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Border Collie Query's (Food Guarding)


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Hi All,

 

I have been trolling the website and different threads for a while now and have learned at lot! this is a brilliant meeting place for people who their dogs best interest at the forefront, which is really encouraging.

 

I have a 15 week old Border Collie puppy called Penny, and shes a real treat. Shes quick to learn, playful, affectionate and abit of a handful (all the necessary personalty trates of a good puppy)

 

That being said i am have some issues with her feeding. We brought her home at 10 weeks and after about a week and a half she started to growl at all family members if they approached during meal times. From that point on she has been hand fed by myself, my wife and my 5 years old daughter. we try and make feeding time fun by pairing it with simple commands like sit, paw and roll over, all these she does fine. However as soon as you put a pile of food down either on the floor or in a bowl she will put some in a her them retreat back a couple of steps and eat it.

This to me is still food guarding, i am happy that she isn't growling or showing signs of aggression but i don't want start off on the wrong foot and make our life harder down the line.

 

Any help would be gratefully received. Also any handy or helpful tips or for bringing up a happy, healthy and engaging Border Collie would also be appreciated.

 

Thank you

 

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I'm working with a foster on resource guarding right now. It's basically trying to make him think that I've always got something better and whenever I come near or he lifts his head out the bowl, he gets a higher-value reward.

 

For my foster, that means coming up to his bowl occasionally while he's eating (maybe 3-4 times a week) and dropping string cheese or tripe jerky into it. I worked up to being able to put my hand on the bowl and pick up the bowl, each time returning it with the higher-value treats mixed in. He went from growling to bolting food to a relaxed posture reasonably quickly, but wasn't picking his head up out of his bowl. Now I'm trying to make my hand on the bowl an automatic cue for him to pick his head up and get a treat from my hand.

 

It should go faster for you with a puppy than trying to train it out of an adult dog.

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I think you are right to be doing something about this now, and yes, I'd say taking a mouth full of food and retreating to eat it is still a sign that you have a problem. Good for you that you are noticing the subtler signs and facing the issue head on!

 

I'd agree with D112358's advice. As your dog begins to associate people approaching her food bowl as a really awesome thing you should see improvement.

 

Just wanted to add a few things. I understand you are feeding her by hand now, but when you do try putting her food bowl on the floor again keep an eye on her reactions. When you approach her while she's eating the point at which she starts to look nervous, anxious, or stressed is her distance"threshold". The signs can be subtle: Freezing into a stiff posture, leaning over the food bowl, eating faster, a hard stare or whale eye. Not so subtle: lip curl, growl, snap, bite.

 

When you start to see that she's getting stressed out, you can stop where you are and gently toss the treat from that distance. Make sure it's a really, really good treat, like a tiny piece of chicken, steak, fish, etc. It should be way better then whatever is in her bowl. Over time (and with such a young pup I don't imagine it would take too long) you should be able to approach her and even put your hand in her bowl like was suggested above and place treats right into it.

 

The last thing I wanted to add was that, especially with a young child in your home, you need to get this under control and make sure it doesn't spread to other things like chewy treats, toys, etc. Having said that, I think it's best not to harass a dog too much while it's eating. Mealtime is one of life's greatest pleasures for a dog. :) Work on the guarding, but try not to make it so that mealtime becomes super laborious for her.

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I need help with this issue, and I'm at the point of rehoming/relinquishing Jack (6 months). Last week he bit my 6 yr old in the face over a piece of chocolate that the child had. We have always worked on bite inhibition, so it was a hard scratch/bruise. Next it was right after dinner and my 6 yr old was scraping his plate in the trash- wham- a bite on the leg (scratch). After both of these incidents, Jack was unceremoniously put into his crate (with a large blanket over the front cause I was really mad).

This evening, he bit my husband, a tooth snagged on the back of his hand and blood was drawn. In the course of a week, both my husband and son have been bitten and it's over HUMAN food. He is fed regularly on high quality food. He'll eat from your hand (if it's his food or his snacks). We're getting really scared over here, and I don't want someone unknowledgable to have this dog-- the pound isn't an option for us. Am I gonna have to crate him while I cook, while we eat, and after we've cleaned everything up? Crating while we have snacks? Help me out here please.

Thank you.

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I need help with this issue, and I'm at the point of rehoming/relinquishing Jack (6 months). Last week he bit my 6 yr old in the face over a piece of chocolate that the child had. We have always worked on bite inhibition, so it was a hard scratch/bruise. Next it was right after dinner and my 6 yr old was scraping his plate in the trash- wham- a bite on the leg (scratch). After both of these incidents, Jack was unceremoniously put into his crate (with a large blanket over the front cause I was really mad).

 

Am I gonna have to crate him while I cook, while we eat, and after we've cleaned everything up? Crating while we have snacks? Help me out here please.

Thank you.

 

Biting a kid in the face is kind of a one strike you're out offense in my book. Jack needs a household that has food more or less locked down - nothing edible out when he's loose (unless it's specifically for him), kitchen is completely off-limits. Then remedial work on impulse control starts, since it sounds like he's bringing the fight to someone with food rather than 'simple' resource guarding like coolfreeze is experiencing. Working with an experienced trainer and potentially a behaviorist would be very helpful.

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Dear Doggers,

 

Big problem which is probably going to get worse.

 

The dog and (most likely) the owners need a trainer - one who has successfully rehabbed biters. It would be well to get the right trainer first time. In the dog training marketing blizzard finding that successful trainer isn't easy. Although I'd give a second look to anyone with NADOI certification,even that isn't a sure thing and far as I can tell other credentials, certifications, professional memberships and degrees are essentially meaningless.

