hock it back up. Probably worried I would take it away? so I just throw it into the crate and give her space to eat it. She still hocks it up sometimes but it's better now.
- I have noticed in these instances her hackles are not up.

"...She sounds to have started growling at the sight of the turkey neck, not when you gave it to her, and she sounds like she was offering behaviors to try to get the turkey neck (which is typical of a dog who has done a fair bit of training, especially involving free shaping behaviors)..."

When I first take any bone out of the freezer she just sits and stares intently at the bone. No growling. If I walk towards the crate she will run towards the crate and sometimes will go in with no noise. Sometimes she will sit outside of the crate and wait. Sometimes she will growl while going in. It's not consistent. However, EVERY time I say "inside" she will growl. I've never used the crate as punishment, never used as a time out. She's only used that crate to sleep in or to eat in.

If I have a regular treat and we just use "inside" as a command, she'll run in and wait for her treat. No growling at the beginning, but if I start to use that command too many times she will growl.

In these instances, her hackles are also not up.

The only times I've noticed her hackles up was when I was holding the bone, waiting for her to stop growling so I can give it to her. But she would keep going and it would escalate and she would come out of her crate right up to my face with her teeth bared and hackles up. That's probably because I kept holding the bone, keeping it away from her but I didn't want to encourage the growling by giving her the bone while she was still growling at me.

We do do a bit a training, I'm not sure what free shaping behaviours mean? I googled it but I still don't quite get it haha

That one day when she was doing her tricks, lying down etc was only that one time because I stood there for a long time to see what she would do. Normally I wouldn't wait that long with the bone in my hand. I would usually just walk away and put the bone back in the freezer. But I should note that when I feed her, time permitting, we do obedience stuff before she gets a bite of her food. We do these exercises so I can mentally tire her out a bit before I head out for work in the morning.

"The growling when you make eye contact and hackling up/baring teeth/growling when you lean down around her with food sounds like she feels threatened, but it's hard to tell just from the description. Would it be possible to get a video of all of this?"

My trainer told me it's probably the way my body posture is. She said that if I'm moving slowly down to put the bone down she could feel threatened. She said that I should just be super casual, here you go! Toss the bone in and walk away immediately. I'll try to take a video next time. I did the other night but she heard my neighbors coming in and got distracted and started barking at the door. :eyeroll:

"I'm curious- does she tend to be a growling/vocal dog the begin with? Does she ever hackle up or bare teeth out of excitement? Does she tend to be a nervous dog, a confident dog, good with people, unsure of new people? Does she react negatively to you leaning down around her when she's not eating (even just by stiffening up)? How does she respond to direct eye contact outside of when you're feeding her? Have you done a lot of work with eye contact/focus exercises in training?"

Lately she's been play barking, not sure where she picked that up from. I noticed her hackles and tail were a little bit upwhen she was play barking at a Shiba on the trails. (She was in the play bow position).

She's good with people she knows. I have noticed that if a stranger sees her from far away and wants to say hi to her, or greets her in a friendly voice, she will come running, wiggly butt and tongue licking. If a stranger walks by quickly, ignoring her she will either ignore or be curious and pull towards that person to sniff. She randomly barks at people (hackles up, tail up), it could be someone with an accent, poofy jacket or someone that looks completely normal.

We wrestle a lot and she growls (pretty sure out of excitement), she likes to play bite my hands and rolls around. She loves to cuddle up against me but I don't think I've really tried to lean on her so I don't know. I have put my face really close to hers and kiss her on her head and she doesn't react. Her tail just wags really fast.

She is EXTREMELY attentive when we do obedience training. Whether its at home, on our walks or during class she will always look at me for her next cue/command. She knows the command "focus" and doesn't have a problem with the eye contact. I've been using that command and the "touch" command when I am anticipating a ("bad") growl/bark from her if someone is walking by or something.

When we do our sit/stay commands she will stare at me until I tell her what to do next.

"In this case, the dog has pretty much forgotten about being offering food and growling by the time you give it its next meal. The dog has likely forgotten about it within 20 minutes of the event. Then, it moves from "I didn't get my food when I did this" to "I'm hungry, where is my dinner".

Also, if this is not just arousal growling and is in fact resource guarding, this isn't going to do anything to change the way your dog feels about you being around her food at mealtime, just the way she expresses how she feels. She may well stop vocalizing, but if she still feels the same way, then your problem hasn't lessened and arguably may have gotten worse, because she would then no longer feel that she can let you know she feels uncomfortable by vocalizing and may escalate without warning (likely not right to biting, but possibly to something like air snapping)."

I think you are right. I don't think skipping her meal had helped at all. haha
I am still alternating between hand feeding and holding the bowl while she eats out of my lap and so far she's been okay. She does wolf down her food quite quickly though. She is a piggy but I also don't know if its because she is worried I am going to take it away from her.

The only time I have seen her snap at me was when I went to pick something up close to her while she was chewing on her yak chew. The only way to get her to relinquish her yak chew is if I trade with her favorite salmon treat. Even then, once I put the yak chew away she looks for it and eventually she moves onto something else. (She gets diarrhea if she chews on it for too long).

