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newboyjack
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10-08-2010, 08:35 AM

Food guarding (split from vicious puppy thread)

Hi Im new to these forums but whilst on the subject of viscious pups i just got a Mastiff/labrador pup hes almost 11 weeks old now and i know hes teething so got him plenty of toys to chew decided to give him and my other two dogs a chewy bone each the other day no problem with my older two dogs as I used to take food bones and toys off them when they were puppies to prevent any food aggression developing which worked well but when trying the same thing while new puppy was chewing his bone he snapped at my hand like an adult dog!! I was quite shocked as I can put my hand in his food bowl and stroke him all over when hes eating his meals with absolutely no reaction? I distracted him with a toy and removed what was left of his bone straight away? Any ideas I know hes still young enough to teach that this wasnt good behaviour just would like advice on how to do it properly, had no probs with my sprocker spaniel and labrador when they were pups?
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Ben Mcfuzzylugs
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10-08-2010, 08:59 AM
Hi newboy

Although taking things off them when puppies has worked for you in the past this is a dangerous way to teach a dog how to be around food
You are teaching them that they are not safe with something they prize, some dogs put up with this but some dogs learn this means they have to guard the things they have because humans are unpredictable

Its great you can pet them while they are eating
I would work on teaching them that you being around when they have food is a great thing
When they are eating come over and chuck in a bit of even better food
Teach a 'swap' command where you take something and swap it for something nice - then often give them the origonal item back again
That way they happily give you things so in an emmergancy you can get hold of something they shouldnt have without any stress

Unfortunatly there is lots of bad advice out there, well mannered dogs do not take things off of other dogs
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newboyjack
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10-08-2010, 09:14 AM
Hiya, I agree to a point, I guess I haven't really thought about the guarding aspect, with the new pup he was advertised as a rotty cross labrador the mum was definately a lab but i was shown a pic of his dad and hes definately a Mastiff but was assured theres a little rottweiler in there too! Hes got a great temperament and is really affectionate but I guess the rotty in him is showing the guarding trait? I will def try the swap thing and let you know how it goes!!
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Meg
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10-08-2010, 09:41 AM
Originally Posted by newboyjack View Post
Hiya, I agree to a point, I guess I haven't really thought about the guarding aspect, with the new pup he was advertised as a rotty cross labrador the mum was definately a lab but i was shown a pic of his dad and hes definately a Mastiff but was assured theres a little rottweiler in there too! Hes got a great temperament and is really affectionate but I guess the rotty in him is showing the guarding trait? I will def try the swap thing and let you know how it goes!!
Hi Claire guarding is normal behaviour for all dogs .
This is what the Dogs Trust say about guarding recources ...
A dog can become defensive over resources when they are scarce or when he thinks they are being threatened – because they then become very valuable to him. For a dog to feel safe in his environment and to prevent this type of
defensive aggression starting, it is essential to ensure that he has plenty of resources, and especially those he seems to value most.

For example, puppies from larger litters, that are fed from a single bowl, can learn to ‘compete’ for food in order to get enough to eat.The less confident puppies may even use aggression to ensure that they get their fair share. When they go into a human home and someone approaches them whilst they are eating it is only natural for them to growl at the person to let them know that they are prepared to defend their food. The old fashioned advice used to be that if your puppy growls you should take its food away and teach it that you are the ‘dominant’ one.

Unfortunately all that this is likely to do is to confirm to the puppy that it does need to worry when people approach it when it is eating and the aggression escalates! Due to the presence of outdated dominance concepts in the popular media, food guarding and aggression around the food bowl are unfortunately all too common,
http://www.dogstrust.org.uk/_resourc...december09.pdf

The best course of action for the owner is to teach the puppy defending food is not necessary and it can be comfortable and relaxed with possessions when humans are around .
As Ben says playing swaps is good and adding a tasty treat to the food bowl so the puppy learns a human going near its food bowl is a good thing and not a threat.


Teaching drop it is a good thing to do too.

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newboyjack
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10-08-2010, 11:01 AM
Thanks Minihaha, never ocurred to me to look on youtube for training tips! It was really helpful cheers!
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Lotsadogs
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12-08-2010, 10:28 AM
This article might help.

Understanding and preventing food guarding.

Introduction

It is my experience, that dogs share with humans the basic inborn instinct to protect their food. It is a survival instinct. All mammals have this instinct to some degree or other.

The instinct to protect their food within the domestic environment may be latent in some dogs, but it is there. And it could surface at any time, if the dog feels the need to defend its survival resource has arisen.

It is my view, that what happens to this food guarding instinct, whether it remains latent, or develops into full blown food guarding with growling, snapping, lunging and even biting, is usually a direct result of its learning. The learning that humans provide.

