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Aggression question

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Okay, Gracie was given a bone, one to keep her busy chewing instead of driving me crazy, It's taken her an hour just to get it soft, I reached for it only to have her growl at me! What??!! I was pissed! I took the bone away and let her know it was mine, I made her sit, and kept taking it and then having her sit before giving it back, fast forward 15 minutes later, same thing..I grab..she growls. My worry is my Chihuahua will go for it and Gracie will bite her, she growled at her earlier which is what got my attention. Now let me explain that I gave Gracie a big bone some time ago, different from this one and she growled at that to, I corrected her behavior and she would let my Bella chew on it with her. This bone.....not happening. It scares me. What do I do?

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It's called resource guarding. It's quite common but needs to be nipped in the bud right away. The best way to fix it is basically to use desensitization and counter-conditioning. The book "Mine!" by Jean Donaldson is an incredible resource and walks you through it really well. Here's an excerpt if you want to check it out: https://books.google.ca/books?id=_YnVDe28oX4C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb#v=onepage&q&f=false
Honestly this is a complicated issue and not the kind that I would tackle just based off of reading advice from these boards. I would either use that book or some other in depth resource, or find a trainer to help you with it.

I know it's counter-intuitive but I would not ever correct her growling. Growling is a warning before a more serious action (like a bite), and if she learns that it's bad to give warnings, instead she'll end up just biting without any warning.

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Agreed with Chene that finding a trainer or more in-depth resource is a better way to go, since this is a complicated issue and the risk of not handling it correctly could be something that results in a bite.

 

Also agreed that you shouldn't correct her growling. It also may be worth it to regularly trade her for things she really wants (like bones), instead of just taking it. It might help make it a more positive experience when you approach to take something.

 

Especially with another dog in the house, I would highly recommend calling a trainer to come in and look at what's going on and figure out a good course of action.

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What I usually do is something along these lines:

  • I don't wait for the dog to decide that he wants something bad enough to growl at me. I turn giving me things into a game, where I trade this for that. I do it often, with many different things.
  • I use a drop comand (although I also teach a give-in-my-hand comand) because, until the comand for giving me something is truly interiorized, i feel it's much less conflicting for the dog to drop something that I then take, than to have me take it directly from her possession. It's diferent in her eyes, and I'm carefull to not just bend over and grab whatever she has (in my experience, that's what triggers the first growling reactions, just as a pup would growl at another pup that tried to take something she was holding in her mouth or between her paws).
  • I ask the dog to drop, give a reward (food, other toy) and while standing place my feet near the object I want. Then I wait for the dog to signal she has given the object up, isn't interested in it anymore. This is usually very quick, but I do wait for that signal. It's not about me snatching whatever she wants, it's about her feeling confortable giving it to me. Then I pick it up, and give it back to her.
  • I don't look at it as agression (of course it can be agression, but in a pup it rarely truly is, just the pup stating he's not pleased with something), I look at it the same as pulling on a leash - the pup is doing what instinctually feels right, it's up to me to teach what alternative reaction I want in that context. So I train it as I would train any other behaviour.
  • I start with things that she likes but doesn't love, things that are easy for her to give up, and build from there. I usually give the thing back to her, or turn the give-me-this into a game of fetch or tug. When the ocasion arises that she must give me something she's not going to have back, it's not that important to the dog, because it's not the norm.
  • To perfect the drop command, I play a lot of tug. Tug, tug, tug, the tug turns dead, I ask for a drop and may trade for something else in the beginning, dog lets go, the game imediatly starts again.

It's important to understand that I've never had an agressive dog. But all my dogs went through a stage, between 4 and 9 mo, when they tried to say I couldn't touch something they had. It didn't last long. One does need to know how to work with the dog though. If you feel unsure you can work with her on your own, it's an excellent idea to have professional help. Just don't get into your head that Gracie is going to turn into an agressive beast, because as long as you work with her to teach her your expected reaction and don't do it in all the wrong ways, odds are she'll grow out of it pretty quickly.

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What I usually do is something along these lines:

  • I don't wait for the dog to decide that he wants something bad enough to growl at me. I turn giving me things into a game, where I trade this for that. I do it often, with many different things.
  • I use a drop comand (although I also teach a give-in-my-hand comand) because, until the comand for giving me something is truly interiorized, i feel it's much less conflicting for the dog to drop something that I then take, than to have me take it directly from her possession. It's diferent in her eyes, and I'm carefull to not just bend over and grab whatever she has (in my experience, that's what triggers the first growling reactions, just as a pup would growl at another pup that tried to take something she was holding in her mouth or between her paws).
  • I ask the dog to drop, give a reward (food, other toy) and while standing place my feet near the object I want. Then I wait for the dog to signal she has given the object up, isn't interested in it anymore. This is usually very quick, but I do wait for that signal. It's not about me snatching whatever she wants, it's about her feeling confortable giving it to me. Then I pick it up, and give it back to her.
  • I don't look at it as agression (of course it can be agression, but in a pup it rarely truly is, just the pup stating he's not pleased with something), I look at it the same as pulling on a leash - the pup is doing what instinctually feels right, it's up to me to teach what alternative reaction I want in that context. So I train it as I would train any other behaviour.
  • I start with things that she likes but doesn't love, things that are easy for her to give up, and build from there. I usually give the thing back to her, or turn the give-me-this into a game of fetch or tug. When the ocasion arises that she must give me something she's not going to have back, it's not that important to the dog, because it's not the norm.
  • To perfect the drop command, I play a lot of tug. Tug, tug, tug, the tug turns dead, I ask for a drop and may trade for something else in the beginning, dog lets go, the game imediatly starts again.
It's important to understand that I've never had an agressive dog. But all my dogs went through a stage, between 4 and 9 mo, when they tried to say I couldn't touch something they had. It didn't last long. One does need to know how to work with the dog though. If you feel unsure you can work with her on your own, it's an excellent idea to have professional help. Just don't get into your head that Gracie is going to turn into an agressive beast, because as long as you work with her to teach her your expected reaction and don't do it in all the wrong ways, odds are she'll grow out of it pretty quickly.

 

I agree with drop and give a reward. It does work pretty well. And don't take offense to her growling. She is just a puppy and is expressing herself. She doesn't know that her growling and not wanting to give it up is not ok. Have you tried a kong to keep her busy? Some dogs consider a meaty bone a high value item, kongs not as much, but still keeps then occupied.

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Please don't be mad at her. she is only a puppy and doesn't understand. She is only doing what comes naturally to her. With every new dog that comes into my home (I used to do a lot of fostering) I always did the give-it-up game. I would always start with something the dog was not super attached to, and work up to the coveted bowl of food or bone. I would ask for it, take it from the dog, then give the dog an especially yummy treat in exchange, and then immediately give the desired object, bone, or bowl of food back again. That way it is win-win for the dog. The dog gets an extra treat AND immediately gets his or her item back again. I do this a whole lot, and continue it for weeks, but it doesn't take very many repetitions of this to teach the dog that letting me take whatever he or she has is a good idea. I repeat this periodically with my own dogs, as well, just to make sure that they continue to have that concept in their heads. It is useful when we are hiking and they pick up something that I don't want them to have. And if I have periodically reinforced the initial training with treats, then I can take something from them and not have a treat handy and it doesn't matter.

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IMO, you need a trainer that can observe her and give you very specific pointers on how to minimize this behavior. Calypso showed similar behavior at 8-9 weeks old and we still occasionally (very, very occasionally) deal with it.

 

It can be trained away! I have a baby that just became mobile and Cal does great with him under close supervision. You can still have a fantastic, gentle, and social dog with this kind of behavior. It just takes some work and time to manage it!


Good luck!

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Oh, and the first time Cal growled at me, I cried because it was the most menacing growl I had ever heard from a dog before and she was just a tiny baby. It's like the beast inside of her just came out suddenly. It was absolutely terrifying.

 

Now, when she growls, I tell her to get over herself jokingly and dive right into our routine of a firm "Drop it!" and "Come". She'll come to me for a treat and then has to stay put while I take the item she was guarding. Sometimes she bolts for it or refuses to come to me, so we're just consistent in the training and she comes around. These days, we only see the crazy behavior when she's either really, really exhausted and hasn't been able to sleep or when she's been cooped up too long.