 

Someone with years of experience with hundreds of dogs is the better bet.

 

I would ask the potential trainer: "How many biters have you rehabbed?"

 

I'd ask them, "Please give me an example or two."

 

The examples needn't be Border Collies. Biting is not breed specific behavior.

 

If the trainer responds with guff about credentials, titles or suggests that all methods besides his or hers are cruel, ineffective, unscientific or not-quite-nice, try another.

 

The up-side is that most 6 month old biters can be rehabbed and the owners, as well as the dog, can be enriched by the training.

 

Donald McCaig

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I'm 100% with those who warn against a confrontational approach which, if it works, will probably only suppress the guarding instinct, not remove it. If it doesn't work it is likely to lead to escalation.

 

However, I wouldn't necessarily be against putting the fear of god into a dog that seriously oversteps the mark - not physically but leaving it in no doubt that its behaviour is totally unacceptable. But just the once and then proceeding with teaching the dog that there is no need to guard and every good reason not to.

 

I will say though that I am not in a position to say what level of displeasure would be appropriate for any individual dog. It may take very little to make it think twice. This is why it needs to be someone who can get to know the dog that gives the advice.

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My current belief system is based on a few experiences.

New dog + new owner = almost a neutral start. Acknowledging that everyone comes into the relationship with his/her own experiences it is chance to start new. But, it also is a time of "I don't know you and I can not gauge your responses. Which often allows a reset. Which by the way, I also believe is the reason why sometimes sending a dog out for training (always provided it all fits between owner and trainer), can give a head start to altering a set behavior pattern. Setting a pattern often happens pretty quick. It often comes from familiarity. From knowing how far one can push it. It also is in my mind quite instinctive and has little to do with plotting anyone! We are talking dogs. This is also how I believe a bully can be made out of a strong but originally very nice pup. But that is another thread. And to make it very clear here....I am not accusing anyone of doing this on purpose. Most people do what they know. And if they don't know any better...they can't do any better until they are taught!

 

Conflict and confrontations arise when two entities want something different. So yes, I can back out at any time and I may or may not depending what the end result could potentially be. Meaning, I will not push a confrontation with a snarling, 100 lbs, bad attitude German Shepherd that has pushed others around for years without having a damn good game plan right there and then. But I may be more sticking to my position with a smaller dog. So to me, that again means, based on the situation, I will make my choices. I also believe that there has to be a payoff to the dog. Straight dominance does not work. But at some point I still do not prescribe to the old, having to watch everything I do theory. Yes, I will take my time...but at some point...there has to be some amount of normal. It is guaranteed that at some point everyone will let down their guard. Which brings me to a personal question that I may ask in a separate thread one day.

 

I also believe that every living being needs to know how to submit comfortably. Needs to know that it is one, not the end of the world and two, that we are all vulnerable. This allows a reasonably safe and conflict free way out of a confrontation with the bigger and badder guy without getting in too much trouble. Not sure if I express this correctly.

 

So, with the 15 week old pup, my approach would be totally different than with the older, 6 months old, dog. For me, I would also have to struggle with the advice on considering her backing out as a potential problem or a sign of a problem. Would I still work on trying to show her that there is no need for it? Sure. With high value treats exchanges and placement. But I also think it is fair for her to be able to eat without having to always be interrupted. After all, to me that is a thin line between her guarding her food in a nefarious way and her trying to get some peace to eat. To avoid confrontation.

 

The older pup is much harder to gauge for me over the net because one can not see what has led up to that interaction. Sounds to me that he is lacking some serious impulse control. Besides any high grade dog food has nothing on human food. Think of you eating cereal all day while you smell the lady sitting next to you eating indian, italian, german, mexican food. That would make me certainly be much more inclined to forget my manners especially if I was not the one to choose the cereal diet for myself. So I would probably use human food down the road to teach the proper behavior. But I also would possibly have to consider that there maybe a simple attitude adjustment in order. Especially since there is a small child who is hard to see as someone to defer to when it is something he really, really values. But as I said, that is one of those that would have to be seen in person by a good trainer.

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For me, I would also have to struggle with the advice on considering her backing out as a potential problem or a sign of a problem. Would I still work on trying to show her that there is no need for it? Sure. With high value treats exchanges and placement. But I also think it is fair for her to be able to eat without having to always be interrupted. After all, to me that is a thin line between her guarding her food in a nefarious way and her trying to get some peace to eat. To avoid confrontation.

 

Hmm, thanks for pointing this out! My mindset was that, since she's taking food off to eat it away from the owner, she continues to feels uncomfortable... therefore a sign that there might still be an underlying issue. But you make a great point, that what she's doing is more avoidance then guarding. Great advice here for the OP. I also agree 100% that dogs should be allowed to eat without constantly being pestered.

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For me, I would also have to struggle with the advice on considering her backing out as a potential problem or a sign of a problem. Would I still work on trying to show her that there is no need for it? Sure. With high value treats exchanges and placement. But I also think it is fair for her to be able to eat without having to always be interrupted. After all, to me that is a thin line between her guarding her food in a nefarious way and her trying to get some peace to eat. To avoid confrontation.

This is something that I wondered about, her backing up as being more a sign of avoiding conflict than being indicative of conflict. Of course, without seeing just what happened, it would be hard to say but I tend to think this way about it with what little I have read here.
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