The problem for the dog is that what is a perfectly natural and healthy behaviour, often inadvertently instigated by misguided human behaviour, can ultimately end in the dog finding himself homeless, or worse, dead. Food guarding is seen as aggression, which I don’t believe it usually is, aggression is seen as unacceptable in a dog in today’s modern society and it is the dog that often pays the price.

This document has been put together in an effort to bring an understanding to how food guarding can be prevented or resolved. I hope you enjoy reading it.

If I where to get cross with your for stealing my chocolate, or chips or pizza, you would probably consider that understandable. You might say, “don’t do that”, or “Eh, they are my chips!” No one would see it as aggression, just an attempt to protect what was yours, against the threat of my stealing it.

Lets look at this from the dog’s point of view………


How food guarding can come about

1 Fido the puppy comes into his new home. His owners love him and all is well.

2 As Fido grows, he becomes more confident and outgoing and one day on the park runs off and won’t return, is unusually pully on his lead and jumps up at a passing stranger with muddy paws, making both stranger and owner cross. Fido’s, owner has read some Old fashioned dog training book and wonders if Fido is getting “Dominant”?

3 He decides to test this out by seeing if Fido will let him take his food off him. He read this in a book..

4 When next feeding Fido, he reaches down and takes the bowl. Fido freezes and stares indicating his discomfort. Fido is surprised, there has never been a threat to his food before. The owner misses the signal that his dog was uncomfortable with this action, it was too subtle. But the dog didn’t growl, the owner is reassured. All is well.

5 Next Day Fido is really naughty. He jumps in a smelly pond chasing ducks and he stinks really badly. He refuses to come back when called and makes the owner late for breakfast. Owner decides that he must do something about this dog and he decides that he will implement a regular routine of removing the puppy’s food to show his authority.

6 Feeding Fido who is very hungry after a hard morning chasing ducks, tucks in to his food. As Fido is eating, the owner reaches down to take the food. Fido is more prepared this second time, he is now aware that his “stare” did nothing to prevent the removal of his food last time his owners hand approached his bowl. Fido is now ready to take more serious action. He utters a low warning growl as the hand approaches his food.

7 Fido’s owner, though aware he was testing his dog’s reaction. Did not actually expect this reaction, is shocked and withdraws his hand. Fido continues eating; glad his message has got across. All is well in Fido’s world. J But not his owners L.

8 Owner spends the day pondering Fido’s behaviour. He really can not have Fido behaving this way, Dog aggression as he sees this to be, is a dangerous business, he knows that. He decides to take further action.

9 When feeding Fido next day the owner decides if Fido growls he is going to scruff him, as it says in the book, or smack him to punish Fido’s misdemeanour and make it clear that he, the owner, is the boss, as it says in the book. His hand approaches the bowl, Fido growls, aware that this worked last time. Owner grabs Fido by the scruff, pushes him to the floor and shouts at him.

10 Really angry now, the owner removes Fido’s food and doesn’t give it back. Fido is very frightened and hungry too! He does not understand. Eating used to be a simple, necessary pleasure. Now it seems whenever there is an owner around when he eats, there is tension. Owner tries to steal his food, when Fido says he doesn’t like it, the owner shouts and causes him pain and fear. And takes his food away.

11 Fido decides the best thing is to keep the owner well away from the food in an effort to relieve the tension and avoid the shouting and scruffing and food removal. .
12 Next day, owner places food on floor, both dog and owner are now tense, wondering what the outcome of today’s feeding session might be.

13 Fido immediately goes into growl mode, summoning up his courage he gives his best “I’m not happy with you being here” stare and growls and curls his lips at his owner. He hovers over his food, standing stiff, glaring menacingly. “Back off” he growls. “Chill out about this food thing” he wishes, “go sit in the living room” he says. As the owner takes a step closer, he lunges, teeth displayed and snaps at the air. The owner, now scared, retreats. Fido resumes his eating, unnerved and worried that such tension arises at feeding time, but relieved that the owner has left his food, he is hungry!

14 The owner is horrified at this sudden display of ‘aggression’, his cute puppy has turned into an ugly, vicious, dog. He is outraged and has visions of what might happen if he ever marries and has children, with this dog around. He feels compelled to fix it. Adrenalin rushing and determined to show his dominance over the dog, he roars at the dog, and reaches down, once more for the dog’s scruff. The dog with reactions 3 times faster than that of a human, interprets the owners move and desperate to avoid more scruffing or the removal of his survival resource, bites the owner’s hand before it reaches the bowl.

15 All is far from well now in Fido’s world or his owners L.

16 From point 4 of this story, Fido has been progressively put in the situation where he feels it necessary to guard his food. He needs food to live. Fido feels that he has to be on his guard whenever he is eating. He also understands that humans do not necessarily understand, lip curling, snarling, staring, stiffening or growling. The only thing that really makes them back off is biting.

17 Whatever happens next to Fido, he will never forget that human hands can and do sometimes take away his food when he is eating. He is aware that he must be ever vigilant to the approach of humans. He is now aware that most attempts to communicate - growling, snarling, lip curling, staring, freezing, lunging and air snapping - all normal attempts to AVOID aggression or conflict in the dog world, are not recognised and responded to by humans.

18 As many food guarders do, Fido ends up in a rescue home. Others find themselves immediately at the sharp end of a needle.

19 His owner, ashamed at having such an aggressive dog, but too embarrassed to seek help himself, tells the home that he simply doesn’t have time to care for the dog anymore. Fido, an otherwise friendly, well-socialised dog, quickly finds a new home.

20 There are children in this one and he loves them. They play happily together all day the first day. Fido has good manners and the owners are delighted with him. He is gentle and respectful with the children even the baby. The children have read a dog training book and they give him treats in return for sits. All is well again. Fido loves his new home, his new owners love him and the children are delighted to have such a cuddly, playful new friend. Wouldn’t it be great if the story ended here?

21 At feeding time they place the bowl on the floor and walk away, Fido is relieved and happy, no action is necessary.

22 All is well for several weeks. The owners, children and dog are truly delighted.

23 And then one day, when Fido is eating, Fido’s friend, Rosie the baby, now crawling, toddles toward Fido, on her hands and Knees, as she gets closer she reaches out her tiny hand…In an instant Fido remembers that staring and freezing, growling, snarling, snapping, and lunging don’t always work with humans. He has only one option available to him to protect his food……. He doesn’t want to bite Rosie his friend and playmate, but he needs food to live…….

24 Rosie is scarred by the incident, mentally and physically. Her parents are distraught and cannot understand the sudden change in Fido – he had always been so gentle with Rosie before? And Fido, having bitten a baby is destroyed.

Food guarding is usually easily prevented – follow these points for happy relaxed mealtimes. .

DO NOT FALL INTO THE TRAP FIDOS OWNER DID!

If your dog is happy for you to approach his food or bones when eating, make him even happier, by adding to that food some higher value food like liver. Do this regularly.

Don’t give him things that you later want to take off him. If you do have to remove a bone and you are not confident of your dog’s reaction, call him into another room away from the bone. Bones and chews above all things are more likely to bring about food guarding behaviour because they are long lasting resources.

When my dogs are eating bones, I go to them and give them another bone. When my dogs are eating, I add food to their bowls.

Hand feeding your dog can to help make it understand that human hands PROVIDE food, not take it away. I often use my dog’s daily food for training purposes and this means I may feed my dog from my hand 100 times a day (tiny portions). They like my hands. Other people do the same – they like other peoples hands.

If you dog is the sort of dog who will have a bone, chew it, then leave it, but guard it from a distance, then only feed him bones when he is hungry enough to eat them, of the type that he can actually totally consume. Or give them in another room and leave him to it.

If ever your dog growls when eating or at any other time, remember he is only saying, “please don’t take my bone” or “please stop doing that”. If I said to you, please don’t take my chocolate would you scruff my or pin me to the floor??? If you did do that, do you think that would benefit our relationship? Do you think that it would make me respect you more???

If a dog growls and you leave him alone then he learns that growling is all he needs to do. GROWLING, IS NOT AGGRESSION, IT IS DESIGNED TO PREVENT AGGRRESSION. It may be undesirable, but it is not aggressive in itself. If you never remove food from your dog he may learn that even growling is not necessary.

If a dog learns that you always provide food and more food or bones and more bones then he is unlikely to guard his food at all.

If you have confirmed food guarder and do not feel confident to try any of the above, then just feed your dog in another room, where he will not be disturbed. At least this way, the food guarding behaviour is not likely to deteriorate.

If your dog regularly guards things or is over protective of his food, toys or other items, and you don’t feel that anything in this document can help, then GET HELP from someone and soon. Unwanted behaviours rarely just “go away” of their own accord, but they are, very often, very easy to resolve once proper understanding is brought to the situation.

This document was produced by Denise Mcleod of CaDeLac Dog Training.

Copyright CaDeLac Dog Training
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cintvelt
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12-08-2010, 11:15 AM
Excellent post Denise!!!!
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Lotsadogs
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12-08-2010, 03:08 PM
Thank you Cintvelt.

Food guarding (or indeed any resource guarding) in my view, is one of those - "it really shouldn't ever happen" - type of problems that is so easily avoided and often easily remedied. Sadly, due to so many misunderstandings, and some readily available poor advice in old books etc..... it is becomming more and more common.

I hope that in understanding how it comes about, people wont just assume their dog is "bad" for behaving completely naturally.
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