Resource Guarding?

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by 648117, Jan 19, 2013.

  1. 648117 Honored Member

    Lewis seems to be resource guarding me and mum from visitors, it’s happened three times now. I'm concerned that it will get worse

    1. It started at Christmas, my brother was here from out of town, he wasn’t staying at our house but visited nearly every day from Christmas day till the 1st of January. Lewis would do his barking growling routine every time he came round but would quickly settle down. He let my brother pat him and hold him a couple of times, he even joined us on a dog walk once and held the leash for a bit (my brother wants to get his own dog soon). Then on the day my brother was leaving Lewis was sitting on my lap and my brother was saying goodbye and reached over to pat Lewis on the head and Lewis snapped at his hand. My brother had actually stayed the night a few days before Lewis snapped at him, so he was surely not that much of a stranger?
    2. My mum said he has also done this while on her lap to one of my dad’s friends. This friend visits every Friday and always gives the dogs a treat (Holly loves him and so did our previous dogs), Lewis does take treats from him.
    3. A few days ago my mum’s friend was around, this friend visits multiple times a week and Holly loves her, Lewis will accept a pat but still does the bark-growl routine every time she arrives. Lewis was sitting on my lap and she went to pat him and he snapped at her, I reflexively grabbed his scruff, not sure if he would have made contact if I hadn’t done that but it looked close.

    He does not growl before snapping. We always push him off our laps when he does this but don’t punish him any other way.
    When we first got him he was the most growly when sitting on someone, if Holly or one of the cats got too close he would growl. I think he might have even snapped a couple of times but now he’s fine with them and he is fine sharing my lap.
    He has never snapped at any of the family members that live in my house, even if they pat him while sitting on my, or anyone elses, knee.
    He shows no guarding towards food or any other objects with humans or animals. We have had Lewis nearly 6 weeks.

    Any other information needed?

    So should we just manage the situation by never letting anyone pat him while he is sitting on someone?
    (I know I should have warned mums friend, but I honestly had thought that he would snap since it had been a couple of weeks since the last incident and he knows mums friend)
    MaryK likes this.

  2. Linda A Experienced Member

    I have no answers for you but please do warn your visitors not to try to pat him while on someone else's lap.

    I once had a dog who protected me from men. LOL! The closer they got the nastier he got. Some people can be really stupid, like my ex-husband's friend. He was told to leave the dog alone but continued to come forward and tried to pat him while the dog was on my lap. The dog tried to rip into him and all the idiot did was reach further towards the dog and threaten to take the dog from me and wanted to beat the crap out of the dog for behaving his way. I physically had to protect my dog!! Like I said some people can be really stupid!
    MaryK likes this.
  3. sara Moderator

    Boo used to do this. What I did was never let anyone touch him (myself included) while he was on someone else's lap. If I or someone wanted to touch him or pick him up, he would be put on the floor first. He also was never allowed on laps until he did something first (sit, down, etc) and was invited up. in this way, he learned that people owned their own laps, and he was only a guest there :). He's good now :)
  4. 648117 Honored Member

    He doesn't growl first, he will look concerned for a slit second before he snaps. Because he doesn't growl first the people he has done this to haven't really gotten a warning from him so they haven't realised that they need to back off.
    I would never let anyone hurt any of my dogs, if I (or any one in my family) had reason to believe that someone would behave like your ex-husband's friend then they would not be welcome in our house. I'm not really concerned about the human retaliating.
    I know I should have warned mums friend but because he has only done it three times (and we thought maybe it was just men that he didn't like) I guess I just didn't think of it. Mum's friend had been at our house for over an hour, she visits all the time and Lewis had already sat on her knee for a cuddle, then I came home and Lewis gave me a big welcome and then settled down for a cuddle on my knee. None of our other dogs have ever had resource guarding issues so I'm just not in the habit of needing to be concerned about that sort of thing. I'm going to have to actively try to remember about this issue and to warn people.
    MaryK and Linda A like this.
  5. 648117 Honored Member

    He's never done anything to the family members who live here, and now that he has settled in he will let Holly or the cats share laps with him (at first he would growl if they got close when he was sitting on someone), so I'm not sure if it is straight resource guarding. He's fine if he's sitting on mum and I pat him or even if I lift him off someone elses lap.

    I'm really going to have to remember to not let anyone pat him when he's on someones lap. I feel like I have to say to people "Lewis is for looking at but not touching" because he does look uneasy with strangers trying to pat him even when on the floor or out of the house. The problem is he is so fluffy and attractive that people always want to pat him when it would be better if they pat Holly. Holly doesn't ask for pats but I know it would take a lot (I don't know how much, I've never heard her growl at anything) to make her feel uncomfortable enough to growl or snap.
    MaryK likes this.
  6. jackienmutts Honored Member

    Just a thought. You said at the very top, that "my brother was saying goodbye and reached over to pat Lewis on the head and Lewis snapped at his hand. " Is it possibly that Lewis doesn't like being patted on the head? Or maybe the possibility of being patted (on the head) while on a lap by a "stranger" (meaning, non-family member) is just more than he can bear. I'm also wondering if he's maybe sending out other subtle signals you could be missing since he's not growling - whisker twitches, ears flicking, subtle lip raising, staring, etc - of course unsuspecting humans wanting to pet the cute doggie would be inclined to miss this althogether, while the dog is throwing sublte signs out and figuring heck, I told you not to, so you deserve to be bitten.

