View Full Version : Tips from a behaviorist regarding resource guarding & aggression

4th June 2009, 04:06 PM
We called in a behaviorist to assess a troubled Cavalier this week. Here are some valuable tips in helping to rehab a dog who shows general resource guarding and/or food aggression. From what I understand, there are a rising # of Cavaliers with this issue.

Her other main point is that there is a link between thyroid problems and owner-directed aggression. First step is to take the dog in for a full blood panel and COMPLETE thyroid panel.

Also, in doing lots of research, a dog's bite inhibition is a major factor in whether a dog can/ should be rehab'd. Per Ian Dunbar, the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can teach your PUPPY is to use a gentle mouth. Normally dogs learn this from their siblings. If you adopt a young puppy, you have to teach the behavior. How to teach bite inhibition; When your puppy plays he will use his mouth and teeth, which is normal. However, when he gets too rough, you yell "ouch" and stop playing immediately and go into another room and close the door. The puppy must learn that if he uses too much force when playing with his mouth, playtime is over. Also, make it a habit to put your fingers in his mouth- rub & brush his teeth, feed him out of your hand, etc.

Moving on to aggression issues. The goal of the tips below are to train the dog that ALL resources are controlled by YOU.

Attach a short lead to the collar at all times, let him drag it around the house. Remove it when you leave to avoid him getting tangled or strangled. Attaching the lead desensitizes the dog to wearing a lead and also gives you the ability to grab it whenever you need to in order to make corrections or if you want to remove the dog from a situation without getting too close to his face. Click the leash on and off up to 50x a day.

Push his limits without provoking aggression. For example; if he's laying down on the floor, call him and then ask him to perform a task (sit, down, etc). If he responds, give him a verbal reward. Intermittently give him a food reward. If he does not perform the task, do not ask him multiple times. Say "too bad", turn away and walk into another room and close the door. Another example would be if he is guarding something, get close enough so that he feels uncomfortable, but not close enough as to elicit an aggressive response, and then toss a treat. Slowly decrease the distance until he lets you get closer and closer to the guarded item and then work on trading the item for the treat.

Move his crate around every day. Move it to the kitchen, the bathroom, etc. You want to create an "uncomfortable" situation for him by not letting him think that a certain place as "his". Do NOT let him sleep on the bed.

Lock him out of a room where you are occassionally. Take a shower and lock him out of the bathroom. Set up an X-Pen in an area where you can occassionally put him while you do tasks where he can see you. You do not want a dog that simply follows you, but a dog who is looking to you so he can please you or perform a task.

If he prefers to lay in a certain spot in the house (and with dominant or controlling dogs they usually select a centralized spot where they can see and control movements from several angles) block access to that spot with baby gates.

Get him to work for affection. Do not let him paw you. Make him do a command before petting him.

For food aggression, sit at the table with the bowl of food on the table. Toss one piece of kibble onto the floor at a time. This will get his mind off of guarding and overthinking about the food and instead thinking "where did it go?" and then looking to you for more. Once he's looking at you again, ask him to sit and then toss another piece of kibble.

It was very interesting being there and listening to what she had to say. I hope this can help someone out there. Good luck!

Cathy Moon
6th June 2009, 08:47 PM
Thanks for sharing. I've heard of several of these items before from a dog trainer who has worked with many 'troubled' dogs in order to keep them from going to the pound. She also has owned some very beautiful and well behaved Belgian Tervurens.

The only thing I would question is: sitting at the table and tossing food; does she mean you should sit at a table you would normally dine at? I'd think doing that would teach the dog to expect food from you while you're eating. I would ask her for a little more information before doing that.

Thanks for all the good information. :)

7th June 2009, 05:13 AM
I like the fact that bite inhibition is emphasized. That was probably the most important thing I achieved with Holly. Granted, she doesn't do many (or really any) fancy tricks, but she has great bite inhibition. I think it's of paramount importance if you're going to have a dog living in the home with children.

7th June 2009, 09:47 AM
like the fact that bite inhibition is emphasized

i agree! my boy thor was terrible for this when we got him as a 5 month old pup, thank god we got it out of him with the exact same way explained above.

problem is some people think its "cute" in a pup! and dont realise the importance

7th June 2009, 12:24 PM
I totally agree regards people thinking its cute for puppies to bite-theyre only playing/it doesnt hurt etc. ive been teaching jelly not to nip this week (11 weeks) with the ouch work & she's doing well & i let her attack her toys as much as she wants to(is that correct? tho if she is playing with toys with me i take them from her for a min, give them a hug & say mums toy,then give her it back)i digress, anyway a very dear friend keeps letting jelly bite his fingers,ive told him not to but he thinks he knows better(!!)& ignores me so yesterday i explained that as i take the girls to work with me if jelly were to bite a customer then i & jelly would be in trouble especially if it were a child.He made no comment but im sure will have taken it on board but im mad cos i shouldnt have to justify my request:mad: