Do you remember my previous post about not knowing what you get when you adopt? Like Titan, Zue came to us with several issues. Behavior issues that I’m sure were brought on by her previous living situation. As most of you know, some behaviors can be harmless, however, when it comes to Guarding, this is an unsafe and unacceptable behavior that must be dealt with immediately.
It was almost immediately after we brought Zue to our home that I noticed she had an issue. A “Guarding” issue when it came to food and larger treats. This was a behavior that not only was I worried about but was scared we wouldn’t be able to overcome.
What Do You Do When You Find Your New Pup Has “Guarding” Issues?
It appeared the first night, however, I pushed it off on an adjustment period. I was cautious and observed her more closely every time she was fed and ate certain treats. The more I observed, the more I knew we had an issue.
Thankfully, I knew not to feed my babies together. This was one of many guidelines I set forth prior to bringing her home. Titan and Zue are separated during any type of feeding, including treats and when we aren’t at home.
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. – Source
This “guarding” issue was new to me, as Titan never showed any possessiveness over food. Now, if we talk about his soccer ball, that’s another story. 🙂 I knew enough about “guarding” and “possessiveness” from years of reading articles and by volunteering at a local animal shelter. You may be surprised at the number of dogs that do have “guarding” issues.
Finding a Way to Deal
A remembered a conversation with my vet many years ago about getting a dog to trust you. One of the ways was to have the dog rely on your for everything. Let them earn their treats and their food. No bad behaviors should be rewarded.
I created a game plan. I was determined to help this poor little senior girl feel safe in her furever home with not only toys but food and treats.
For the next several months, I began hand-feeding Zue her breakfast and dinner. We sat down on “her” rug in the kitchen about an
We sat down on “her” rug in the kitchen about an arm’s-length apart. I made her sit and wait. Zue has always be very much into her food so patience was not on her side. However, she was to sit and be still until a handful of food was gently given to her.
To my surprise, she was absolutely fine with it. The only one how had an issue was me when it came to mushy can food in my hand. 🙂
[clickToTweet tweet=”‘Myth #1: Resource guarding is abnormal behavior.’ – Jean Donaldson” quote=”‘Myth #1: Resource guarding is abnormal behavior.’ – Jean Donaldson”]
Next, I used her food bowl and sat it to the left of me (her on my right). I made her sit and stay. With her focused on me with calming words, I reached into her bowl, grabbed some food from it, and introduced her to it. We even played a very short game of placing a few kibble pieces in front of her and made her wait before she could have it.
She’s a very smart girl and learns quickly.
Letting Zue have the Bowl by Herself
When it came to meal time, Zue is made to sit on a rug in front of her food platform. Once she sit/stays, I slowly introduced “Wait” and told her “Good girl”. Once I said “Ok”, she was free to eat from her bowl.
We practice this ’til this date and will continue to do so. Slowly, I incorporated a gentle pet down her head with “Good girl” and have earned her trust. She is still a work in progress, however, I am very happy so far.
Mind you, we still practicing hand-feeding at times just to keep her trust in me. She has even allowed me to hold the bowl while she eats. I know this is pushing it a bit but it is a bit reassuring.
Thankfully, we haven’t received any growls, side eyes, or warnings since we started these practices. Breakfast and Dinner time is now enjoyable for all.
Titan has been accustomed to getting JNC (Jones Natural Chews) Slammer Bones for many years. When Zue came along, we had to make some adjustments with his after dinner treats.
One night, I decided to give it a shot and see what Zue thought of a smoked bone. I purchased some L-Bones which are smaller than the Slammer and don’t have little knuckles that can fall off.
Zue loved the bone so much that her “Guarding” quickly came back. With the L-Bones, they can be chewed and smaller pieces can be broken off. Titan knows “leave it” and allows me to take it.
I always supervise with all treats and food.
Zue showed aggression. Growling and showing her teeth with the look to kill in her eyes. She needed to be persuaded to get another treat away from her bone so we could get the bone and/or pieces. We tried several different times with the smoked bones and still have not had any luck.
[clickToTweet tweet=”‘Myth #3: Resource guarding can be cured by making a dog realize that resources are abundant.'” quote=”‘Myth #3: Resource guarding can be cured by making a dog realize that resources are abundant.'”]
We have since tried half a cow ear and had better results. Zue, unfortunately, still feels the need to eat certain things fast and thus causing her to try to swallow to big a piece of the cow ear.
Other than small treats, Zue can successful handle eating cow tails. We tried Bully Sticks but she’s not a huge fan. So for now, we continue to stick with smaller treats and not try to stress her with larger treats.
Bless her little heart. I know she came from a home where there were multiple dogs so I’m not really surprised by her actions. I’m assuming she may have had to fight for her food which breaks my heart. Not only did she probably have to fight for food and treats but she also had multiple litters, leading me to believe she was a “breeder” baby.
Going further, we’ll continue to work on trust with food. She still has a few other issues, health-wise which I discuss at some point. Zue also has a mind of her own and when she doesn’t want to do something, she will quickly let you know with a growl or snap. This we’re working on as well.
Over to You
Do you have any suggestions on how to resolve “Guarding” issues? I’m sure not all techniques may work for every dog affected. If you had a dog(s) and still have dog(s) with “guarding” issues, how do you handle it?
Additional Resources: Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs
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