Archives for the day Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Resource guarding

 Have you ever wondered why dogs would feel the need to guard their food,bones,treats,toys etc while they were fed enough everyday? You may also wonder why they freeze their body lowering their head with low grow when you approach to their food just to see how they were doing?

 We are not interested in their food/treats and we have no intention to take their food away and walk off. However, dogs do not know that.

 Guarding the food,treats,bones etc is stem from natural instinct and it is dog things.

 Just like barking,chewing,digging etc.. many of their behaviors we consider as behavior problems you would like to stop or curb them are natural canine behaviors or
something we kept reinforcing the behavior without any intention.

 Barking, for example, is their way of communication and, chewing,digging are also their natural behavior and that is what dogs do.

 They live with their canine world manner if they were not introduced to canine manner in the human world and, from early puppy hood time, you would need to teach them your household rules so they can adapt well to your life style.

 Teaching your dogs from early on that the human approach to the food/treats/bones is good thing, not the threat for food/treats/toys is helpful.

 Especially puppy have full of energy and, they will explore human world with their own manner and, learn to adapt to our household rules. Therefore,you may encounter the occasion that you would need to take the bone away that they have picked up on walk etc..

 In the past, when Palette was puppy, once or twice, she has picked up bones from fried chicken someone has tossed on the road, and it got me very nervous about it and I have tried to take the bone away. However, Palette was holding on to the bone so strong and gave me a low growl and she was not going to give it up easy.

 Also, she was on kibble when she was puppy and we fed her with Buster Food cube. If you were not familiar with the buster food cube food dispensing toy, it is a dice shaped food dispensing toy where you can put the food or treat through opening and your dogs can roll it with nose and paws across the room and, food will come out as it rolls.

 On occasion, I had times where I need to come pick the toy up to reset the toy at the spot where she can roll it. She did not know that I was approaching to her toy with kind mind,and she sees it as “Oh, mom is going to take my food/toy away!”, and she comes running and lower her head over the toy and guard the toy and as I lower myself to pick up the toy to reset, she was giving me a bit of growl.

 Imagine you have a dog that guard his food bowl and as you approach to his food bowl,he will give you warning;low growl. If you did not listen to his warning, chances are, you would see him snapping at you. If toddlers try to reach for his toys, chances are, he would snap at the toddlers too.

 I then started teaching her that my approach to her favorite things are good thing happen, and I am not a threat to her stuff.

 I thought that it was important social training to teach her to eat calm even if someone comes around her feeding areas or take the bowl away when necessary.

Sit before meal..

 When Palette was puppy,she was in puppy training class. The trainer there has taught us how to teach “sit” in one of her classes, and when we learned “sit”, she said that it is good to let your dogs sit before everything they love; sit before meal,sit before play time, sit before door opening for walk, sit before greeting etc..

 When you think about it, there are so many opportunities you can reinforce the good “sit” behavior and it can sometimes becomes good cue for impulse control,and I started implementing the “sit” for meal time and used all opportunities to reinforce the good “sit” behavior throughout the day.

 Usually, Palette
sits in front of me when meal time, and I lower the food, and put the
food down, let her wait for a second or two, and release her from “wait”
and let her eat the food.

 How it was done is that, I put only a few kibbles in her bowl, and asked her to sit and when she sits, I lowered the food bowl, and if I see her butt leave the floor and standing up, I would say “Oops,try again” and I stand back up and her food bowl goes up as well.

 Then, when she sits, I lowered the food again and put the food down, ask her to “wait” for a few seconds, and released her from the “wait cue”. 

 Palette has learned that if Palette’s butt
left the floor to stand up as the food is lowered, the food would go up,
and she has to start over.

 This will teach your dogs that “sit” brings
all things they like. You can use the same method using “sit”for door opening for walk, getting leash on for walk,
getting meal, getting petting/attention etc etc.

 With sit -wait for
food, they can eat food more relaxed mood, not in excitable manner.

Being the invisible audience around the food bowl..

 As you noticed, when I started “sit” before meal manner teaching to Palette,I have placed only a few kibbles in her bowl.

 Therefore, when she eats everything in her bowl,there was nothing left in the bowl, and I saw her sitting down again stared at me as if to say  “Is this all food for me?”, and I tossed a couple
of more pieces of kibbles in the bowl, and Palette looked up at me for more.

 For this social training, I had boiled and shredded chicken breast and I have tossed one piece of shredded chicken breast with a few kibble pieces into her food bowl,every time she sits and stared at me for more.

 By then, she was more relaxed about my approach to the food bowl and, I have started increasing the amount of kibbles I have put in the food bowl per time and I have started tossing shredded chicken into her food bowl while she was eating.

