Friday, February 24, 2012
Advice from a Trainer- Avoid the Teeth
Resource guarding is a tough behavior to live with. Your sweet puppy has another side. Maybe it only appears when other dogs come around their bone. Maybe it's just with sleeping spots. Maybe it's any time, any where.
As a trainer I've had a lot of success helping dogs learn to share. This week Logan had 5 sessions to figure out that biting isn't the answer.
First, Logan got something he wanted. Rawhides are high up on his list of resources worth guarding, and they are easy to work with in training. At first, most dogs want to get distance before they settle down to chew.
I'll toss a few high value treats his way, making no move toward his bone. Logan loves treats and didn't feel threatened in his space. Success!
Logan moved a little closer to get access to more treats and began glancing up at me while chewing. That's a good indicator that his comfort level is higher and I can reach down to give him a treat.
Again, I'm not taking the bone away. Many people are blinded by "alpha status" or dominance when it comes to training. That is its own post, but pushing a resource guarder into a confrontation just to show them you're the boss is asking for trouble. As soon as you see the dog get stiff or possessive, back off. Do the easy steps a few more times until the dog is ready to take the next step.
You'll know you can move on when the dog drops the bone and looks up for the next treat. This is when I'll trade up. One hand feeds treats while the other takes the bone. The treats stop, I ask for a sit, and return the bone. It's a quick back and forth for a few rounds, then time for a break.
Logan's last session was today. He allowed 3 different people to trade his bone for a treat and has much more tolerance for frustration. His guarding around other dogs is a different obstacle that I'd like to tackle in the future.
After reading your comments, I'm planning a post about how I approach dogs whose resource guarding is limited to other dogs. It is similar, but it is the differences that matter most.
Sorry to carry on, but I wanted to be sure to include this. Murphy came to work with me last Tuesday for our Valentine Day Party. She romped, ran, and had a ton of fun. That night, she lost the ability to walk. Later that week, her esophagus became paralyzed. On Monday a neurologist confirmed that she had acute Myasthenia Gravis, a nerve disorder. It came on so suddenly and took too long to diagnose, so treatment was ineffective. Thursday morning she was put to sleep. She was one of those easy to love, easy to train puppies. I only knew her 2 months, but she quickly became a favorite around here. Even Skye loved having her around to play bitey-face on the couch at night. It's tough to wrap my head around, but I haven't had any free time yet for things to sink in either. I just miss her.