Guarding resources natural canine behavior
Special to the Sun
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; We have recently adopted a 2-3 year old female dog named Miley from a shelter. We also have another mixed breed rescue named Gus who has been in our home for 2 years. They love to run and play and even sleep together sometimes. The problem is that if Miley has a bone and Gus comes near her, she will growl and act aggressive. She hasnand#8217;t actually attacked him yet, but we think itand#8217;s only because so far he has backed off. She will let us take bones and toys away from her without any problems. What can we do to fix this?
and#8212; A Truckee Dog Lover
Dear Dog Lover,
The behavior you are describing is called and#8220;resource guarding.and#8221; Resources can be anything at all that a dog deems important. Some common high-value items are bones, pig ears and toys, but some dogs will guard their bed, your bed, their crate or a personal item of yours like a shoe. Often dogs will guard from other dogs but never from a person. Since this seems to be the problem you are having, it is what I will address here. However, if a dog is guarding from humans please consult a qualified positive reinforcement based trainer/ behavior consultant for assistance.
Resource guarding is a normal survival skill that allows smaller, weaker and lower-status dogs to keep possession of a highly valued object. If a dog had to fend for themselves in the wild, a guarder would have an edge over a non-guarder in terms of survival. It has nothing to do with dominance. In addition, many dogs who display guarding behaviors also have problems with submissive urination, shyness and lack of confidence; not traits we associate with a and#8220;dominantand#8221; dog. However, dog-on-dog guarding can result in serious dog fights within a household.
The best approach to this problem is management. If you feel you must give the dogs bones or other high-value chew toys, start to separate them so they can each enjoy the treat without the fear of losing it or, in the case of Gus, being attacked! Each time Miley feels the need to guard something, she is practicing the aggressive behaviors and they are getting stronger. You need to eliminate all situations where she feels the need to guard from Gus. If an incident does occur, do not punish her. Stomping, yelling or using a physical punishment will make the problem worse. She is already scared that she will lose her valued object and punishment will only increase her fear. Just make a mental note to avoid the situation in the future. Itand#8217;s also a good idea to keep all toys picked up and securely put away. Only bring toys out when you can control the circumstances.
This may sound daunting, but once you get into the new routine it wonand#8217;t seem so bad and youand#8217;ll have a peaceful home once again.
and#8212; Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog Training and Education Center in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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