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Hi,

I was just looking for some advice.  I have a female border collie and she’s 5 months old.  She is such a confident pup and she loves playing with people and other dogs.  The only real problem I’m experiencing is that she is really aggressive with resource guarding when it comes to chew sticks, bones and the like.  She isn’t as bad with her normal food that she has at meal times but anything of ‘high value’ you just can’t go near her without her growling, showing her teeth then if you go to close she snaps at you.  I’ve also found that if she’s fixated on something and you try and get her away from whatever it is she does the same thing.  My girlfriend has guinea pigs and she will just sit and stare at them all day and won’t move even if you call her then when you go over to her she growls.

Does anyone have any tips or training methods I can do to try and get her to stop this behaviour?  Anyone with success stories having had this problem?

 Any advice appreciated!

 Thanks!

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Immediately stop the staring at the guinea pigs and do not permit that behavior ever to reoccur. border collies are very obsessive dogs and if you do not nip this right away it could become a life-long fixation and it is not nice to the guinea pigs either. Put the pigs in another room and keep the door closed or block it with a baby gate so the dog never sees them again.

Equally, do not permit the resource guarding.  You need to teach "leave it". Do not give her any more high-value chew toys or sticks or bones until you have dealt with this issue. Instead, give her things she will take, but doesn't really care about. Her daily kibble a bit at a time will work for this. Teach "leave it" by holding a treat (low value) in one closed fist so she can smell it. She will mug your hand to try to get it. Say nothing and keep fist closed. As soon as she backs off for even a second, tell her she is a good girl and give her the treat. Once she learns that she cannot have it until she backs off (having her sit as well is a great idea), she will stop trying to get it from your hand.

Then, you put it on the floor but keep your hand near and go through the whole thing again, covering it and only letting her have it when she sits and stops trying to grab it. When she is sitting automatically when you put it down, say "leave it" as you put it down, and then release her to get it in one or two seconds, building up the time slowly. Do this several times a day with her regular kibble so she has lots of repetition. 

Only when this is very well established (which may take weeks ) do you once again offer the high-value toy or chew, putting it on the ground and saying "leave it". Once she is released to get it, let her have it for a few seconds, then put your hand on it, and say "leave it", and take it from her, but IMMEDIATELY give her something of even higher value, such as a very yummy treat. As soon as she swallows that, give her the toy back again. Repeat a hundred times.

This turns giving up the toy or chew stick into a game that she always wins: she gets a treat AND she gets the chew back again.

It is all about teaching the dog, without punishment, that you are the boss, you are in control of things, and she isn't allowed to tell you that you can;not have something she has.

Best of luck.

 

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30 minutes ago, D'Elle said:

Immediately stop the staring at the guinea pigs and do not permit that behavior ever to reoccur. border collies are very obsessive dogs and if you do not nip this right away it could become a life-long fixation and it is not nice to the guinea pigs either. Put the pigs in another room and keep the door closed or block it with a baby gate so the dog never sees them again.

Equally, do not permit the resource guarding.  You need to teach "leave it". Do not give her any more high-value chew toys or sticks or bones until you have dealt with this issue. Instead, give her things she will take, but doesn't really care about. Her daily kibble a bit at a time will work for this. Teach "leave it" by holding a treat (low value) in one closed fist so she can smell it. She will mug your hand to try to get it. Say nothing and keep fist closed. As soon as she backs off for even a second, tell her she is a good girl and give her the treat. Once she learns that she cannot have it until she backs off (having her sit as well is a great idea), she will stop trying to get it from your hand.

Then, you put it on the floor but keep your hand near and go through the whole thing again, covering it and only letting her have it when she sits and stops trying to grab it. When she is sitting automatically when you put it down, say "leave it" as you put it down, and then release her to get it in one or two seconds, building up the time slowly. Do this several times a day with her regular kibble so she has lots of repetition. 

Only when this is very well established (which may take weeks ) do you once again offer the high-value toy or chew, putting it on the ground and saying "leave it". Once she is released to get it, let her have it for a few seconds, then put your hand on it, and say "leave it", and take it from her, but IMMEDIATELY give her something of even higher value, such as a very yummy treat. As soon as she swallows that, give her the toy back again. Repeat a hundred times.

This turns giving up the toy or chew stick into a game that she always wins: she gets a treat AND she gets the chew back again.

It is all about teaching the dog, without punishment, that you are the boss, you are in control of things, and she isn't allowed to tell you that you can;not have something she has.

Best of luck.

 

Thanks for your reply and advice.

The guinea pigs are kept outside in the back garden in a hutch so this only becomes a problem when I take her out the back garden so I have resorted to keeping her on the lead when she is in the garden to keep her away from the pigs.

She is quite good with the ‘leave it’ command as I can hold a treat in front of her nose and say leave it and she won’t take it until I say ‘take it’.

I have noticed that when I am training her to do the things like leave it, take it, sit, lie down, paw etc she picks things up very quickly but it’s just a worry with the growling and snapping sometimes.  Hopefully using the training you’ve mentioned she will pick this up quite quickly as well.  Fingers crossed.

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What D'Elle said.

Some trainers advise not allowing the dog to have the treat you've asked them to leave, instead having another one (perhaps even a higher value one) at the ready to reward with instead. You can then begin to fade the reward later, having then taught a "leave it" without the expectation of an immediate food reward.

