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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello,

First time poster! Thank you if you decide to comment with any advice or tip bits!

I got Lupa (a 2 year old Husky, Australian Shepherd, and German Shepherd mix) 8 months ago from a local shelter here in Indiana. I do not know her background, except that she has been returned twice. At first she had a lot of health problems, but is now doing extremely well physically. She, recently, has been showing some weird behavior and so Ii was hoping someone could lend me some advice.

She has been nipping at my roommate, and I cannot figure out why. The first incident was when my roommate was filling her container with food. Not the actual bowl, but the container. The nip didn't break skin, and once the encounter ended Lupa was distant and went into her kennel voluntarily. Now, she has never been food protective before this, but we have noticed that she will take her food and hide it in her kennel, a blanket, or even under my bed. Is this a sign of food possession? - To be clear, she has never growled or barked at us, or anyone. Not even when she nips. This is why I am so confused. I cannot tell if she is playing or is pissed off.

The seconded incident was when my roommate was walking her, and she nipped at her hand. Again, the nip didn't break skin, but it has really made my roommate nervous to be around her.

Lupa has had a problem with men around me specifically before, but never my roommate. With the man, she nipped at his heals. Due to her being a herding breed, we suspect she was being protective and trying to guide him away from me. She now no longer is scared of him and loves when he comes over.

I do not know how to correct the nipping around my roommate though, and was hoping someone had some advice on how to correct it and why it is happening. Does anyone know why she is just now showing signs of aggression? Returning for me is not an option. I adore her too much to even consider it.
 

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The dog is probably uncomfortable in the context this is happening.

Dogs usually react like this from three things: fear, dominance or aggression.

I don't know how old your dog is, you didn't say. That said, the food hiding and nipping are probably related. My first "gut feeling" is that it could be "resource guarding" behaviour, which I would suggest is "dominance".

You can google that to see if you recognise it.

As for the nipping itself... dogs usually telegraph their intentions well ahead of time. There is a pretty straightforward build-up of tension that leads to nipping. You'll see the dog exhibit body language of discomfort well before anything happens. When it starts to escalate then the escalation usually happens in a predictable order of avoidance, a growl, a snarl, a snap, a bite and an attack. What you're experiencing is a "snap", which can be pretty bombastic looking but doesn't usually result in an injury.

In order to get to that point you have probably overlooked several warning signs.

In this case, if I'm right and it's "resource guarding" the the solution (getting to your question) is to make it clear to the dog WHO owns the food. We have a ritual with our dog because of this. When we feed him he is told that he about to be fed. If he comes to watch that's ok. When the food is in the bowl then he is required to sit and wait while we count to 5 before he is allowed to eat. Once we have finished the 5 count then the dog is left to eat and we leave the room.

So when your roommate is feeding him or filling her "container" (whatever that is) then your roommate should ask the dog to "sit" and "wait" while he/she does that. If the dog does not wait then your roommate should immediately stop filling the container and instruct the dog again to sit and wait. If the dog will not do this then stop filling the container.

Same with feeding. The dog should be instructed to "sit" and "wait" for something like a 5 count so they understand who owns the food. If they don't wait then you pick up the bowl, rinse and repeat. Be patient, the dog might not understand what you are doing at first. If they are unable to "sit" and "wait" for a 5 count then lay the food away where they can't get at it and wait for 15 min. Try again. It's better for them to not eat once (or twice) than for you to give in and feed them because they won't back down.

As for the other incidents of "resource guarding" the same basic approach is applicable. Control and remove the thing they are guarding until it's clear to the dog WHO owns that resource.
 

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@dogslife, I agree with a lot of what you say, but not that resource guarding is based in dominance. In fact, the whole dominance theory has been widely discredited - it was based on studies of wolves, but dogs are different from wolves, they have a common ancestor but the species split; in the same way as humans and apes had a common ancestor and split. And the wolves were in captivity and their behaviour was different from a normal pack. And there is no evidence of inter species domination; dogs have lived in partnership with humans for millennia - they provided services like guarding livestock, hunting or pulling things, we provided food, shelter etc.

