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Tag Archives: resource guarding

Fearful Dogs: 4 Tips For Handling Food Aggression

Don’t be lulled into believing that Sofie likes Charles, even just a little, she doesn’t. I know she can really hurt him (55 pounds vs 15 pounds) and I am very watchful. Charles will be with us a year next month and it has been a learning for all of us. Even though all 7 of my animals have all learned to live together, it does not mean they are bonded to each other or are a pack. Sofie would probably throw Charles down the stairs if I wasn’t watching. The challenge I have with the two of them is mostly due to resource guarding.

When a dog is resource guarding there are 3 levels of escalation :

  1. Low level guarding: Dog growls and bares her teeth

  2. Medium level guarding: Dog snaps and lunges

  3. High level guarding: Dog bites

After years of trying counter conditioning and all the lovely things that behaviorists and trainers have taught me to do, I have settled on the following methods to keep everyone safe.

  • Avoidance – I care less about what causes the behavior and more about keeping everyone safe. Charles eats in a pen (he’s aggressive towards animals and humans). Cats eat up off the floor. Sofie eats with a leash on. (Sofie is not aggressive toward Louise or humans).

  • Exercise – I try to walk everyone before dinner (never after because of bloat). “A tired dog is a happy dog.” More importantly, I believe that dogs like to work for things and this way they work for food.

  • Training – I make them all sit/stay when I put the bowls down until I give them the release word (Let’s Eat!). I like to think I have taught them a little control and this keeps them focused on the meal and less on each other. I also have trained them to ‘Leave it!” when I don’t want them mouthing something, whether food or not. This doesn’t change the anxiety or fear-based aggression tendencies but training should always be part of any program.

  • Don’t feed while humans are eating and don’t feed from your plate. Alpha’s in the wild do eat first and also scraps are just bad for dogs. I lose this battle at home often, so don’t feel bad if you do too. I am better at training animals than people.

In my multi-animal household, I don’t try for bonding or love or anything like that between the animals. The number one rule is to keep everyone safe. I respect that each animal has its own temperaments and quirks. I accept that animals will be animals and I don’t expect them to reason or to change certain anxiety or fear-based behaviors. Never trust that a growl won’t turn into a snap which then turns into a bite.

How do you keep your furballs safe when they are eating?

Just another DogDaz morning at the zoo ❤

 
10 Comments

Posted by on November 13, 2017 in Dogs

 

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Monday Mischief: Resource Guarding & A Good Chew

Charles loves a good chew. Every night I gather up all the dog toys and put them in the toy basket and every day he takes them out one by one. He is very partial to anything that Louise prefers. I think it is important for all dogs to have time each day for a good toy chew. Charles’ daily gathering of soft toys to chew on isn’t a problem but marrow bones, antlers, nylon bones, high-value treats, and of course, dinner, needs to be carefully orchestrated or things get snappy and dangerous very fast. Keeping the peace when you have multiple animals and multiple resources guarders* is a challenge.

*”Resource guarding refers to a dog displaying behavior (growling, snapping, etc.) intended to convince other dogs or humans to stay away from a particular treasure or “resource.”  The resource can be food, treats, toys, a place (a bed or favorite chair), or occasionally a person.  Basically, a resource is anything that is considered by the dog to be of high value.” –YourDogsFriend

Separation is the key with 7 animals. The cats and dogs have always been separated at the zoo when it comes to where they eat but now it is more important than ever. Sofie charges cats near her toys or food, but it never got dangerous until Charles came. The cats usually just laughed at Sofie and jumped up on the counter where they eat. Since Charles and Sofie get into scary dogs fights over resources the cat charging has escalated. This is a concern and something I am dealing with.

Louise has no problem around food or other resources (she’s so easygoing in the house). And, in almost 7 years together, Louise and Sofie never fought over food, toys, or bones (though Sofie has been known to stare/whine at Louise until she gives up just to shut Sofie up). I can pick up the food bowl while they are eating or take any toy or bone from them without any trouble. I trained them this way since they were puppies. But Charles is new here (and almost 9 years old) and he came with some bad habits so now dog separation is a must.

Both Sofie and Charles have resource guarding issues. Sofie has attacked him several times around dinner or treat time, even before I started preparing anything. I think she starts it, but he won’t back down either and fur flies.

My answer – keep as much distance between them when food or treats are involved.

Charles only gets his meals and his snacks in his exercise pen. He is not allowed out until the other animals finish eating or having their treats. Charles has charged the cats from the other side of the room, especially if a human is eating and he is in proximity. I now have strict rules about feeding him outside of his pen because he is just too unpredictable.

As I said, separation is the key around here. As long as there is space, gates, and doors, everyone can have a good chew.

What kind of mischief did you get into today?

Just another DogDaz morning at the zoo ❤

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2017 in Dogs

 

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