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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,
This is my first post so please feel free to move it if I am not posting in the right section.

I have an 8 month old yellow lab named Riggins who I got from a reputable breeder at 8 weeks old. Riggins is the nicest, most friendly dog 95% of the time. He is great at simple commands like sit, down, paw, and stay. He has absolutely no aggression towards other dogs and walks amazingly well on the leash and doesn't pull or even acknowledge other people or dogs walking by. He has only ever experienced positive reinforcement training.

The problem arises when riggins has anything he deems high value. Something clicks in his brain and he immediately becomes a vicious, growling, snapping dog. I have brought him to trainers who tried to do the obvious techniques like giving him something of even higher value, but in his rage nothing works. It is like he becomes a completely different dog and something just clicks in his brain. Right after he is done eating whatever he was guarding, he goes right back to being a great dog and seems to forget that he was ever bad. This is not a simple case of resource guarding where he growls, he full will full on bite with very low bite inhibition. He has bitten me and broken skin several times.

The thing that really hurts me is that he is such an amazing dog when he is not resource guarding. Everyone that has not seen him in that resource guarding state talks about how he is such a well behaved, amazingly cute dog. I just can't imagine putting him down, but his behavior is so horrible when he resource guards that I do not feel safe ever being near him when he picks anything up, and I am scared of the liability if he ever bites someone.

I have a meeting with a board certified behaviorist and am scared she is going to tell me that I need to put him down because of this behavior. Does anyone know of any potential options I have besides putting him down? I am located in southern California. I have talked to several rescues about rehoming him, and they were all too fearful of the liability. One rescue said to maybe look into giving him to search and rescue training because he has a high ball fetching drive. Can anyone think of what else I could do? I really love this dog and he is my best friend, but this aggression issue is not something I can handle.
Please give me any feedback you have. Let me stress, however, that I have tried many different trainers, and even a board and train school, and they have all said that they have never seen a case of resource aggression like this before. It is not something That I can train out of him myself.
 

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Glad you're bringing in a certified behaviorist! Hope it goes well and he/she can help.

Also talk to the breeder. Reputable breeders typically include that buyers return dogs if unable to keep them. Good luck!
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Welcome to Dog Forum. Sorry you joined under such distressing circumstances.

Has he had a complete vet check for his behavior? If not, that would be another avenue to pursue.

If he's from a reputable breeder, s/he should be willing to take him back. Depending on the situation, the outcome may be the same, but at least you tried everything.

Sorry you're going through this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I contacted the breeder and she said she would take him for a few weeks to try to train him. When I got there we gave him a bone just so she could see how he would react. He went crazy and tried to bite her son. It was very clear that it would not be safe for him to stay there around pregnant dogs in case he got into something he could guard.
She was blown away by how amazing of a dog he was at first and did not believe his resource guarding was as bad as it is. I almost wish that he was bad 100% of the time so it wouldn't make figuring out his future so difficult. It is the fact that he is so amazing 95% of the time that makes this so hard.
 

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Just curious: how extensive is his list of "high value" items? If the list isn't very long, obvious answer would be that he just doesn't get those things anymore. If he's, say, stealing socks and guarding them like that or guarding spaces/people it would be much harder.

Hopefully the behaviorist will have some advice.
 

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Good on you for finding a behaviourist! A good one will not say you have to euthanize your pup just because he is a resource guarder, but they will likely tell you this is not something that is going to go away and may always need to be managed by you. You can, however, live a normal life with a guarder. I do! I too have a lab, though she's mixed with a couple of herding breeds too, that was a rage monster/resource guarder when she was between the ages of 7-11 months. She's better now but still has the odd moment - though it's far less pronounced, she never makes contact, and it's easily managed to get her back to happy. It has taken A LOT of work thought to get her here.

My first suggestion: Don't give him anything of value. No toys, no bones, nothing he values unless you are working with him on it and at that he does NOT get full access, you need to control when, where, and how he gets his item. I started by holding it and treating, then moved on to the trade game. This was suggested to me by my trainer and worked for my dog.