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What they said.

 

It's totally normal for a puppy. Just natural instincts.

 

Do the trading up games as described, starting with lower value items and working up to more valuable stuff. In the meantime, don't give her anything like a bone that she values highly unless you have time to allow her to have it unmolested until she's through with it. IOW, don't set her up for failure until you've done the ground work, lots and lots of ground work, and she's successfully relinquishing others things to you willingly.

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All good advice above - particularly teresaserrano and D'Elle.

 

Don't take the growl personally. It is a normal puppy behavior. It is not a big deal - once you know how to deal with it. I agree that if this is the first time you have had to deal with it and are unsure about how to train and how to evaluate the seriousness of her behavior, you may want an in-house trainer to help you.

 

I have not had any growling from my last two dogs - but I did get a body stiffening or hard stare once or twice. But that is because I knew that growling/possession is a normal behavior, so when I got the pup, one of the things I started doing right away is the trade game. If I see any hesitation or aggressive stances when I want to take something away, I know that I have to return to training a compliant 'drop it' or 'leave it'. IMHO, this is something that owners should revisit every so often during their dog's life to reinforce the behavior.

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It's called resource guarding. It's quite common but needs to be nipped in the bud right away. The best way to fix it is basically to use desensitization and counter-conditioning. The book "Mine!" by Jean Donaldson is an incredible resource and walks you through it really well. Here's an excerpt if you want to check it out: https://books.google.ca/books?id=_YnVDe28oX4C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb#v=onepage&q&f=false

Honestly this is a complicated issue and not the kind that I would tackle just based off of reading advice from these boards. I would either use that book or some other in depth resource, or find a trainer to help you with it.

 

I know it's counter-intuitive but I would not ever correct her growling. Growling is a warning before a more serious action (like a bite), and if she learns that it's bad to give warnings, instead she'll end up just biting without any warning.

I never thought of it that way! Smart. I didn't know what to do so I just went with what seemed appropriate at the time. I'm going to read the excerpt ( first time spelling that word, funny to know that huh) in just a minute, got to get some coffee and let in the terrorist. Thank you for taking the time to help me, it means a great deal.

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All good advice above - particularly teresaserrano and D'Elle.

 

Don't take the growl personally. It is a normal puppy behavior. It is not a big deal - once you know how to deal with it. I agree that if this is the first time you have had to deal with it and are unsure about how to train and how to evaluate the seriousness of her behavior, you may want an in-house trainer to help you.

 

I have not had any growling from my last two dogs - but I did get a body stiffening or hard stare once or twice. But that is because I knew that growling/possession is a normal behavior, so when I got the pup, one of the things I started doing right away is the trade game. If I see any hesitation or aggressive stances when I want to take something away, I know that I have to return to training a compliant 'drop it' or 'leave it'. IMHO, this is something that owners should revisit every so often during their dog's life to reinforce the behavior. Good to know. Grace gives me the stare first then if I proceed to take her precious that's when the growl comes in. She does really well with leave it, of course in my opinion she knew not to take it to begin with. She is silly and I love her.

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What they said.

 

It's totally normal for a puppy. Just natural instincts.

 

Do the trading up games as described, starting with lower value items and working up to more valuable stuff. In the meantime, don't give her anything like a bone that she values highly unless you have time to allow her to have it unmolested until she's through with it. IOW, don't set her up for failure until you've done the ground work, lots and lots of ground work, and she's successfully relinquishing others things to you willingly. I like it, I really really like that. Great idea. Thank you.

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Well it went from growling to snapping at me. I freaked out!! I think I've got some work to do. I like the idea of not setting them up for failure. I want everyone to know that I value so much the advise given to me....I truly do not know what I would do if this site were not here. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Under what circumstances did she snap at you? Did you start the suggested trading-for-treat and then giving back exercises?

Please don't freak out. It will probably only make things worse. Give us details on how it happened so we can help.

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Yes, it would be really helpful to know what preceded this.

 

It sounds to me like you really need back off and work on the trading up with items of little value before you approach the pup when she has anything more valuable. IOW, don't push it with the things she really wants right now. Give her these items only when she can have them until she finishes them (like a meal) or if it's a really high value toy or a chew either let her have it and don't disturb her until she's decided to let it go on her own, or don't give it to her at all.