    You've been given great advice above. If you want to work on him, perhaps you could have non-family members give Lewis something tasty only when he's on someone's lap - not trying to pet for the time being, but do offer a treat from an open hand -- in other words, a peace-offering, then let him be. Maybe he can start realizing that hands coming towards him when he's on a lap can mean really nice things, or sometimes nothing at all - but certainly nothing to get upset about. And if no treats are handy, then just leave him alone, let him enjoy whomever's lap he's on with no pressure.
    MaryK and Linda A like this.
  7. Linda A Experienced Member

    Here is an experiment for you. Have good control of you dog (hand holding on to collar so dog can not lunge forward to bite) and have someone approach him (walk up to you) in the way they do when saying goodbye. Only this time, have them stand with hands down at their sides. Have them raise their hand to him, slowly, palm up. Give him a chance to sniff the hand. If his is acting okay maybe they can scratch him under the chin to say goodbye. Most dogs are more accepting of this approach. Remember, he is a rescue and you don't know what has happened to him previously.
    MaryK likes this.
  8. MaryK Honored Member

    I was thinking exactly the same thing Jackie, that he doesn't like, along with 99% of the dog population, being patted on the head. Dogs see this as a 'threat' and, unless trained to accept the normal human instinct to 'pat the dog on the head' will show their dislike.

    Points to watch (dog language is very subtle).
    Does he slight turn, it can be A VERY SMALL turn of the head?
    Pull back, again minute movement?

    When someone tries to pat him on the head.

    Try this test yourself, with NO ONE else around. Call him to you and as he comes try patting him on the head. Watch his body language VERY closely. Does he make even the slightest movement, eyes, head, mouth, to indicate that whilst he will accept this from you he's not in favor of being patted on the head.

    And yes, Linda A is right, remember he's a rescue dog, you don't know what he's been through in the past.

    All the advice given is excellent. I would also work on training him to accept me patting him on the head first. It's something which needs to be trained, especially with a rescue dog, not something a dog will in most cases, naturally accept.
  9. 648117 Honored Member

    He seems pretty accepting of being patted on the head normally (he lived with kids before us), he doesn't shy away or anything when I pat him on the head, he usually just tries to get closer for more pats and cuddles (but that's with family members). I don't think he's ever been abused.
    Most of our visitors are here reasonably regularly (eg, mums friend that got snapped at comes at least twice a week, often more often), so Lewis is not being overwhelmed with strange people that he's never met before. He shouldn't be this concerned about people coming over.

    No doubt he does give a subtle warning, but if he follows it quickly with a snap then it isn't much good for humans.
    We have just not been letting him sit on people if a visitor is here and I keep telling my family to not force him to interact with people (they have been pretty good about it), we have been warning people not to try patting him (at home or when out).

    But then the other day something happed that is slightly confusing.

    Mum's friend was here again (I wasn't home, but this is what my mum told me happened), Lewis did his usual initial barking/growling and then settled down. Then mums friend (who was sitting down) called him over so he went over to her for a pat (Lewis remained on the floor), he was fine initially but then he started to growl at her :confused:. I don't think she would have been looming over him because that is not what she does when patting Holly. So mum told Lewis to get on his bed, and he did (but didn't shout at him or anything).
    Now mums friend doesn't like Lewis and completely ignores him.

    I'm a bit confused about it because he was not sitting on anyone, he went over to mum's friend himself (no one forced him and mum was not sitting neat her coaxing him over or anything) he wasn't being prevented from moving away at any time, so he wasn't guarding anyone or anything (unless it's the entire house - but that doesn't really fit either) but he still felt like growling.

    So I'm not sure what's going on. Unless he's just so insecure around non-family that he just doesn't know what to do?
    He does lack confidence in a lot of areas, I'm not sure if he's just still settling in and starting to show his true temperament?
    MaryK likes this.
  10. MaryK Honored Member

    Taking the last part of what you've written, I don't think he's resource guarding but is, for whatever reason, fearful with people petting him or being too close to him. Or just isn't a 'people dog' This does not mean he's been abused at all!