My trainer thinks that if she knows to eat her bone in the crate then she doesn't see anything wrong with me just handing her the bone and letting her take it to the crate on her own. Am I making too big of a deal with getting her to go in her crate first before I give her the bone? Is there anything wrong with just making her sit before I give her the bone and she goes in her crate by herself?

I just want to make sure I'm being responsible and addressing any issues (if any) now before they get worse when she's an adult.
 

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I tend to agree with your trainer, personally.

Resource guarding is generally something that comes about in dogs that are worried that you're going to take away what they want. My opinion is it has nothing to do with overall social dominance/hierarchy roles; dogs are opportunists, and even the most well trained dog may be touchy about food because of their opportunistic nature. I think generally resource guarding is something you see in either insecure dogs, dogs whose experience tells them humans are likely to take their food away, or dogs who have had experience in having to fight for food resources (this can be as simple as eating out of the same bowl as pups, IMO).

I am not one of those people who feels a dog should never growl at any human over anything ever. I think it is a completely natural behavior for a social animal like a dog to guard very well-loved foods/toys from other members of their social group, both human and canine.

I do think it sounds like Mia is afraid you're going to take her food away- eating quicker when someone approaches food, or covering the bowl or item more their their body, is IMO the first step towards a growl and the first inclination a dog might have issues with resource guarding. To me, the logical fix at that stage is to just be very careful about taking food from the dog and approaching the dog to try and avoid it ever escalating to a growl or air snap in case I ever really do need to take something away.

At this point, the dog has shown she is willing to escalate when it comes to high value food items. She's gone from a growl, to bared teeth, to hackling up. Now, given her breed/mix and that she has hackled up, barked, and growled all during play before, I'm not convinced its communication that she is ever going to back it by a bite and she may just be especially vocal and intense, but I do think she is communicating obvious comfort with escalation when she feels it is necessary, and putting her in situations where she is likely to escalate (like "waiting out" the growl) seems like courting disaster to me. I feel this way especially since she seems to understand she eats in her crate. With high value food items like raw meals, a great many dogs are likely to guard that. Like I said, I don't necessarily think a dog isn't allowed to want to guard things, and certain things I have more of a "yeah, I get it" attitude than others. Food bowls with kibble? No, I want to be able to walk freely around you. Chews? Yeah, ideally I'd be able to take it from you when I want. Garbage off the street? I need to be able to take from you. Raw meals? Yeah, I'd probably guard that from someone who had previously taken it away from me too.

I would say feed her in her crate, and if you want you could teach her you moving around near the crate isn't a threat when she eats by tossing small pieces of meat (raw may be higher value than cooked, but whatever she likes) in with her while she eats. The key is that what you're giving her has to be higher value than the food she's eating, though. Start at whatever distance you can be without her caring at all and throw from there (though this will require some good aim). You move forward only when you're able to do so without a reaction. It's also a good idea not to be standing straight looking at her and starting- make your body posture more natural.

A side note- "Free Shaping" is similar to normal "shaping" in some ways. With normal "shaping", you're teaching the behavior in incremental steps. I'll use a "front paws on object (pedestal)" trick as an example. Normal shaping usually involves some form of prompting/luring. To shape a "front paws on", I'd likely take a treat and lure the dog forwards onto the object. As soon as either front paw touched it (by accident, as a consequence of following the treat) I'd mark and reward. Some might continue to lure for days, I would probably fade the food lure within after the first 5 repetitions and then just use a hand that smells like the food.

In free shaping, you'd take the object, put it on the ground, and wait. If your dog sniffed it, they'd get a reward because they interacted with it. If they put on foot on it, they'd get a reward. Then they might circle it. No reward. Sniff again, no reward since they've already moved closer to what we wanted. Foot on it again, big reward. Eventually, they'd likely try putting both feet on it, and then big reward again since they got it. Free shaping usually takes forever (weeks or months vs days) because it involves the dog doing all the thinking. That said, I think it is one of the best ways to bond with a dog, and invaluable for those days when you can't meet the physical exercise needs of a higher energy breed and need to mentally tire them out more instead. I use it for my energizer bunny-esque Boston on days when it's raining, because she absolutely hates to go for walks longer than 5min if it's raining/really wet out.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
@Moonstream Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. Your posts are really helpful, thank you :)

I will try doing more exercises with the crate. It's hard to find food that is higher value than her raw food, I think bones are valued the highest, then any raw meat/fish, and then her himalayan yak chew.

This morning we played some games using her breakfast, we used "inside" a couple of times and she got fed some herring pieces while in the crate and she was fine. I'm trying to say it in a fun happy voice which seems to work better.
 

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I highly doubt you're going to find something higher value than raw food for her, and for optimally efficiency with teaching her walking around near her is good V.S. just not bad, I'd want the food I'm using to be just as exciting or as close as possible to the food she has and doesn't want me to take. If a meal includes something more than just a bone, or perhaps includes an especially meaty bone, I'd use pieces of that to throw into the crate periodically and cement that it's not a threat and even good that you're near her while she eats.

I love hearing about Mia, and I hope you see some progress with this in the weeks and months to come- keep us updated!
 
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