 

Make sure she's really OK with your taking low value items for several days before moving up to something of incrementally higher value. This is a process you can't rush. You have to advance on her timetable, not yours. Some dogs will take longer than others before you establish a relationship that allows you to be able to take things, all things, from the dog. And the worse the resource guarding is, the more incrementally you have to proceed with higher value items.

 

If it's any consolation to you, my pup (who'll be 20 weeks old on Sunday) is very definitely a work in progress with this. I can take most things from him, but if I try to take a piece of meat from him (I feed raw) he turns totally Cujo on me. So I don't do it, at least not for now. I practice with things he doesn't value so much and I'll pet him while he's eating. He still stiffens up sometimes when I pet him while he's eating, so I won't try to take a food item from him (unless he'd happen to get something he shouldn't have, so management's important) until he's become comfortable with this. Sometimes even that's too much and it's a matter of just being able to build up proximity.

 

Like anything that involves desensitization and counter-conditioning, trying to rush the process backfires. So you have to be prepared to take things slowly and spend as much time working through the process as it takes. Tincture of time.

 

So take a deep breath, take a step back, formulate a plan and start over. You'll get there. ;)

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:rolleyes: Again...thank you...Grace does let me take most things, its that dag gone bone she isn't having. I completely understand what you are saying and agree. When was your pup born? Grace was born Dec,12.

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Just calm down and don't freak out. It is scary to see your pup growl at you, I've been where you are now. As people already mentioned - trade it for something. That's how we got past the growling. Everytime he'd get a new bone - no way he was giving it up. I let him have it for a couple of minutes and then traded a piece of chicken for it. Gave it back. Trade for chicken again. Call her, get her attention on you, let her see that you have something else in your hand and let her come to you. Then grab the bone, give it back. Maybe you can try and give her the bone to chew, but still hold onto it? Then pet her and see if she'll growl. If not, praise her. That way she can connect that you having your hands on the bone is not a bad thing.

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If this only about the bone? One particular high value but non-essential item?

Then just don't give them out--no bone, no problem. Work on all the trading games, and leave-it games as instructed above, and take your time and relax.

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OK then do not let her have the bone. Not at all, not ever. Work every day, a few times each day, on the trading games until she gets really eager to let you have what you want to take from her, using something she's not invested in. Then move up to something she likes a bit better. And so on.

 

If this were a dog I was training she would not be allowed to have the bone again for at least a month, probably longer than that.

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I just wanted to clarify something, in case you decide to just use this board's advice and nothing else:

If you show your pup the treat then trade it for the bone, she thinks "when I see a treat it means she's going to take my bone" because that's the first thing that happens. Even if you give the bone back afterwards. That kind of association isn't going to make her look forward to getting treats as much.

But, if you take the bone then give the treat, she thinks "When she takes my bone I get a treat!" and it becomes a good association instead of a bad one, because you are using treats that she values more than the bone.


That said, DO NOT just go up to her and take the bone. Baby steps, like with the brushing. Start by getting her to make the association "when she's in the room while I have a bone, I get a treat", (throw them to her from the other side of the room) then "when she comes closer to me while I have a bone, I get a treat" (again throwing them to her), then "when she sits beside me while I chew a bone, I get a treat", then finally "when she takes my bone, I get a treat." (and give the bone back afterwards every time you can). With each stage, wait until you actually see her getting excited because she knows she's going to get a treat. If she already is perfectly happy with you coming up to her while she has a bone (no stiffening, no hard eye, just a happy hello) then start there, or whatever she is happy about.

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^^ Yep, this is the right process.

 

But still don't start with something as high value as the bone! Start with something lower value, as has been mentioned previously, and work up to the bone.

 

You start with the small stuff and work up to the big things.

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One thing I started repeating to myself with the reactive dog is "If you don't think you're starting way too small- you're probably not starting small enough. "

 

You should be a little like "This is ridiculous, of course she'll be okay with this." And if she is then that's actually kinda good 'cos she is learning that this is all calm and not a big deal.

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