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Hey all! My puppy, Pax, is about to be five months old (where did the time go?) He's a wonderful, friendly pup for the most part. Except that very recently he's begun growling and stiffening if someone approaches him while hes eating - food or treats. I used to hand feed him, then he ate in his crate, now I ask him to sit and lie down before giving him his food. He hasn't had any problems. But the other night, I walked passed and patted him and he gave a menacing growl! I decided to go back to hand feeding, with petting and talking to him. He didn't mind while I was holding the bowl and petting him and seemed perfectly fine. I had already decided I'd continue with this close contact feeding for a while, but now I'm particularly concerned. We went to Petsmart today to get more food and they had large milkbone treats at the checkout. The clerk gave him a treat and I proceeded to pay. Another employee walked up and reached out to pet him without asking. Now, obviously the smart thing to do is always ask, but when people see a seemingly very friendly, VERY cute puppy, they throw caution to the wind and do it any way (at least from what I've experienced). The employee reached to pet him, and spoke in a very sweet tone, and he growled very loudly at her.

I don't know what caused this to happen all of a sudden, as I tried so hard to prevent anything like this from happening (food aggression was HIGH on my list of no-nos).

I understand you don't want to tell a dog not to growl, but I don't want him to feel the need to guard his food from people. I want him to be able to relax while eating, and I want to avoid any accidents that could happen because of it.

I'd appreciate advice and maybe any reasoning for WHY a dog would develop such a behavior? I don't take his food from him and he's fed separately from the other dogs, so it's not like he's had to fight for anything before.

Thanks in advance!
 

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His age may be the reason he's resource guarding, sometimes it hits as they get older, my terrier mix started around 8 months old, shocked the heck out of me the first time he did it. If you take stuff that he's "stolen" or found on walks from him that may contribute.

In addition to what you are doing, I'd suggest you, and everyone in your house, play trading games with him. If you haven't already then teach him the commands, Drop for getting them to drop what they have (if at all possible let them have it after they drop it and get the treat), Leave it for telling them not to touch something they can never have, and Wait for telling them they can have the item but need to wait for a bit.

Check out this thread for a lot more tips and in depth training ideas http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/resource-guarding-causes-prevention-modification-7511/
 

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I went against the grain with my puppy and took a zero tolerance approach to prevent resource guarding. My puppy did the same thing at about the same age...random resource guarding for high value treats ad toys.

Any resource guarding with me or another dog and he lost that item INSTANTLY. Goes against conventional training but my puppy...also named Pax is VERY smart and I know his personality very well. After a few times he got the hint real fast and hasn't shown those behaviors since. I knew it was a "mine" response vs a paranoid reaction which is why that approach worked with him.

Not necessary recommending that approach as all dog respond differently and their reason for the behavior varies, but just sharing what worked for us.
 

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I also have done a lot of trading games. Levi was a big sock stealer, and so while a little annoying, it gave me ample opportunity to work on drop it. Anytime he would spit out the sock - bam! delicious piece of chicken. I also worked on off when he would start eating his kibble, and when he backed - delicious piece of steak! As a result he is extremely willing to drop/leave anything because he knows there is a potential for something fabulous to come his way.
 

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I second really solidifying your "drop it" command. If he he growls or shows signs of guarding, tell him to drop it and give him something else, maybe even something better if he properly drops it on command. Resource guarding can be very tough to completely break, best of luck to you.
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Thank you for the advice! I started working on drop it with rocks because he loves them, but they're not so high value as treats so he'd be more willing to work with me. I think I'll work up to higher value things as he improves. I'm much more relieved to hear that it's more common than I thought!
 

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It sounds like you have been doing all the right things . As has already been said, it could be his age .

That's really annoying when people come up and stroke your dog without permission! Is pax insured ? I'm sure your pup will be fine but just in case he does grab someone in public. We live in a no win, no fee sue culture now and people will sue for the slightest injury:( .
 

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Thank you for the advice! I started working on drop it with rocks because he loves them, but they're not so high value as treats so he'd be more willing to work with me. I think I'll work up to higher value things as he improves. I'm much more relieved to hear that it's more common than I thought!

When working on trading games make sure to give back the item 99% of the time. You want the dog to think if I give up what I have I get something better and I also get back what I gave up. That way when he has something that he really values, but you can't let him keep, he won't think that he should keep the item because you aren't going to give it back, he'll still be thinking that he's going to get it back.
 

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Where in nature is there a trading game??? Owner/handler must establish the leader situation...... you are the supplier of all resources..... if, the dog is disrespecting that ......that would be your fault.....rethink your place in the dog world!
 

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Resource guarding is normal dog behavior. Completely normal. Get over any idea that a dog is trying to take over the world because he or she is guarding resources.

Get the book Mine by Jean Donaldson. Just get it and stop worrying that you've got an aggressive dog on your hands.

Where in Nature is an animal that doesn't guard resources?

Humans do it too. People seem to freak out and start throwing around the words respect, dominance and leadership whenever a dog shows that it would like to retain it's food or toys. We expect dogs to allow humans to do all sorts of pushy things in regards to a dog's food or other possessions. We'd be highly offended and possible take physical action against someone who constantly got into our personal space when we were eating and moved in a way that looked like they were going to take our food away.
 

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Where in nature is there a trading game??? Owner/handler must establish the leader situation...... you are the supplier of all resources..... if, the dog is disrespecting that ......that would be your fault.....rethink your place in the dog world!
To a dog if they have it it's theirs, and it doesn't matter how they acquired it. If it's theirs and you take it from them you stole it from them and they have the right to be upset. It's not about being the leader, it's about them not trusting you to take their stuff. Back when I had my resource guarder I tried the if you growl I will take it from you routine. It got me a dog that resource guarded worse, he learned that he was right to be suspicious of me, that I was going to "steal" his stuff. I started getting somewhere when I practiced trading games, and teaching him some commands like go (to get him to move away from the other pets), drop, leave it, and wait.

Check out this thread http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/resource-guarding-causes-prevention-modification-7511/
 

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@wideturn my dog still resource guards, but it is getting better. he started showing that behavior around 5-6 months as well, but also as a puppy (he had worms and was starving, and we didn't know). The trading game really, really helped, as did having a very high value item and just kind of meandering around the dog.

Someone showed me a video with this technique, but I can't remember what video it was. Anyway, my dog LOOOOOVES peanut butter, fresh meat, and these isle of dog training treats. These are the highest value treats to him. Medium is ice cubes, low (but still good) are mini milkbones. For small things/non hazardous/non important things, I use milkbones as a trade/retrieve. The more valuable the item to him (and to me!!), the higher value the treat. I put peanut butter on a spoon or spatula, and just meander around the dog until he puts down the forbidden item and comes to the spatula. While he's engrossed with the peanut butter, I get the offending item and put it or throw it away.

You can also trade and give things back. Sometimes he steals towels, and we trade for them, and then trade back, and then back again. It has gotten to the point where when he immediately picks up a "no-no" item (shoes, towels), he brings it over to me and drops it.

He r/g his food and we moved to hand feeding for a while, and that helped a lot. He now lets us pet him or get in the vicinity of his food while he's eating.
 

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