Can anyone recommend a good book or books to help with resource guarding? I have tried to read through as many threads on the forum as I could on it, but I think we are going to need even more help. We recently began having quite a problem with it....:( I'm not sure where we went wrong, but I do know that we need to get rid of this behavior.....
I have been trying to use positive reinforcement training, for instance when I want him to move, giving him the command and then rewarding him or having him drop something and giving him the reward (This has been going pretty well).
The time when we are having the biggest problem is when he is laying on the couch or laying on one of us and we try to move him. He will start to growl and then sometimes snap (not bite) if we keep moving him. I know that he is just warning us that he is unhappy with what we are doing, but I think that we need to be able to move him off of us when we need to get up without him getting grumpy. Ugh....... Trying to read up on resource guarding as much as possible but any suggestions or past experience advice would be welcomed. :)
This is a common but difficult issue.
One thing I would do is not try to just make him move, but instead, every single time use a lure to get him off the couch and also fix it to a command such as “get down”, or “off”, that is only ever used to specifically mean “get down off this piece of furniture.” A major problem that many people have is that they use a command like “down”–and then they use it in all sorts of mixed contexts so that it has no real meaning to the dog. For example, does "down" mean stop jumping up on me? Does it mean lie down? Does it mean get off the furniture? Once you have effectively trained the command, that is going to get rid of the major part of your problem. But with a dog that is already touchy about being moved, part of the training is actually going to mean using lure training with a very high-value treat every single time so that he always has a very positive reason to get down. :) This importantly, also sets him up for consistent success, because he will get down of his own accord to obtain the treat (and of course at exactly the same time he starts to move following the treat, you use the reinforcement word “off” or whatever so that his action becomes linked to the command and also to the positive reward).
With dogs that are defensively guarding something like a place on a sofa, you might consider also alongside of this, teaching that they are not allowed up onto furniture without being given an okay–that they need to sit and wait to be invited up rather than just getting up of their own accord. So they would also learn a command that would invite them onto a sofa. Personally–I would find that too much hassle, but then I have too many dogs, who all assume that the sofa and the armchair are their sleeping places! :lol:
As for a book–this one by Jean Donaldson is the classic and is widely considered to be the one to get:
One other thing though that really needs to be considered with this breed–are you sure it is resource guarding, and not an expression of concern at being touched (e.g., that he is having some kind of pain?). Cavaliers with SM, any kind of disc disease/back pain and so on may growl at any hand that moves towards the dog if it associates being pushed or lifted with pain. Most likely you are dealing with some resource guarding behavior, but this alternative reason needs to be kept in mind too.
Also, a really important element of training for resource guarding dogs is to put lots of training structure into every single thing they do throughout the day–often called the “no free lunch” approach. A dog that is used to being asked to do things and then gets a reward–such as your attention, a dish of food, a game of fetch–is a much more attentive, self-controlled, happy, and busy dog.
This is a great handout on this approach:
In other words, be sure you work to totally transform everyday interactions so that he is constantly learning self-control and polite behavior, because this will in turn transfer over into areas that might have started to become troublesome and you should almost certainly see a major improvement all around. People are always amazed to see how quickly a dog understands that it must sit in order to get a treat, rather than just having a system of free handouts! Asking dogs to sit before they do almost anything–before they go out a door, before they get their food placed on the ground, before they jump up onto a sofa, before they get into a car–is an easy and great way to get them to work their minds and exercise self-control.
Thank you Karlin for all of the great tips! I have gone ahead and ordered the Jean Donaldson book. I also think that was a really good point about using the appropriate command and not using one command like "down" for several different things. (Which I am pretty sure both my husband and I have done.:oops: So I am sure this has been quite confusing for Sonny.)
I am definitely hyper vigilant about looking for symptoms of SM, but I don't think this is related because he is fine when I lift him up or down in other scenarios. But thanks to this forum (because I didn't know what SM was before the forum) I try to keep track of anything that may be a symptom.
Thanks again for your help!