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LuckytheDog

Help with resource guarding people and spaces

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Lucky is a 19 month old collie/lab mix that we adopted a year ago next week. Since we got him, we've had issues with reactivity to other dogs, attention seeking behavior and resource guarding people. We've worked a lot on the reactivity issues and we have tools and are making progress. He doesn't resource guard food or toys with people but he will with other dogs.

 

There are specific places and situations in our house where it happens. For example, when my husband and I hug or get close to each other, Lucky will rush over and kind of squeal at us. When I am standing at my laptop in the kitchen and my husband walks into the kitchen, he will grumble and rush to get between us. When my husband is sitting in a chair in the kitchen and I approach him, Lucky will whine and get a concerned look on his face. He will nip at my clothes if I reach to pet him when he is on my husband's lap. He hates it when we both pet him at the same time. He doesn't sleep in our bed with us (that was the first issue wie struggled with with him) but he does sleep in his bed in our bedroom.

 

We have managed to stop some of the behavior by using a spray bottle with plain water to correct him, getting him to sit when he starts the behavior and rewarding him with attention and/or treats when he stops. I felt like we were making progress, but two weeks ago we took him on a road trip and visited some friends along the way. On several occasions when people were sitting around the table or couches, when someone got up and started walking, Lucky would rush towards them making a horrible growling noise that scared whoever he was rushing at. I don't think he would ever bite anyone, but he SOUNDED really mean and scary when he did this (he's not a small dog at 75lbs).

 

I've tried finding information on how to address resource guarding, but most of it is around toys and food. Does anyone have any leads on resources or advice on how to address resource guarding people?

 

Thanks for any help!

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I read "Mine!" by Jean Donaldson. It helped me to understand the different types of guarding and that our dog had a combination of food guarding, object guarding, and body handling issues. I previously had not realized body handling was part of her guarding.

Just a guess, but your pup may be exhibiting owner guarding, location guarding and possibly some body handling issues?

The book can be a bit technical at times, but has exercises that you can use. I believe the exercises were for food guarding, location guarding and body handling, but the information may be helpful. I think the exercises, my other body handling work with our dog and her growing more mature helped. Now she no longer guards her bowl, lets me take forbidden items from her mouth, handle her, and is very sweet at the vet's office.

Good luck and hopefully others can provide more ideas! Resource guarding can be very stressful.

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If you can manage it, a good professional dog behaviorist and trainer would be a good idea with this situation. With a large dog such as he, you need to find a solid solution to this before it escalates. I understand that you don't think he would ever bite anyone, but his behavior says otherwise to me, and it would be better for you to spend the money on a good behaviorist now than on lawyers later.

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If you can manage it, a good professional dog behaviorist and trainer would be a good idea with this situation. With a large dog such as he, you need to find a solid solution to this before it escalates. I understand that you don't think he would ever bite anyone, but his behavior says otherwise to me, and it would be better for you to spend the money on a good behaviorist now than on lawyers later.

I agree! I should have mentioned that we were already working with a behaviorist when our dog began her food bowl guarding/weirdness and she helped us work through that part of it. We had to try several different tactics until we found one that worked.

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Quick advice is don't let him sit on the husband's lap. Especially a dog his size and displaying his behaviors shouldn't be allowed to sit on a person.

 

I also would ask for a behavior I want before (make sure it is before) he does the behavior you don't want. So prevent it by asking for a desirable behavior. Then you can lose the spray bottle which isn't really teaching anything, IMO.

 

I also would not praise or treat a dog in this situation. I doubt he is really calm and relaxed the moment after he stops growling and you're praising/treating him. He is likely still tense and uncomfortable (is his mouth closed, tight lips, whale eyes, stiff posture?). Just because he stopped growling doesn't mean he is fully relaxed/out of that guarding mindset.

 

Example would be, if you know he does X behavior when you walk in the room then ask for a down stay just as you walk in the room to hug your husband. If he doesn't have a down stay then start teaching him one. Proof it and then you can use it in these real life situations. His reward is being released once he looks fully relaxed. There are other exercises as well. The book recommended above is also a great place to start.

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Thanks everyone. I did get a copy of "Mine" a few months ago after I realized that resource guarding was what he was doing. I didn't find it especially helpful since he doesn't guard food or toys (I can take a bully stick from his mouth while he is chewing it and a kid took a ball from him last week - he was hoping they would throw it for him!). But I'll take another look at it and try to generalize the info.

 

We did work with a trainer who helped us realize that much of his dog reactivity is actually guarding us! We live in a rural area, so finding GOOD behaviorists is hard to do. We liked the trainer we worked with and if things get worse, we'll bring her back.

 

Waffles - that is great insight about allowing the behavior. When he does sit when we touch each other, he is NOT relaxed. Exactly as you say, his mouth is tense and he does the eye thing and he's stiff. It's right to say that it's the RELEASE from what you've asked him to do rather than the act of sitting is what we should reward him for. We were working on the assumption that if we praised/treated him for NOT jumping on us when we hugged, he would look forward to the attention he got for not jumping/interfering with our interaction. Thank you. That is super helpful.

 

With the growling noise - in general he is a very vocal dog. Not just barking, but he's a groaner (he regularly sounds like an old man when he lies on the floor or scratches his ear), so I kind of feel like he's a drama queen with the noises (today he was barking at a robin on the lawn - all noise and no action), but I appreciate the feedback that you never really know where a dog will go. In general, I'd like to stop the rushing/pushing behavior before it gets to the place where he would actually bite someone.

 

Thanks again!

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As far as a behaviorist, most veterinary colleges have a vet behaviorist on staff. Even if it would mean a day trip, it might be worth the time and expense to make an appointment. Making a video of the behaviors that concern you would be a huge asset for such a consult.

 

I've become very leery of most trainers who advertise as "behaviorists" or "behavior consultants." There are some non-veterinarian organizations that offer specialized training and behavior certifications, such as the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) and others, but there are far too many trainers who just hang out shingles claiming that they're "behaviorists" with nothing to back that up. Ask questions about their qualifications and certifications. If they don't reply, head the other way fast.

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