Resource guarding could be made worse by what you suggest - if the dog thinks his food is going to be shown to him then removed, he could get frustrated and even more anxious to get it and keep it. There is nothing wrong with good manners like asking for a sit before putting the bowl down but by trying to lift it, the human is at risk of the dog trying even harder to make sure he gets his precious food which, with some dogs, could end very badly. With a resource guarder, the more you make him anxious that his resource is threatened, the harder he will try to get it and keep it so the behaviour gets worse, not better. I'm going to tag @JudyN as she has a lot of experience with this and may have more helpful information.
 

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Dogslife,

Thank you for the reply. She is two years old, and I don't believe I am missing signs before the snipping, but in both incidents I was not there. As I said before, she hasn't growled at any of us but you may be onto something about the body language change. To clarify the container, it is a vessel to hold Lupa's food instead of leaving it in the food bag due to health reasons. Wouldn't want to fee her stale food. I'll give your solution a try!

Thanks!
 

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The dog is probably uncomfortable in the context this is happening.

Dogs usually react like this from three things: fear, dominance or aggression.

I don't know how old your dog is, you didn't say. That said, the food hiding and nipping are probably related. My first "gut feeling" is that it could be "resource guarding" behaviour, which I would suggest is "dominance".

You can google that to see if you recognise it.

As for the nipping itself... dogs usually telegraph their intentions well ahead of time. There is a pretty straightforward build-up of tension that leads to nipping. You'll see the dog exhibit body language of discomfort well before anything happens. When it starts to escalate then the escalation usually happens in a predictable order of avoidance, a growl, a snarl, a snap, a bite and an attack. What you're experiencing is a "snap", which can be pretty bombastic looking but doesn't usually result in an injury.

In order to get to that point you have probably overlooked several warning signs.

In this case, if I'm right and it's "resource guarding" the the solution (getting to your question) is to make it clear to the dog WHO owns the food. We have a ritual with our dog because of this. When we feed him he is told that he about to be fed. If he comes to watch that's ok. When the food is in the bowl then he is required to sit and wait while we count to 5 before he is allowed to eat. Once we have finished the 5 count then the dog is left to eat and we leave the room.

So when your roommate is feeding him or filling her "container" (whatever that is) then your roommate should ask the dog to "sit" and "wait" while he/she does that. If the dog does not wait then your roommate should immediately stop filling the container and instruct the dog again to sit and wait. If the dog will not do this then stop filling the container.

Same with feeding. The dog should be instructed to "sit" and "wait" for something like a 5 count so they understand who owns the food. If they don't wait then you pick up the bowl, rinse and repeat. Be patient, the dog might not understand what you are doing at first. If they are unable to "sit" and "wait" for a 5 count then lay the food away where they can't get at it and wait for 15 min. Try again. It's better for them to not eat once (or twice) than for you to give in and feed them because they won't back down.

As for the other incidents of "resource guarding" the same basic approach is applicable. Control and remove the thing they are guarding until it's clear to the dog WHO owns that resource.
Returning for me is not an option. I adore her too much to even co
@dogslife, I agree with a lot of what you say, but not that resource guarding is based in dominance. In fact, the whole dominance theory has been widely discredited - it was based on studies of wolves, but dogs are different from wolves, they have a common ancestor but the species split; in the same way as humans and apes had a common ancestor and split. And the wolves were in captivity and their behaviour was different from a normal pack. And there is no evidence of inter species domination; dogs have lived in partnership with humans for millennia - they provided services like guarding livestock, hunting or pulling things, we provided food, shelter etc.

