View Full Version : Guarding food-HELP!

Pam Smith
5th August 2006, 10:22 PM
Rudy started guarding his food and chew sticks when he was 11months. He has been to training classes and is a very sweet easy going dog until eating time comes. Sometimes he stares at the bowl and won't eat for a while then if you come near he will growl and come after you. The only way I have been able to work through this is to either hand feed or put a small amount in his bowl and approach him with the rest when he is finished the small amount. I worked through this back in March and it just left but since his surgery it has reappeared. I would appreciate suggestions. I saw another post on guarding and I would guess from the information there that I should try to entice him with a treat of higher value till I gain his trust to take the bowl up. The problem is he is so tense any approach will cause him to lash out and jump towards me possibly trying to bite. Of course I would want to trigger this behavior but I also have to be extra careful with his healing leg.

6th August 2006, 12:12 AM
Here are two must-read articles:



Generally, I'd also make sure you are doing some fun obedience each day with the policy of 'no free lunch' -- in other words, start to get your dog to consider it normal behaviour to be asked to do a task before getting a reward. This includes feeding -- ask for a sit and don't put the bowl down until Rudy waits politely for it to reach the ground.

Most people are surprised how well their dogs begin to behave in other ways once they are reminded frequently and in a fun way that it is actually you that manages the food, the toys, the playtimes, the fun. You simply work this in to your normal interactions with your dog; this isn't a big deal about showing that you are 'the dominant one in the house' but simply being the main decision maker and leader and having a dog that accepts this happily because your leadership doesn't mean he loses, it means he wins.

They can do a down before they get a treat. They can sit and wait before you open the door for walks. Etc etc. This works their minds, while also furthering the bond with you and reinforcing that you are the leader and can ask for tasks to be done. :)

Cathy Moon
6th August 2006, 12:44 AM
I would consult with a professional trainer, preferably someone certified with APDT. It's one thing for him to go after another dog, but entirely different if it's a human. Since you have already worked on this, could you start over from ground zero with him?

One of our first trainers told our class that each dog needs to see us, the owner, as the 'benevolent leader' from whom all good things come. And our dog needs to understand that nothing in life is for free. Therefore, if we let our dog 'work' (obedience) for each tidbit of food and we also control access to toys, the dog will come to see us as the leader and this will reinforce positive behaviors and extinguish negative behaviors. The key is keeping it positive and fun for the dog, and letting the dog know that we are pleased when he/she is doing what we want.

I think each person knows to what degree they need to set these rules with their dogs. For instance, my dogs have several toys laying around in case they want to play or chew, but I have a basketful of other toys that I get out for them once in awhile to make it special. Also, I'll stop fixing their meal if Geordie doesn't sit nicely like the other two while I'm doing it.

After all Rudy has been through recently, it's understandable that he might backslide. After India recovered from her surgery, I really had to work with her to get her self control and her focus on me back!! I finally got through to her when we took an Agility Foundations class.

Pam Smith
6th August 2006, 03:17 AM
Cathy and Karlin both of you have gotten me headed in the right direction. :thmbsup: When I was having these problems with Rudy earlier I called a qualified trainer. She came and helped me work out a plan and within a short time the problem left. I couldn't find the notes I took from the session and didn't remember the details. Well the two articles Karlin recommended were the exact instructions of what the trainer had done. In fact after reading these articles I better understood the reasoning behind this approach. I will get back on the program and if I don't see a change quickly I call the trainer for a review session. I realize how important it is not to let a dog get and stay in this zone. Unfortunately, when I first started dealing with this situation I got some advice from a former vet that only made the situation worse. :(

7th August 2006, 07:11 PM
So much 'advice' ( and much of it well intended) out there is sadly of the approach that you need to battle with your dog to overcome problems, rather than work with them to take away the factors that cause the behaviour in the first place and then, make sure the dog knows behaviour options that get rewarded. Punishing to get compliance from the dog always has a risk of backfiring -- sometimes dangerously -- and also never gets at the source of the problem, just motivates through fear. With food guarding, once you think through the causes, it is especially clear I think that punishment only reinforces all the reasons the dog guards in the first place and gives the dog impossible choices, leading to frustration, leading to further problems.

I think the advice that this slippage isn't surprising after all Rudy has been through is probably exactly right. He's had a lot of stress and that may trigger again the behaviour you'd worked to eradicate. I am sure going through the steps again will work really quickly -- because he already knows the right choices, he's just forgotten them at the moment. I am a big fan of doing some fun classes in an ongoing way with any dog, not because you want the further training per se, but because it generates such a rewarding relationship with the dog and really helps build confidence and curtail unwanted behaviour. Agility is really good for this.

Pam Smith
9th August 2006, 12:42 AM
Update for the food guarding is good news :thmbsup: Reading the articles really helped me understand the reason for the process. I started just as the trainer had told me and instantly the tension left Rudy. He is more relaxed eating better and I am taking it one step at a time but there hasn't been any aggression. I am amazed at everything he has gone through that he has been such a good sport. Again thanks for the help, this situation with the wrong advice could be major trouble.