 When she
is relaxed more,no tensed posture when I come close to the food bowl, and when I can touch her
bowl after she ate bits in the bowl, I started picking up the bowl, put
the kibble bits in, gave her the bowl with kibble bits with shredded chicken inside and pick
it up and put a couple of pieces more with shredded chicken breast and gave it to her and repeated
the process.

 Over time, I have increased the amount of kibble I have put in the food bowl per time.

 Now she is careless when I come over to her, sit next to
her or put her fish body oil capsules onto her food mat (she is now on fresh food diet a.k.a. raw diet). She sees me as regular invisible audience and, she even does not look at me while she is eating the food.

Let’s trade..

 With the way I feed
Palette now- Raw feeding, there are occasions I like to take bones away from
her such as when I know the bone is not edible bones for her. Therefore, the
fact that Palette knows “give” is a big help because she does not try to guard the bone but happily trade the bone she was chewing on with trading item.

 I taught Palette “give” through games; Tug of war game, fetch ball/Frisbee games. I
think the game of fetch is great game because the game is fun, and you
and your dogs can play together and you can make your bond with your
dogs stronger.

 Not only that, the game gives your dogs outlet for pent
up energy and game is incorporated with the use of their natural
instinct. And, you can also teach your dogs a few important cues through
the game such as”Give” or “Drop it”,and you could also teach them
impulse control through the game,too.

“Give” or “Drop it” cue could become life saving cue when you see your
dogs were trying to grab/eat something that could potentially hurt them
(Fried chicken bone dogs find on walk,sharp objects, sticks etc), and
you would like them to spit it out from mouth. “Give” or “Drop it” means
drop everything from their mouth.

teach “give”, Palette’s puppy training class trainer has told us to
start with low valued items to trade. Then, make sure to give items back
to him and praise.

Palette and I did with low valued item is that, I let her grab the item
and just offer the small treats. Yummy treats vs not so interested
toy.. She dropped the toy to grab the yummy treats, and that is when you
click the clicker and label the behavior “Drop it” or “Give”, and then I
gave the item back to her. And repeat it again; let her grab the
toy,offer treats,click clicker when she drop the item from mouth and
give treats with big big praise.

is to tell them everything you take away would not gone forever but
would come back. So, they do not need to guard them or growls at you
when you reach your hand to the items. As Palette gets better
understanding the meaning of the “Give” cue, I made the trade item value
up gradually.

some point,the item can become something the dogs do not want to let go
even if they see treats in front of them. As human instinct, you might
grab the item that are still in their mouth and you might try to take
the item away with force but don’t.

 Do not take the object away with force, and all you need to do is to
just simply be patient,say nothing,just gently holding the object and as
soon as your dog release the object,you click the clicker and give

 Once they know what “Give” means, you can trade items with them without them being guarding the trade items.

 I also find that Palette seems more relaxed when “trade” time if I alert her by saying “Lets trade” and approach to her with her favorite Duck foot. Her eyes will be glued to the Duck foot and, she will be sitting nicely,not munching on the items I like to take it away.

 I then offer the treats and pick up the item from her and walk off.

 I sometime hear people say to not to approach to the dogs eating meal to take food away, but I think that for them, learning the human approach is not threat or human approach to the food is good thing is very important.

 If dogs were left alone when eating and, there had never been taught to trade items, wouldn’t they feel more need to protect the food they have?

 If toddlers were in the house, and if dogs were fed alone with no human presence around the food bowl, what would happen when/if toddler try to reach for the food bowl?

 I think just like any other behavior problems, teaching the canine manner in our human world from early on, and try to manage/prevent the problems are easier than trying to manage already learned not so welcome canine behavior in the human world.

 Also, it is important for them to know that the rule of “human approach to the food is good thing” applied to everybody they see around the food bowl. So, all adult family members should participate in the training.

 Recently, I came across website with good video of Golden Retriever “Ben”who resource guard his food bowl and when people approach to the bowl, he lunge at the person with growl.

 The veterinarian Sophia Yin helped “Ben” to understand human approach to the food bowl is good thing via similar method I did for Palette.

 You can see the behavior change;”before” and “after”, and you can see how much changed in his behavior by her method.

 I think it is great video and, you can visit her website and watch the video clip there. To visit her website,please click here.

 Ultimately, if you see your dogs sharing the bones, would that make you smile? Below youtube video is the one that made me smile. They are like magnet and so cute sharing bones

Dog sharing bones

** I am not a dog trainer and, if you think your dogs are extreme case of resource guarding problems, it will be best to consult with behavior expert.

Bookmark and Share 

Sep 22, 2011 | 0 | Uncategorized