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Food Guarding and General Timidness

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Hi Everyone!


I am new to this forum and to life with a Border Collie. I am also happy for the community of BC support this forum offers. In July I rescued an 8 week old BC from the local pound. Poor guy was not in good health and had clearly been neglected in his previous home. His name is Luke and he is now 8 months old and about 26 pounds.


My concern, is that his whole life, Luke has growled if anyone gets too close to his food bowl or tries to take a kong with food in it away from him. He has gotten better about it and now will not growl at me 8 times out of 10. He almost always will growl at anyone else or any other dog that passes by. It's not an extremely vicious growl, more of like a frustrated grumble. But it's still concerning. I guess I am wondering if this could develop into a significant aggression problem and what I should do about.


I am also concerned about his timidness. He is very afraid of cars, air conditioning vents, trash bags (really any noisy plastic bag), and all kinds of other things that make loud noises. Is this something I need to be concerned about? If so, how should I deal with it?


I am very gratefully for any advice you can offer. Thank you.

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First, thank you and kudos to you for rescuing a pup from the shelter.


From what you have described, your pup's growling is very likely related to his general timidness. He might be afraid that the other dogs and other people will try to get his food so he is protecting his bowl in the best way he knows - growling. If it were me, at this point, I wouldn't insist that he doesn't growl when he is eating. I would put his bowl away from anybody and anything so he doesn't feel he has to protect his food. Maybe put his food in an out-of-the-way corner where no one walks by. But you must keep an eye on him so another dog does not try to get his food. Also, do not allow another dog to sit near and watch him eat. Possibly put him in a room by himself while he eats. Try to give him a calm place to eat so he doesn't even feel the need to growl. You can work on reducing the growling once he becomes more confident. Maybe he just needs to grow up a bit more to gain confidence so he is not the low man on the totem pole. (Is he the low man?)


Just as an aside: I have 3 dogs, and at feeding time, they are all fed a distance from each other so no one feels that their personal space bubble is intruded upon while eating. I also make sure that once a dog finished eating, they do not get close to another dog that is still eating.


As far as taking a kong away, why not try offering a really good treat (cooked chicken bits, hamburger bits or similar) to your pup when you want to take the kong? By offering a higher value item than the one he has, he should be happy to release the kong. In the beginning, I wouldn't even take the kong away to keep it. I would just make a game out of it and give him a high-value treat for releasing the kong, then give him the kong back, then another high-value treat or several treats when he releases the kong. Rinse and repeat several times. Make it a happy game and reward verbally (Good boy) when he releases the kong in addition to giving him treats. Pretty soon, he should be happy to drop the kong in anticipation of something better.


As far as being timid -- yes, I would want to work with a pup to help them be less reactive. You can work with your pup to desensitize him to his triggers and this should help him become more confident as he becomes more comfortable in his environment. Search for densensitization techniques on the internet - or someone here may explain it more fully.


Please post a photo of your pup. We all love seeing puppy photos. :-)

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gcv-border gave really great advice about your puppy's resource guarding.

Scolding, or trying to stop him from growling, will only further the problem.


I'd recommend reading this book on the subject to start constructively working on it once your puppy has lost some of its timidness: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23820.Mine_


About the timidness: my puppy had the same, to the extreme: almost yelling when there were dogs / cars / lots of energy around her on the street. I applied LAT training (Look At That training, also called the engage-disengage game). Twice a day for 5 minutes, for a few weeks, and that worked like a charm.


Check it out here:



Be sure to work at the right distance, find out when your dog is triggered, and work just a bit farther away. And make it fun!

I always used to do this at the end of the walk. We'd stand on the curb, at a distance from some street with cars, and she'd get lots of treats. After a few weeks, she just started associating watching cars with fun and attention.


If he's afraid of plastic bags, start by just laying one on the floor, go to the other side of the room and do that game. Working well? decrease the distance a few days later. Work your way up slowly to the point where someone else is maybe taking out the trash and putting a new bag in the bin.


Also try searching the forum for "LAT training" or "Look at that training". Lots of people have written things about it.


Good luck with him!

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Sorry for the delayed response. It's been a busy couple of days for me. Thank you so much for the help! Since reading the post the other day I have already started feeding him away from the other dogs. I am not actually sure if he is the low man. He is the same size as my 13 year old American Eskimo but the Eskie is a bit of a grump and so he doesn't tolerate Luke playing with him. Although when there is food involved Luke normally dominates Beau (the Eskie) Although, since he came to us that way, he may have been the low man at his previous owners. Apparently they had other dogs and didn't really take care of any of them. Luke would have been about 7ish weeks with them too.


I will have to read up on the other techniques you both described and try to implement them. I have already started going out the the street near our house and sitting there with him hoping he will eventually understand that the cars are not trying to hurt him. I don't, however, want him to lose respect for the cars.


As for pictures of the little guy;


Here is a picture I took of him about an hour ago:


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