Resource guarding could be made worse by what you suggest - if the dog thinks his food is going to be shown to him then removed, he could get frustrated and even more anxious to get it and keep it. There is nothing wrong with good manners like asking for a sit before putting the bowl down but by trying to lift it, the human is at risk of the dog trying even harder to make sure he gets his precious food which, with some dogs, could end very badly. With a resource guarder, the more you make him anxious that his resource is threatened, the harder he will try to get it and keep it so the behaviour gets worse, not better. I'm going to tag @JudyN as she has a lot of experience with this and may have more helpful information.
Thank you for your comment!! I hope your friend can also help me!
 

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@dogslife, I agree with a lot of what you say, but not that resource guarding is based in dominance. In fact, the whole dominance theory has been widely discredited - it was based on studies of wolves, but dogs are different from wolves, they have a common ancestor but the species split; in the same way as humans and apes had a common ancestor and split. And the wolves were in captivity and their behaviour was different from a normal pack. And there is no evidence of inter species domination; dogs have lived in partnership with humans for millennia - they provided services like guarding livestock, hunting or pulling things, we provided food, shelter etc.

Resource guarding could be made worse by what you suggest - if the dog thinks his food is going to be shown to him then removed, he could get frustrated and even more anxious to get it and keep it. There is nothing wrong with good manners like asking for a sit before putting the bowl down but by trying to lift it, the human is at risk of the dog trying even harder to make sure he gets his precious food which, with some dogs, could end very badly. With a resource guarder, the more you make him anxious that his resource is threatened, the harder he will try to get it and keep it so the behaviour gets worse, not better. I'm going to tag @JudyN as she has a lot of experience with this and may have more helpful information.
OK. It's clear that you wouldn't advise the same approach and you're probably better at this than I am...

What would you advise as an approach in this case? You're happy to school me on what doesn't work, but what DOES work, then?
 

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Fair point.

With the food storage container I would suggest the simplest course of action, which is to fill it while the dog is in another room, or on a walk. No drama, no problem.

For general resource guarding, the reason I have tagged Judy is because she has a lot more experience in this than I do - but I'd likely prepare the food while the dog is in another room and put it on the floor, then let the dog in and leave.

I don't think we have enough information about why Lupa nipped while on the walk - I'd actually like to know a lot more about that. The short answer is that I don't know and wouldn't like to say how to handle it, because the solution to any problem has to begin with finding out what the problem actually is. The nip isn't the problem, it is the outcome from the problem; you could say it is Luna's reaction to something, so we need to find out more about whatever that something is.

I have a lot of questions, such as what happened in the 20 minutes or so beforehand to get some view on Lupa's demeanor at that point in time, what the room mate's normal relationship is with Lupa, what the room mate did in reaction to both nips, how long between the food incident and the walk incident, what the walking environment was, and I'm afraid the answers to these might just raise more questions.
 

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I agree with JoanneF's comments on resource guarding, and that it isn't an indication of (discredited) dominance. In my opinion, a dog's concept of ownership (of food or anything else) is based 100% on who has possession of it. If it's in my hand, it's mine. If it's in his mouth (or between his laws) it's his, and finders keepers. If it's sitting on a worktop, it's up for grabs.

Resource guarding seems to come out of anxiety - the first time I gave my dog a bone, before we'd seen any guarding behaviour, he shook as if he was terrified, and got really upset when I approached. In him, this seemed to be hard-wired, and we've not managed to fix it completely - he doesn't get long-lasting bones any more!

I used to make him wait for his food after putting it down, but one day, I got distracted and didn't give the 'release' command for about a minute. My husband then brushed against him while he was eating, and he let out a low growl, which he wouldn't normally have done - the long wait for his food had built up his anxiety. For that reason, I don't think it's a good idea to make a dog wait for longer than is required for good manners. After all, it is his food, and we wouldn't ask a child to do the same just to show that we can.

