Resource Guarding & Biting

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by Dioritt, Sep 18, 2012.

  1. Dioritt Well-Known Member


    Alfie's a 16 month old Miniature Poodle who I've had since he was 10 weeks. He's generally a great little dog to be around and is obedient in everything he's been taught so far. There's just one problem - resource guarding.

    Whether it's food or something else he's stolen, he'll guard it and will bite if somebody tries to take it away from him. He's bitten me at least half a dozen times, bitten my son and my daughter several times and my 2 year old granddaughter once. When I say bite, I mean a proper bite where he draws blood.

    I've done all the usual things - swapping for something of higher value (works most of the time for me when I swap stuff he's stolen for food), calling him away - he knows the command - sometimes he'll do it straight away (although never with food), other times it'll take a while before he eventually moves away and allows me to pick up the stolen item.

    He's definitely getting much better with me and will let me pet him while he's eating now, unless it's food he's stolen. I feel I'm definitely getting somewhere but the main problem is my son. He has multiple learning difficulties and just doesn't do the swapping etc in the way that I explain to him and Alfie clearly has no respect for him. He'll happily do his tricks for him as long as there's food at the end of it, but nothing otherwise. I'm also worried about him around children, in case he bites if he steals something and they try to get it back.

    I do believe that I'll eventually be able to get him to leave food that he's stolen or found, but I really don't know where to go from here to get him to respect everybody and not just me. If anybody has any ideas I'd be very grateful to hear them.

    PS: I clicker train but I can't get my son to do that because he always clicks in the wrong places. Either too late or too early. Just thought it would be worth mentioning that.
    Tâmara Vaz likes this.

  2. southerngirl Honored Member

    Here are some videos to help you.

    If you type in "how to teach leave it to dogs" on youtube
    For your son does he teach her new tricks. Does he use "Yes" or something like that for a marker instead of a clicker? Could you have him put Alfie's bowl down or are you worried he'll bit your son?
    Hope the videos help.

    For the resource guarding is it just food or is it other items too? For food feeding him from your hand could help.
    MaryK, Dogster and Dlilly like this.
  3. Dlilly Honored Member

    I don't take food, bones, or anything away from my dogs usually. If I need to take something away from one of them, I'll use a treat and have her turn her head while I take the item. They trust me, but I just want to be extra careful. :)

    I had this problem with my foster dog, except he wasn't at the biting point. You should check the thread out, it has some super advice! Click Here

    The videos southerngirl posted are fantastic!! You should really check them out if you haven't already!
    MaryK, Dogster and southerngirl like this.
  4. Adrianna & Calvin Experienced Member

    Hi Dioritte, and welcome.

    Check out this recent thread about a dog who guards only 'good stuff' :

    In the meantime, you must manage the situation such that no children can be at risk from his bites. This means that not approaching the dog when he's got something in his mouth is part of the baseline house rules and everyone, inc. visitors, is made aware. It may be slightly embarrassing to have to tell everyone, but better safe than sorry. I assume Alfie is already eating in an area separate from children. Is he crate-trained? Does he eat and have his chew toys in his crate?

    Because your little guy already has a few bites on his record, I would get a professional on board, if it's at all possible. If you give us your city, we may be able to find a recommendation for you.
  5. Dioritt Well-Known Member

    Southerngirl. Thanks for the videos. Although interesting, Alfie already leaves things beautifully when I'm in control of the situation. I can put anything down in front of him and he won't touch it until he's told. We did a lot of 'leave it' training when he was younger and it definitely worked. It's when he already has something that the problem starts, more so with other people than with me.

    Dilly. I did read that thread before I posted here, but it didn't really address the problem we're having. As I said, I'm getting on top of the problem having recently done a LOT of extra training with 'leave it' and swapping etc. We went right back to basics with the "it's your choice" method but I haven't found any information that addresses the problem of him not respecting other people. My son tries to get him to leave things that he puts down (treats, toys, etc) but Alfie just doesn't seem to have developed the same respect for him. He won't actually steal anything from his hand, but if it's on the floor or anywhere else, it's his (as far as he's concerned). That's where my problem lies - not in lack of knowledge as to how to do this, but how to help him learn to respect other people and not just me.

    Paul can't speak at all so uses a sound to tell Alfie that he's done something right. I don't allow him to train new things because he hasn't really a clue where he's going with anything and the dog gets terribly confused, but once I've trained a behaviour, Paul is allowed to repeat it with him. Alfie will listen to him perfectly then. He watches him the whole time for hand signals and you'd never think he'd bite. He'll also allow him to take a toy as long as they're playing fetch or there's a treat to swap it with. Again, it the stuff he's stolen that's the problem, and because Paul is very forgetful, his bedroom door's often open and Alfie goes in and steals anything available. I can't cordon off the bedroom area either because I'm disabled.

