|Tongues. That's what wins in the game of evolution.|
Both Parker and Skye have some resource guarding around other dogs. For Parker, this stems from a puppyhood competing for his food with other dogs. Now, he hides in his crate when he has a bone or other goodie and will growl if another dog tries to take it. It is a long time habit that used to apply to people as well, but the human element has been addressed through training.
Skye's possessive behavior only appeared when Sinatra came to live with us. While I focused on teaching Sinatra to share his toys and treats, Skye picked up on his hostility and returned it in kind. Now, when new dogs are at the house she is quick to growl and grumble when her space is invaded or her bone is involved.
Neither Parker nor Skye have gone as far as snapping, but they are quick to give a vocal warning. When pushed, they opt to avoid the other dog rather than seek confrontation.
|But if I wanted, I could take you.|
The first thing I need to do, both as an owner and a trainer, is decide where to draw the line. To be honest, I'm comfortable with the vocal warnings my dogs give. They are not excessive and they teach the dogs that stay with us what is acceptable behavior. Feel free to disagree and teach your dogs accordingly.
Regardless- the goal is to change your dog's mind. Not to trick/coerce/force them into accepting dogs near them when they have a goodie, but for them to anticipate dogs as a cue for good things.
|This photo has no purpose, other than to show off Skye's bod.|
In an earlier post I talked about using the trade-up game. This method is great when your dog is slightly possessive with people around their resources. Unless you can teach one dog to trade with the other, this method may not work so well. But the idea is the same:
The presence of the dog/hand/child is the cue for good things to happen. For example:
Fifi turns into a snarling maniac whenever Bobo comes in the room while she's eating. If Bobo gets too close, Fifi will lash out, snapping and biting before returning to the food bowl.
First- manage the situation. Don't let your dogs work it out for themselves- Fifi is willing to defend her food to the point of hurting Bobo. Unless you are actively training with them, they should eat in separate areas. Bones or other valuable items should only be available when they are apart, and should be picked up when they are together.
This also goes for guarding outside of the home. Your pup loves other dogs until they get near his ball? Leave the ball at home. Fido isn't going to pine away if his ball isn't at the dog park, and you won't need to apologize when he goes after another dog. Can't bring treats on play dates? Find other ways to reward your dog's good behavior. You can't expect strangers to help you train your dog safely, so keep the training controlled. Once you've done some hefty legwork, begin transferring what Fido has learned into everyday situations.
Next- start working the magic! Select a type of treat that your dog goes nuts for and put them aside. These treats should never appear unless you are practicing with the other dog. Remember it needs to be special. This is not dry-biscuit and kibble training. I'm talking string cheese, liver treats,
Generally the process is easier if you have a second person. Many of the dogs who are on the receiving end of possessive aggression will anticipate their pal's behavior. It is important that Bobo learns a new way of thinking as well as Fifi- otherwise the pattern of behavior may not change. In a pinch you can use leashes to attach both dogs to something solid and move between them both, spending the bulk of your time on the Fifi end of the room.
If one person is attached to Fifi and one to Bobo, you can move at a faster pace. Place a bowl of boring food in front of Fifi at the same time Bobo enters the room. If Fifi reacts immediately, just wait, keeping Bobo at a maximum distance. The instant Fifi takes it down a notch, drop a treat in her bowl. For each 10-15 seconds that goes by without a reaction, drop another treat for Fifi.
Bobo's handler should be using treats to keep Bobo busy- practice his basic commands, teach him a trick, etc. Keep Bobo relaxed and keep him from staring at Fifi- this could spark a confrontation.
|Pit bull shadow- aka Skye is a fatty on the inside|
Just like with other guarding issues, you don't want to move too fast. Keep pairing good things with the other dog at a comfortable distance. After several sessions of this, begin moving Bobo closer and walking him around Fifi. Let me be clear- don't circle Fifi like a creeper. That would not be helpful.
Begin to slow down with the treats. You want to see Fifi thinking at this point. Many dogs will look at the other dog, then look at you like "hello? I'm tolerating Bobo- where's my goodness?"
When you see that light bulb go off, make a big deal about it! The connection between Bobo and good things is being established.
Remember, you know your dog best. Don't get lazy and risk a backslide, but don't feel like you can never move beyond step 1. When training is going against instinct it can feel impossible, but dogs are wonderfully malleable when it comes to their behavior.
The best resource I can recommend if you want a more in-depth instructional is Jean Donaldson's book Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding