I post a lot of information on dealing with dog issues – a big one being dog resource guarding. This is just the fancy word for a dog being ‘possessive’ of items, things or places.
DEFINING THE TERM First, I should be clear about what I mean by “resource guarding” (RG, also known as “possessive aggression”). I define “resource guarding” as behavior that discourages another to take, or get too close to, an object or valued area in a dog’s possession. Usually this refers to food, treasured toys or sleeping areas, but I’d argue that some dogs guard their humans as if they were the best bone in the house. RG can range from a quiet head turn to a deafening growl, forward charge or an actual bite.
While I experience this daily at the dogs parks, while meeting and greeting other dogs, I’ve been lucky to not have to deal with this directly in my household.
While I do have dog clients that resource guard food or special toys (especially balls), it’s something I’ve learned to quickly identify, and then completely prevent – basically creating a non-issue.
In a specific case, if I have a doggie client visiting who I know gets very possessive over balls, or toys, I will REMOVE all of these variables prior to the dogs’ arrival. Why set them up for disaster? I just remove them, and there is no longer any issue. I do these little things without even thinking.
Same with food aggression.
I almost always feed the dogs in separate areas. One in the bathroom with the door closed, another in the sewing studio, another in the hallway, and on it goes. It’s part of my everyday life, I never even think twice about it.
Until quite recently.
Duke was in bed, next to Logan. (Yes, both dobermans’ sleep in our king size bed).. I’ve been super fortunate that the 2 boys have never had a fight, and besides me getting used to having Duke squished up into my side, there’s never been an issue.
Matt, my boyfriend, went to shove Duke over and Duke growled. This was a definite ‘leave me alone and don’t touch me or I’ll bite you’ growl.
I quickly got out of the bed, and told Matt to do the same. Duke had quickly turned into an unpredictable dog. I had never heard him growl like this before (or at all, for that matter) and the tone of this growl and the his body language made me stand up quickly for safety. I was pretty sure Duke would have snapped at Matt if he had kept shoving him.
I quickly went into panic mode. And thought what most dog owners would think ‘oh my god! my dog is so alpha-me’ing right now! I need to push him off and show him who’s boss!!!’ – but I didn’t do that.
I quickly got my sense back, and just so I could process and think about what the next healthy step would be, I moved off the bed. I didn’t want to act on an emotional response.
Duke was growling at Matt, who was trying to move him away from me. Duke has given off very subtle clues prior, showing sings of resource guarding towards me. But I wasn’t sure enough to do anything about it.
Duke joined our family full time in January, and he’s still quite young, being 1.5yrs old and really just maturing as a doberman. Duke is still getting a full sense of his capabilities and intelligence. He has also developed a very close bond to me. As I have to him. We have a very special relationship. Much closer and intuitive than Logan and me.
My first concern as a dog parent is to handle the situation properly, and not emotionally. (hence: why i didn’t just drag him off the bed, and use my ‘mad’ voice at him, so he knew I was the boss).
The next step. I finally ordered the book, MINE! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding In Dogs
It had been recommended to me as an extremely good quick read (it’s only 100 pages!) on resource guarding. My good friend, and trainer Renee who owns Bravo Dog Training mentioned it as the first step to handling Duke’s issue(s).
I’m excited to take the first step in getting help for this. I’ve read a lot on the topic online, but I need a real plan of action.
The book should arrive this week, so I’ll let you know how it goes …