    Adrianne & Calvin. There isn't a huge danger to children as my granddaughter only visits twice a year (they live abroad) and no other children visit. And yes, I ALWAYS tell people that he's fine with everything else but DON'T try to take anything out of his mouth. I don't find that at all embarrassing - I'd find it more upsetting if he bit somebody. He isn't crate trained - he has separation anxiety and when we started using a crate that just made it worse. If he can't get to me, he'll panic something awful to the point where I'm afraid he'll hurt himself. We're working on the separation issues though and it is improving, slowly but surely.

    I've been training my dogs for 43 years and have had both obedience and agility champions, but this resource guarding has me stumped. Like I said, not with me because we're getting somewhere now but with other people. If he doesn't have respect for them, they can go swing as far as he's concerned. He doesn't steal stuff when I'm around anymore, either.

    I think I must have watched every video on YouTube that's about resource guarding and read everything I've come across but none of them address the problem of 'other people'.
    MaryK likes this.
  6. Dioritt Well-Known Member

    Oh, by the way, I did ask my vet about a professional behaviourist but he couldn't recommend any personally. I've heard of so many 'bad' behaviourists that I'm loath to try one only to find they don't really know the answer and just give us bad advice. There are just so many charlatans out there, being as anybody can start up a business as a canine behaviourist. I'm in the UK - Crewe, Cheshire.
  7. MaryK Honored Member

    Just a thought. Is it possible to have someone you know and trust work with Alfie? Not a professional, I can well understand your concern in that regard, but another person, possible the same age as your son, if not a responsible, caring person who will use Positive Reinforcement Training. My rational is that you say Alfie just doesn't respect other people, only yourself, so if someone other than you or your son, work with him in your own home, he may realize he can respect and trust someone other than yourself.

    My personal feeling is that for some reason Alfi is afraid. Has anything untoward happened? You do say your son has multiple difficulties Has he inadvertently caused Alfie to become afraid of him? As you would know, dogs are so very sensitive to our every move, expression and tone of voice. I am not suggesting that your son has deliberately caused Alfie to be afraid, but he may just have unintentionally caused fear to develop.

    I do hope you realize I'm just trying to explore every single possibility. For it is only by finding out what has caused this problem that the right solution can be found.
    SD&B likes this.
  8. Dioritt Well-Known Member

    Thanks for your response. I think I probably didn't explain myself too well. My daughter and a young friend (both close to Paul's age) also work with him and although he's better with them than with Paul, he still threatens them and has bitten my daughter a couple of times. Luckily, she isn't scared of him and knows he could do a damn sight more damage if he really wanted to. My friend gives him commands (which he'll happily carry out) and exchanges objects for treats. He hasn't bitten her but he has threatened a couple of times. Not for a while now, though.

    I don't think he's afraid. He'll happily play with my son - it's just the taking things from him that's the problem. He's never aggressive in any way otherwise. He even chooses to go lay on Paul's lap which I don't think he'd do if he was afraid. Having said that, he may have caused some fear in him with regards to removing things from him as he can be heavy handed and when he's not happy with him stealing things he makes a noise that sounds like growling. He doesn't do that anymore, though, because I thought that might cause Alfie to feel defensive. Perhaps Alfie only feels afraid in that particular situation? At the moment he's not allowed to take anything from him - only offer him a treat in exchange (which he usually doesn't take because it's better to have the thing he's stolen).
  9. MaryK Honored Member

    You've found the cause of the problem. Alfie is ONLY afraid when your son Paul takes things from him because he's been heavy-handed and makes a noise which sounds like growling.

    Although you've stopped your son from doing this, it's left a mark on Alfie. It doesn't take much to leave the wrong impression on a dog.

    For example, my partner is still a bit 'old school' (LOL he's a slower learner than my dogs) and when Ra Kismet was a pup he dared (behind my back but I found out) to alpha roll Ra Kismet. Took me ages, with more treats than I care to think about, to get Ra Kismet not to snap when I tried to put on his collar. As I said, I didn't see what happened but I knew 'something' had caused this behavior. Partner eventually admitted he'd alpha rolled Ra Kismet just the ONCE!!:mad::mad: That was enough to make Ra Kismet get upset when I tried to touch him around the neck. And I wasn't even the one who had alpha rolled him, I would NEVER do that to a dog.

    So just once can be enough to cause a dog to behave in an unacceptable manner. It is fear based of course. Alfie's using the only defense a dog knows. Whatever you do DO NOT use any form of negative correction, not even a NRM, this will only acerbate the situation.

    That Alfie is fine otherwise with Paul is great. Now it's a matter of finding a solution to the problem. Will give it some thought, very late here, so thinking is a bit dim at present:rolleyes::)
    SD&B likes this.
  10. Tâmara Vaz Experienced Member

    I did the thread Adrianna & Calvin told you about. I must say our problems are pratically solved with the tips sugested on the thread.;)
    MaryK likes this.
  11. Adrianna & Calvin Experienced Member

    Ok so I asked some UK people on another forum and there are two recommendations: , specifically Sarah Heath who works there. Because this is associated with veterinary behavior, it might be covered under insurance if you have it for Alfie.

    and check out: for someone in your area. The organization is strict in its membership and does kick out trainers who violate their principles of force-free training.
    SD&B and MaryK like this.
  12. Dioritt Well-Known Member

    I'll check those out. Thank you. He is insured so maybe it'll cover the cost.