    Think about yourself. Do you like everyone you meet? Do you want everyone you meet to 'pat' you? Would you like a stranger, or someone you didn't know well, or only saw sometimes to come up and hug you? Even the friendliest, most extroverted person doesn't like everyone, or want everyone hugging (read pat for Dog) them. But people expect dogs to accept everyone. Please understand I'm NOT criticizing you at all - just trying to point out that he may not be a 'people dog'. And is letting you and everyone else know this the only way he knows how. Just as some people only really like their immediate family being close to them, dogs can be the same way too. Friends just may not be on the agenda for Lewis. I have a human friend who doesn't even like family and friends hugging her and that even includes her husband:eek: ! Dogs are the same, they have the same feelings in many respects as we do.

    The growl is NOT a sign of aggression, it's more the dog's polite way (remember they speak dog not English) of saying "Back off I don't want to bite you but I don't like what you're doing". This is what they would do in a dog pack, to PREVENT not cause a fight. NEVER punish in any way a dog for growling as this is their way of giving a POLITE (o.k. may not seem that way to us but to a dog it is polite) warning that whatever is happening is unacceptable and if you punish the growl in any way at all, the dog will think "hey they ignored my polite warning, so I'll have to up the anti to the next level" The next level being a snap/bite which doesn't break the skin. Punish that in anyway and it escalates up the 'bite levels' until the dog will, without any warning growl or snap eventually go for the full level seven bite - serious injury type. simple because ALL his or her other warnings have been either punished or ignored.

    With the friend, Lewis accepted a certain amount of petting but had 'had enough' - the growl was a polite way of saying 'o.k. enough's enough now leave me alone'. How I would deal with this is just stop petting and allow Lewis to walk away and actually thank him for warning me he had had enough. That way he will NOT escalate his warnings of 'back off buddy I've had enough".

    His fear may be lack of confidence or it maybe, as I said, he's just not a big 'people dog' at this stage in his life. Your Mom and yourself and immediate family seem to be fine with him, just not so much friends albeit ones who are frequent visitors. Respect Lewis for warning you and your friends, don't punish him.

    What you can do to try to overcome this is to have him sit and a friend nearby - not looking or approaching - use a cue like 'friend' and click/treat him for sitting nicely. As he gets more attuned to other people, have the friend walk nearer - still NO touching or looking more than a 'quick glance look away'- and click/treat for sitting like a good boy. When you're sure that Lewis is REALLY comfortable and relaxed around friends, then and ONLY then, have them come up closer and bend down NEVER lean over him at all and toss him a treat. Rinse and repeat - go back a step if there is any adverse reaction until you can safely allow him to be patted etc. With pats - stroke gently down his SIDE not his head or even neck - the side is the most comforting to a dog.

    It's VERY hard to read the subtle 'pre growl' warning signals, another dog would but for humans, it's a tough one!
    Watch his entire body language. If he's in anyway even slightly 'stiff' he's not happy. Ears either way forward or pulled back, again he's not happy or comfortable. These signals can be VERY VERY subtle and slight, so you may not always pick up on them. Pupils dilated is another sign but oh so hard for us mere humans to read!

    Another thing to do is give Lewis 'doggy calming signals' Yawn loudly, or lick your lips - you can do both though not at the same time of course. Turn sideways to him, bend down, pick at grass if you're outside (dogs will 'graze' at times to show their not aggressive to another dog) Only give him a quick 'glance' then look away. All these are a dog's way of saying 'hey I'm not going to be nasty'. And they do work. My older boy can be a bit 'grumpy' with my youngster and the moment I do the yawn, complete with LOUD sound effects, he will calm down.

    Lewis may never be an 'extroverted' dog, just as some people are not extroverted, but with time, patience and understanding he will 'behave nicely' around people. Which may mean, some petting is allowed but 'know my limits". I had a German Shepherd who was NEVER aggressive but it took her at least 1.5 years before she permitted any of my friends to pat her and then only one pat along her side and she would move away back to me. She didn't growl, simply because I 'protected her' and allowed her to find her own level. She was just not a extroverted dog. And I had to accept that fact:)

    Sorry for the long post:rolleyes::)
    jackienmutts likes this.
  11. southerngirl Honored Member

    My dog Chase growls when visitors pet him, but he doesn't do it because he doesn't want them petting him. Like Lewis he goes to them. When the person stops petting him he continually nudges there hand till they pet him. Maybe Lewis is like Chase? Can you ask your mom what his body was like(stiff, showing teeth, head turned away, and so on).
    Not sure if this has been suggested but maybe you could have a jar of treats in the living room for guest to feed toss to Lewis. Tell everyone not to pet him unless he comes to them, if he starts to growl while petting him and he's on the ground tell them to stop and ignore him when he relaxes have them toss him a treat. When he's in someone's lap and starts to growl have the person who's lap he is in put him on the floor and invite him back on your lap when he's relaxed. I hope this helps.
    MaryK likes this.
  12. Pawbla Experienced Member

    What do you mean by "barking/growling routine"?
    MaryK likes this.

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