In my situation it started with my bed pillows and continued with socks, her raw bones and bully sticks. The bed pillows worried me most because I couldn't go to be without her attacking me. I would lay down and move my hand to "her" side and she would flip out. My solution: no access to the bed/pillows on "her" side, I had to re-kennel her, then work on allowing her up on the bed but only at the foot of it, then to the top.

**I should note she always gave me space for the pillows under me, as she viewed those as mine, she only focused on the ones that were on the other side of the bed which she determined to be hers**

Once I allowed her access to the bed itself, I then slowly worked on her laying on the be with no pillows on her side, then eventually one pillow with me laying sideways to prevent her access (so I was basically laying like a weirdo on my queen side bed), then both pillows where they should be with just my arm on them (me "claiming" them), and finally just the 2 pillows with her being allowed up on them. All this time giving her treats and encouragement that she was being a good girl.

We've been issue free for 2 years, there are times when she relapses but with a simple removal to the end of the bed and cookie and she's fine.

I did pretty much the same with my stolen socks, the bones, and the bully sticks. Start with no access, move to limited access, and end with supervised access. She will never get to have high value (for her) items without my permission/supervision. EVER. That's an accident waiting to happen, particularly if it was someone who isn't aware of her cues - I can see her body change in a split second and intervene to prevent her from having an issue. She is well monitored with "her" items.

Now I must mention, as I feel this method seems "alphaish". I am NOT a follower of punishment based training, Tess is very much positive based trained, however we definitely follow NILF (Nothing in life is free) because she's the type that needs very firm rules/boundries and requires me to lead the way. I'm not proclaiming myself her "leader" or "alpha", my dog is my child not a wolf in a pack, but I am definitely her "Mother". Just as a toddler knows you need to do something to get something and not to mess with mom, my dog has learned the same. She knows I love her and our bond has gotten much better, she's more relaxed under NILF.

I will also say I went through a bunch of real meat to do the "trades" for the bones/bully sticks and it took 2 years of work to get her to be relaxed about a human presence around her "precious" (insert smeagal voice) but after those 2 years of work all I have to do is ask "Tessa, can mommy hold that?" and she'll bring it to me, put it in my hand, and chew on it while I hold it and respectfully release when the piece is too small (i.e.: when it's near my hand).
 

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The thing about giving him treats he values more is...you need to know what he values in between, because if he's already guarding, NOTHING is more valuable than what he already has. You could have an identical box full of the same treat to offer, and it doesn't matter a cent.

A combination of management (taking away anything he guards, only offering bones in a crate or safe place that NOBODY gets to bother him in) and working on the training at a lower level of stress or excitement will go a long way if you want to keep working with him. Resource guarding is one of the easiest unwanted behaviours to manage (take away item and voila, back to normal dog) and to work on (once you get past the initial stage of giving him something better that he doesn't guard, you can give him something he DOES guard and leave - the highest value reward ever, makes for fairly fast training). Euthanasia seems excessive though it is a conversation you should have with your behaviourist if you are that concerned. This is a *NORMAL* dog behaviour, abet unwanted, but is fairly straightforward to change.

YOU CAN DO IT :D And if you decide to go another route, that's okay too. Sometimes the energy and risk mitigation just can't be done easily in your household. He may be too far stressed in all the training situations that you can provide for him, and another home might be able to provide those things. Be upfront about the problem and provide a record of what schools you've used-that will help them tons.
 

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Would it be possible to muzzle train him? It wouldn't solve the rg, but make it safer to work with him.

We had rg issues thankfully it never got too serious, but we had to stop allowing her access to the furniture as she would tense up if she was on the sofa and one of my kids sat down, treats didn't work, so we just revoked her furniture permissions (she still sneaks up there when we are not around but I am ok with that as she jumps off whenever anyone enters the room and gets a treat for that)

Generally when working with RG on my dog, treats were not reliable, she sometimes gets into such an excited state that she just ignores them. In this case being calm around your dog, giving them a safe distance and ignoring them is best. Don't even look at them.