I didn't run across that variation till I'd already trained several dogs to leave it -- but I did use it with the last puppy I trained simply because that's what the trainer was doing in the class. The idea is that this way the dog doesn't learn that she'll get the forbidden item eventually and perhaps think it's OK to take it on her own once no one's looking, or to have the expectation that she'll get the treat eventually. Sometimes when we need to tell the dog to leave it it's just not practical or safe to allow them to have the forbidden item.

I'm not really sure if this is more effective in this regard or not, but did want to mention it.

 

 

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If she already knows "leave it", then train her to leave her bowl of food untouched until you release her to have it. 

Also, teach her that you are allowed to tell her "wait", and she must stop eating, and sit until you let her go back to her food. You should always be able to pick up her bowl at any time, or reach for it or put something into it without her objecting. This is very important.

One of my dogs is a food inhaler. I have trained him to stop eating at my cue and sit and wait for 30 seconds until I let him continue. Until I taught him to do that he was choking on his food all the time.  It isn't as hard to train as it may sound.

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Check out the 'nothing in life is free' method. I had a VERY dominant shepherd years ago, and this was the only technique that kept her from being aggressive. Whenever she started to resource guard we upped the training and it worked beautifully.

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On 7/13/2018 at 8:18 AM, D'Elle said:

Immediately stop the staring at the guinea pigs and do not permit that behavior ever to reoccur. border collies are very obsessive dogs and if you do not nip this right away it could become a life-long fixation and it is not nice to the guinea pigs either.

I've heard about OCD in Border Collies but I haven't owned one, so as an outsider it's a little hard for me to understand. If you feel up to it, could you explain in a little more detail what OCD behaviors are and the problems they cause?

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17 hours ago, TheWoman said:

Check out the 'nothing in life is free' method. I had a VERY dominant shepherd years ago, and this was the only technique that kept her from being aggressive. Whenever she started to resource guard we upped the training and it worked beautifully.

While I have no objection to the Nothing In Life Is Free concept in and of itself, I would strongly caution against attaching any label like "dominant" or "aggressive" to this resource-guarding dog. It doesn't sound to me as though this dog is either one of those things, and I have seen people attach those labels prematurely and inaccurately to dogs, creating worse problems than what already exist. Not that the owner, or the post above, is suggesting this dog is. Just a word of caution.

I personally think a gentle approach and some "leave it" training would work much better.  NILIF is something I reserve for times when other things have not worked. JMO.

As for obsession, most border collies come wired with the obsessive gene. It is part of their breeding, because they need to focus intently on the sheep and watch them every second to see what they are going to do.  Any time that a border collie starts staring at something intently and stays that way, or makes a point of going to that part of the room or yard, or looking for that thing in order to stare at it or circle it or lick it or do anything with it over and over or with duration, you have the potential for, or start of, obsessive behavior and it should be curbed. 

Problems: lack of interest in other things, difficulty getting the dog un-stuck from that in order to learn something or do something else, neurosis, anxiety when that object of obsession is removed, etc, etc. Think about human beings who have OCD. It is considered one of the most distressing mental challenges to have, and it makes people very unhappy. It does the same to a dog, and it is completely unnecessary, because it is relatively easy just to make sure the dog never develops such a habit.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/18/2018 at 11:34 AM, D'Elle said:

While I have no objection to the Nothing In Life Is Free concept in and of itself, I would strongly caution against attaching any label like "dominant" or "aggressive" to this resource-guarding dog. It doesn't sound to me as though this dog is either one of those things, and I have seen people attach those labels prematurely and inaccurately to dogs, creating worse problems than what already exist. Not that the owner, or the post above, is suggesting this dog is. Just a word of caution.

I personally think a gentle approach and some "leave it" training would work much better.  NILIF is something I reserve for times when other things have not worked. JMO.

 

Absolutely. To be clear, I wasn't attaching any labels to THIS dog, but rather to my own. I'd never presume to label someone else's dog (esp one I haven't met). 

And yes - when I used NILIF with my dog, it was because she was a SUPER dominant alpha female (we had been through half a dozen trainers who refused to even work with her because of this), and I had tried every other system under the sun. A modified version though is something I've since used with all my dogs (from all points on the dominance spectrum) with great success. I think it gives the ones with less confidence MORE confidence, because they've done something and are rewarded for their efforts. If done correctly, it IS a gentle approach, and one that can help a dog blossom (In my experience, anyway).

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On 7/13/2018 at 11:58 AM, GentleLake said:

What D'Elle said.

Some trainers advise not allowing the dog to have the treat you've asked them to leave, instead having another one (perhaps even a higher value one) at the ready to reward with instead. You can then begin to fade the reward later, having then taught a "leave it" without the expectation of an immediate food reward.

I didn't run across that variation till I'd already trained several dogs to leave it -- but I did use it with the last puppy I trained simply because that's what the trainer was doing in the class. The idea is that this way the dog doesn't learn that she'll get the forbidden item eventually and perhaps think it's OK to take it on her own once no one's looking, or to have the expectation that she'll get the treat eventually. Sometimes when we need to tell the dog to leave it it's just not practical or safe to allow them to have the forbidden item.

I'm not really sure if this is more effective in this regard or not, but did want to mention it.

 

 

This is very good information, both from D'Elle and GentleLake. 

I have always taught a "leave it" with a different, higher-value treat as the reward. If you subscribe to Whole Dog Journal, they offer a different take on training "leave it" which you might like to check out. However, I have always found this approach to work well, even with quite small pups. 

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