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Training Blog

March 14, 2022

Ask MM Reply - 14 March 2022

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Written by: Bob Guere

This question comes from Cheryl Main Nickel:

I have a Cardigan Corgi who displays aggressive behavior towards our other dogs when she is receiving food or affection & the other dogs approach. I believe it’s called “resource guarding”. She is 7 years old and has displayed this behavior since she was about 5 months old. Any suggestions?

This is pretty common behavior in dogs. Doesn’t make it ok. Dogs use their teeth (biting, showing teeth), growling, barking and lunging to communicate and mostly to create space around them. It is a guarding behavior. Think of her as acting like a goalie in that situation. No one is going to get past her to get her food, or to take your attention away from her. No treat or reward is going to work in this situation if her highest motivation is your attention or her food.

To stop this, you must start with PRO-ACTIVE training. Meaning not in the moment she is misbehaving, but teaching how to act ahead of time. That helps to create an environment where both of you are committed and have the time and patience to see this through till the end. Start with your attention. The best way for her to not see you as something to guard, is to take away the excitement associated with you. YOU are as exciting to her right now as FOOD. Remember that. So start with a basic boundary, and ask her to stay. If she can do that, then give her some attention but only if she is relaxed. Too me, that means all 4 paws on the ground, whether sitting or laying down. Then remove the attention but make sure she doesn’t follow you, she must STAY where you initially put her (using a blanket or dog bed helps to anchor). Then go and praise your other dog. She will want to get up again but continue to put her back. During this process, if you have to put her back, make sure you are staying quiet (no commands), not making eye contact (that is perceived as an invitation and will send a mixed message) and not touching (use a leash if needed). All those things cause dogs to get excited and will be counter-productive to our ultimate goal of relaxation. Eventually she will stop getting up when you are giving your other dog attention, and you have completed your first step. Next level would be having both dogs up close to you while you tell one to wait and give the other attention. Just keep switching back and forth…one dog stays while the other gets attention. Make sure everyone is relaxed during this whole exchange, starting a few feet away and gradually moving closer and closer.

Now about the food. Feeding dinner/breakfast/treats should always be done separately. How would you feel if every meal you ate was a free for all with 2 other people? That is what you create when and if you free feed. One dog will always get less. Feed your dogs with a ten minute window, 6 ft apart. Put the bowls down and have all dogs sit and wait. Then let them eat. If they look at each others bowls, correct them. Say “Eat your food” and point to their bowl. If they disobey this more than 2 times, take the food away and put the dog away until the rest are done eating. They will not do that more than twice before they realize they won’t get any food but there own, and that window is not huge…That will stop any food aggression. Treats should be given EXACTLY the way I described attention giving in the second paragraph. Relaxed first, then one at a time while the other dog waits and watches. Eventually when it ceases to be an issue, you can give them more freedom and treats, and attention time can be much less structured. Try these exercises twice a day for 10 min and in a week, you will see major differences in her behavior.

Hope this helps, more next week!! ~ Lisa

 
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