We were able to solve toy RG by appealing to her playfulness, that idea was actually given to me when she was RGing a stick from a dog friend of hers and he grabbed it and ran, I was expecting fireworks but it turned into a turned into a tug and chase game. I did not repeat it this way (nor do I suggest anyone else does it could end badly) I grabbed a small tug toy that she RG's from her toy bag (that she does not have unsupervised access to )and ran away from her she chased me then we played tug, then I let go and immediately ran toward her before she had time to realize that she wanted to RG the toy, she LOVES being chased, I chased her, grabbed the end of the toy and played tug. Training her with the rules to fetch and tug also really helped.

For high value food we have mostly solved it, I have my kids spoon feed her a little from the Kong before giving it to her and walking away, then we leave her to it. Most treats and food she can safely eat in the room with us and has calmed down enough that the kids can walk by and throw chicken at her.

She is fine until she has possession, and she is definitely getting better with food, she just has to know she can trust us. For bones I still am working with her,I go upstairs to the bedroom, tell kids and husband not to come in. Hold the bone while she chews it for a little then let her have it, then I sit exactly where I am without moving except to open my book. She usually goes under the bed with it, I do not go near her or throw treats, these would be an intrusion, I just ignore her, I am hoping one day she will come out and chew her bone, but for now we have progressed to her being comfortable with me being in the same room, I am going to eventually start moving around in the room, if I ever do anything that makes her tense or growl then I am betraying her trust, so slower is better, once she is calm enough for me to give her chicken, then it will go a lot faster.

Funnily enough she has never RG her kibble, even though she loves it, I think this is because when my 5 year old feeds her she never fills the cup properly, so I always tell her to give her a little more, so ever since she was a puppy she is used to my kids putting their hands in her bowl while she's eating to give her more food.
 

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Heidi was a very bad Resource Guarder, and she would charge and snap at our other dog like crazy over high value items. Then a little bit over toys. I was worried because Levi is such a softy that I didn't really like her pushing him around. I read both "Mine" and "Fight" by Jean Donaldson and implemented some of the techniques she recommended and now we are much MUCH better. They can now both happily chew on antlers, same toy, eat side by side no problem.
It CAN get better and it sounds like he's a great dog, but if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. I would also second @PoppyKenna 's suggestion, if the list applies to bones/toys, then he simply can't have access to them.
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Hello everyone thank you for all of your suggestions,
The behaviorist reiterated a lot of your training suggestions, but I have to start at a much smaller scale because of how dangerous he can be. She also prescribed some prozac to hopefully try to fix things.

As a college student this is all extremely overwhelming, and it is difficult constantly being scared that my dog could hurt me or someone else. I am going to try everything the behaviorist said, but look for somewhere to rehome him at the same time. Is there anywhere that would ever take the huge time required to help him?
 

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Where are you located?? I know of some good rescues on the east coast who have gone out of their way to help dogs with problem behaviors. I too understand balancing dogs and school, and it is made all the more difficult when your pup has a difficult habit. You deserve to a dog who you are happy with, and you are doing the right thing by dealing with this the way you are!

I don't know if the behaviorist spoke to you about muzzle training, but it's extremely easy and would be so good for you with your situation.
 

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A lab rescue might, but the outlook is not good for a dangerous dog.

First question is do you have an exhaustive list of items that cause this behavior.

Second question is when he gets one of these items and is left totally alone what is his demeanor? is he relaxed or is he totally stressed out just by having something valuable even with no threats to it? Do you feel that in general he is a confident secure dog?

If the answer is that he is stressed just having a valuable item does his level of stress change according to the value of the item?

Is he accepting of partaking in a valuable treat that you are in possession of, for example licking peanut butter off a jar your hands? I am not suggesting you try this unless you already know if it is safe, but a lot of RG dogs are fine until they have possession, I can hold a peanut butter jar and my dog licks it, but the second it is hers, there is trouble.

Is it just food items or other things like places/people and toys?

Is it towards people/other animals/both?

It would be really interesting to share some of your behaviorist tips.

I hope you are able to help him or find him the help that he needs
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Where are you located?? I know of some good rescues on the east coast who have gone out of their way to help dogs with problem behaviors. I too understand balancing dogs and school, and it is made all the more difficult when your pup has a difficult habit. You deserve to a dog who you are happy with, and you are doing the right thing by dealing with this the way you are!