    I think Paul probably has inadvertently caused the problem. I shan't tell him that because it'll upset him something awful but I'll explain again why it's important to be gentle with Alfie, both physically and when he's 'speaking' to him (no more growling). No doubt Alfie found it threatening and reacted in his own doggy way, bless him. I don't use negative correction apart from a gentle 'wrong' when he's training and gets it wrong. He doesn't get shouted at and we certainly don't use the old-fashioned dominance techniques (such as your partner's alpha roll).

    We will beat this, one way or another. He's a much loved dog, even by my son despite him being bitten several times.
    MaryK, Evie and southerngirl like this.
  13. MaryK Honored Member

    It must be hard for you, as I am sure Paul didn't mean to upset Alfie, just didn't understand. But now you do know what to tell the experts. Unlike my partner, who now hopefully understands why alpha rolling a dog is a HUGE no, no.

    Great, and the links A & C have provided look very promising. And should, I think, be covered by insurance.

    You'll beat it that's for sure. By your posts can tell Alfie is a much loved dog. So glad Paul loves him, despite being bitten, that's a huge sign of true love:love: And I am sure Alfie returns that love, all he's been doing is saying in 'doggy speak' 'I'm a bit scared of you when you try to take things from me and oh I get a bit antsy, coz you love me so much'
    Dogster and SD&B like this.
  14. Dioritt Well-Known Member

    No, he didn't mean it. I know he'd never do anything to deliberately hurt Alfie. My daughter visited last night so we all sat down and had a chat about what's been happening and what the plan of action is going to be. Absolutely no raised voices, no growling, no trying to tug things out of his mouth, but to just hold out a hand with treats in and gently ask him to give us whatever he has. If he doesn't then they're to leave it, and if he does then HUGE praise and give the treats. In the meantime I'll carry on feeding him by hand and/or stroking him while he's eating (he's allowed me to do that, but nobody else). Eventually I'll let Paul and my daughter try stroking him while he's eating and I'll move on to feeding him from the bowl between my legs. I've also asked Paul to play fetch with him more as it's a game he loves playing with me but hasn't been willing to give up the toy for Paul so the games ends with one throw. Paul's going to try it by offering a treat in return for the toy. I just hope he can control the noises he makes.

    If there's no improvement in a week, then I'll contact Sarah Heath and make an appointment with her. I have a little put by and if I have to spend it all on helping Alf over this problem then that's what I'll do. He's worth every penny.
    Dogster, southerngirl, MaryK and 2 others like this.
  15. MaryK Honored Member

    Great plan and I love that you're prepared to spend it all on helping Alfie -you're a true dog lover:love:(y) Crossing all my fingers and all eight doggy paws for you!:D
    Dogster likes this.
  16. Dioritt Well-Known Member

    Thank you. The way I see it is the day I take a dog into my life I'm giving it a promise to do my very best to give him the best life I'm able to. Same as with my kids - they deserve that.

    But anyway, we've had an improvement. I gave Paul a bowl of treats (high value) and asked him to play fetch with Alf. The toy was given up every time and every so many throws, Paul would get him to sit, high five, spin or something to break it up and then the reward for the behaviour was another throw of the toy. They played like that for about half an hour (until there were no more treats). This is good :)
    MaryK likes this.
  17. MaryK Honored Member

    I agree totally Dioritt.(y)(y):love: Have exactly the same sentiments myself.

    That's fantastic so very happy for you that Paul has played fetch for so long with Alfie. Great idea to break it up a little. Way to go!!!!!!(y)(y):D
    Dioritt likes this.
  18. Dioritt Well-Known Member

    I'm so excited! I just fed Alf a really meaty bone (we raw feed) and he let me take it away for a second then give it back. It feels almost like a miracle. I gave it to him from my hand (he knows never to take anything from my hand until he's given the signal) then once he'd moved it and decided where to start on it I just spoke gently to him while I put my hand on it confidently and he eased back a little while I moved it then moved it back. I'm so proud of him! :):D:)
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  19. MaryK Honored Member

    Oh that's FANTASTIC!!!!!!! Isn't it wonderful when we move up a notch, and I think this is more than one notch, it's GIANT STEP forward! Very happy for you and Alfie:D:D:love:(y)

    Taking a bone away can be hard, even with a dog who is not reactive, but to take from a dog who's been into resource guarding, is terrific!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Dogster likes this.
  20. Dioritt Well-Known Member

    Hi Mary. I was so thrilled I wanted to cry!!!

    Did you see my new thread about this? I think my daughter's dog is the actual cause of the problem so I'm going to have to change our routines when he's around. There's no doubt he's carried the guarding behaviour over to us humans - Paul especially (probably because of the growling/heavy handedness and the lack of solid bond), but I'm sure Bruno's the root cause.
    MaryK likes this.

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