For a usually well- behaved dog, a growl or snap is reserved for the really annoying or scary things. Aggressive behavior is not what you might expect from your dog on the best of days and especially not when you’d been looking forward to playing with him and his favorite toy. Instead, your dog is hunkered down, protecting that toy as if it were his own puppy. While this sort of behavior is not uncommon, it’s almost always unwanted and sometimes it can escalate into dangerous.
Known as ‘resource guarding’, this behavior occurs in dogs who feel as though their ‘resources’-- for example, food or a nice to--are at risk of being stolen or taken away at any moment. Your dog is merely protecting what he believes should be rightfully his, calling back to behavior that his ancestors would rely on to protect the food and other resources they needed for survival. However, while it may have benefited his ancestors, there’s typically no reason for a domesticated dog with a comfortable home and a regular feeding time to guard his resources.
Resource guarding can go from bad to worse if not handled appropriately and what may start off as a growl can quickly escalate into a snap or outright bite. It’s best to stop resource guarding in the earliest stages of growth during the puppy stages, but that may not always be possible. Luckily, there are ways to ensure your dog that he doesn’t need to fight for survival and adjust him to being open to sharing his food and toys with you. It can take some time for him to understand that he can trust you, but a little bit of patience and repetition can go a long way.
If your dog’s resource guarding has already escalated to the point where he is likely to cause injury to someone with a bite, it’s always recommended to see a vet or a professional trainer. Your safety is always the most important thing when dealing with a dog with any sort of aggressive behavior issues.
Dogs often pursue things with most value to them, generally in the form of tasty food. To start with, you’ll need to find something much more valuable to your dog than whatever it is that he’s guarding. Food will almost always be worth more than a toy to a dog, so it’s recommended to use treats that are exceptionally rare for him like little bits of cooked chicken or beef. The smellier the treat is, the better.
Besides this, the only other thing you’ll need is a lot of patience and a bit of bravery. It can be scary to face a growling or snarling dog, so practice this training when you’re in a good mood or relatively relaxed. Stress will easily get passed to your dog, so making sure you’re in the right environment and you’re mentally prepared is key.
My dog loves Chuck it balls and he does know the command "leave it" and will let go of the ball, but if any other dog goes to play with that ball, he gets very defensive. It there a way to desensitize him? I even have tried having multiples of the same ball but he wants them all.
Hello Peyton, I would work on teaching pup an "honor", which is something done in duck hunting. In duck hunting both dogs are highly driven to want to retrieve the live birds being shot, but sometimes there are multiple hunters with their dogs, shooting, like when friends go together. In those cases each dog needs to be able to sit and allow a second dog to retrieve when told to, this takes a lot of self-control and off-leash obedience. In order for your dog to improve, your dog would need that level of self-control and off-leash obedience also. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
Was this experience helpful?
Hi, He is doing great with training related to waiting for treats, toilet training and is fairly ok with accepting that some areas (like beds) are not for him. We are family of 4, with 2 kids; 5 and 10 year old. Recently Zorro has started to growl when on the couch, protecting that place, we arrange big cage, which is always open for him and train him that he cannot go on the couch with no invitation. He was fine for a while, then started to guard some toys and pieces of clothing he would steal, if it wasnt anything dangerous we would just leave him be, after a while he would stop and ignore thing he stole. Few days ago he stole a piece of plastic, bit it into small sharp parts, as I was concerned he would swallow it, i tried to swap for some meat, he was leaving plastic bits to come for a treat, but at some point he realized its far from him and jumped on me (I didnt try to take said plastic) growl, bark and caught my arm with his teeth - quite hard, not to break skin). I started to train with him more, but yesterday when he was looking to steal something from the table, my 10y.o daughter went up to him to tell him 'no' and he jumped on her, doing the same. This morning he did the same with my younger son, just because he went pass him. Normally he would attend puppy classes for long time now but its not possible, so I am looking for advice because I dont have much experience, and the last thing I want him to become dangerous for kids.
My husband (he never had a dog, I was raised with two) says he cant trust Zorro, and he is stressed around the dog recently, what doesnt help either. We will be looking for video chat lessons/training to find solution to help Zorro, we dont want to see him stressed to the point he want to attack us.
Hello Karolina, First, pup needs to be desensitized to wearing a basket muzzle and needs to be wearing that at all times while the kids are around during the day - and sleep in a crate at night. To introduce the muzzle, first place it on the ground and sprinkle his meal kibble around it. Do this until he is comfortable eating around it. Next, when he is comfortable with it being on the floor with food, hold it up and reward him with a piece of kibble every time he touches or sniffs it in your hand. Feed him his whole meal this way. Practice this until he is comfortable touching it. Next, hold a treat inside of it through the muzzle's holes, so that he has to poke his face into it to get the treat. As he gets comfortable doing that, gradually hold the treat further down into the muzzle, so that he has to poke his face all the way into the muzzle to get the treat. Practice until he is comfortable having his face in it. Next, feed several treats in a row through the muzzle's holes while he holds his face in the muzzle for longer. Practice this until he can hold his face in it for at least ten seconds while being fed treats. Next, when he can hold his face in the muzzle for ten seconds while remaining calm, while his face is in the muzzle move the muzzle's buckles together briefly, then feed him a treat through the muzzle. Practice this until he is not bothered by the buckles moving back and forth. Next, while he is wearing the muzzle buckle it and unbuckle it briefly, then feed a treat. As he gets comfortable with this step, gradually keep the muzzle buckled for longer and longer while feeding treats through the muzzle occasionally. Next, gradually increase how long he wears the muzzle for and decrease how often you give him a treat, until he can calmly wear the muzzle for at least an hour without receiving treats more than two treats during that hour. Muzzle introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a&index=6&t=0s What you are describing is pretty severe behavior for such a young dog. You definitely need to have pup evaluated by someone who you can work with remotely. Check out Sean O' Shea from the Good Dog and Jeff Gellman from SolidK9Training. Both specialize in aggression and many times offer Skype training. I wouldn't recommend tackling this on your own, and pup absolutely needs to be wearing a muzzle during the day. The fact that pup is jumping onto you to latch on at only six months of age goes beyond what I would recommend addressing without the direct supervision of a trainer who specializes in aggression - many trainers are not experienced with aggression, so ask a lot of questions to ensure they have the experience you need before hiring someone. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
Was this experience helpful?