I don't know if the behaviorist spoke to you about muzzle training, but it's extremely easy and would be so good for you with your situation.
Hi wanda, I'm located in California, but am honestly willing to travel anywhere to rehome him. She spoke briefly about muzzle training, but the idea was to start training when hes no where near a resource guarding episode so a muzzle shouldn't even be necessary. She was big on starting very small (and safe) with his training and slooowly working my way up.

Thank you for all the help everyone. Hopefully his medications prescribed to him help a little bit while i try to get this all figured out. He is only 8 months old and deserves to stay alive, I hope there is someone that can really put the effort in, but I understand why it is so hard to find someone to do it while there are millions of homeless dogs that do not have any aggression issues.
 

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If you can create a very specific list of things he guards, that will help the next person a ton with regards to things to start with and how much work they have to put in. Likewise, have all his vet records in order, behavioural reports, etc...saves them tons of time.

It may be best to wait until after school to look for another dog, too-they do typically take a TON of work as puppies, and once they develop problems it can take even more work. They'll always develop some behaviour or other that you don't want, so for the future waiting until you have time to work on it will be a good idea :) I had gotten my dog in the last year of school and it was definitely a challenge, and one of my friends came by to help with walks which helped a ton. It's definitely a rough go during school.
 

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I have a similar situation that i posted about. Will you please reach out to me and provide me with the names of the rescues you mentioned in your reply? i am new to the forum and cannot send you a PM. thank you!
 

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Hello everyone thank you for all of your suggestions,
The behaviorist reiterated a lot of your training suggestions, but I have to start at a much smaller scale because of how dangerous he can be. She also prescribed some prozac to hopefully try to fix things.

As a college student this is all extremely overwhelming, and it is difficult constantly being scared that my dog could hurt me or someone else. I am going to try everything the behaviorist said, but look for somewhere to rehome him at the same time. Is there anywhere that would ever take the huge time required to help him?
I completely understand you! College is already very stressful so I can imagine how exhausted you are with all of this. If you need to rehome him I would highly suggest getting into contact with some no kill lab rescues. They may be willing to work with him and place him in a fitting home much better than a shelter can, and will be more willing to take him on since he's purebred. Sadly shelters often can't keep up with the level of dogs coming in and a dog that has shown aggression toward people is at high risk to be pts. A rescue often has trainers willing to work with him and many breed specific rescues are no kill. They will also ensure the next owner is aware of his guarding and will probably fit him into a family with no children.

With that being said, RG can be managed! Cosmo is still kind of touchy about his things, and even MY things if we're in a different environment. I had my purse on the floor at a friends house and his puppy came up to sniff it and he gave her an air snap. :confused: Dogs are weird.

I'm going to echo what others have said, if the list isn't very long of things he is guarding, stop giving him those things. If you ever want to give him a chewie that he guards, just put him somewhere no one will bother him and let him eat it alone. I'm wondering why he feels the need to growl at you? Are you trying to pet him while he's eating it, or is it just when you simply walk near him?

Management is key ! If there are people around, don't give him anything of high value or any treats he might guard. Let everyone know to not feed him because he can get aggressive with food.

I understand your stress and I hope everything works out for you and Riggins!
 

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Fwiw guys, this thread is over a year old and the op hasn't returned. ;)
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I know this a 4 year old thread but I have a similar issue as the original poster and am looking to rehome my 3 year old Lab mix. You mentioned you know of good rescues on the east coast that take dogs with problem behaviors. Can you share who they are? I've exhausted all efforts but can not simply put him down like many suggest. Thanks.

Tim

Where are you located?? I know of some good rescues on the east coast who have gone out of their way to help dogs with problem behaviors. I too understand balancing dogs and school, and it is made all the more difficult when your pup has a difficult habit. You deserve to a dog who you are happy with, and you are doing the right thing by dealing with this the way you are!

I don't know if the behaviorist spoke to you about muzzle training, but it's extremely easy and would be so good for you with your situation.
 
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