SamiBami, I don't feel that what you describe is resource guarding, as Lupa didn't have the food at that point. As far as I know, hiding food isn't about guarding - my dog has never hidden food, and I've known a couple of dogs who hide food but never guard it. She could just be generally anxious/aroused, she could be using the nip in the way another dog might give a sharp (non-aggressive) bark. Removing food from the equation, it would be good to know exactly what happened when she nipped your friend when she was walking her (including before & after, other dogs/people she'd met, level of excitement, etc.).
 

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The dog is probably uncomfortable in the context this is happening.

Dogs usually react like this from three things: fear, dominance or aggression.

I don't know how old your dog is, you didn't say. That said, the food hiding and nipping are probably related. My first "gut feeling" is that it could be "resource guarding" behaviour, which I would suggest is "dominance".

You can google that to see if you recognise it.

As for the nipping itself... dogs usually telegraph their intentions well ahead of time. There is a pretty straightforward build-up of tension that leads to nipping. You'll see the dog exhibit body language of discomfort well before anything happens. When it starts to escalate then the escalation usually happens in a predictable order of avoidance, a growl, a snarl, a snap, a bite and an attack. What you're experiencing is a "snap", which can be pretty bombastic looking but doesn't usually result in an injury.

In order to get to that point you have probably overlooked several warning signs.

In this case, if I'm right and it's "resource guarding" the the solution (getting to your question) is to make it clear to the dog WHO owns the food. We have a ritual with our dog because of this. When we feed him he is told that he about to be fed. If he comes to watch that's ok. When the food is in the bowl then he is required to sit and wait while we count to 5 before he is allowed to eat. Once we have finished the 5 count then the dog is left to eat and we leave the room.

So when your roommate is feeding him or filling her "container" (whatever that is) then your roommate should ask the dog to "sit" and "wait" while he/she does that. If the dog does not wait then your roommate should immediately stop filling the container and instruct the dog again to sit and wait. If the dog will not do this then stop filling the container.

Same with feeding. The dog should be instructed to "sit" and "wait" for something like a 5 count so they understand who owns the food. If they don't wait then you pick up the bowl, rinse and repeat. Be patient, the dog might not understand what you are doing at first. If they are unable to "sit" and "wait" for a 5 count then lay the food away where they can't get at it and wait for 15 min. Try again. It's better for them to not eat once (or twice) than for you to give in and feed them because they won't back down.

As for the other incidents of "resource guarding" the same basic approach is applicable. Control and remove the thing they are guarding until it's clear to the dog WHO owns that resource.
I agree with JoanneF's comments on resource guarding, and that it isn't an indication of (discredited) dominance. In my opinion, a dog's concept of ownership (of food or anything else) is based 100% on who has possession of it. If it's in my hand, it's mine. If it's in his mouth (or between his laws) it's his, and finders keepers. If it's sitting on a worktop, it's up for grabs.

Resource guarding seems to come out of anxiety - the first time I gave my dog a bone, before we'd seen any guarding behaviour, he shook as if he was terrified, and got really upset when I approached. In him, this seemed to be hard-wired, and we've not managed to fix it completely - he doesn't get long-lasting bones any more!

I used to make him wait for his food after putting it down, but one day, I got distracted and didn't give the 'release' command for about a minute. My husband then brushed against him while he was eating, and he let out a low growl, which he wouldn't normally have done - the long wait for his food had built up his anxiety. For that reason, I don't think it's a good idea to make a dog wait for longer than is required for good manners. After all, it is his food, and we wouldn't ask a child to do the same just to show that we can.

SamiBami, I don't feel that what you describe is resource guarding, as Lupa didn't have the food at that point. As far as I know, hiding food isn't about guarding - my dog has never hidden food, and I've known a couple of dogs who hide food but never guard it. She could just be generally anxious/aroused, she could be using the nip in the way another dog might give a sharp (non-aggressive) bark. Removing food from the equation, it would be good to know exactly what happened when she nipped your friend when she was walking her (including before & after, other dogs/people she'd met, level of excitement, etc.).
yep im with you
 
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