As it is customary, I give the dogs their evening chewies. Deuce dashes to the living room and he settles on the carpet – in the same spot as he does every night to happily chew.
Rio runs to the dog bed in the kitchen. I am next to her and I take the opportunity to ask her to release the chewy so that I can give it back to her and teach her that I am not a threat to her, and that I do not want to hold on to her precious chew.
She immediately turns away from me with her chew tight in her mouth. I make a note of this and I leave her alone. No, she did not win this time… I just know that if I try and push her around or force her in any way possible to release the chewy I am confirming her concern: yes, I am a threat to you and I am dying to get your chewy away from you.
Instead I wait for the next opportunity to teach this girl that voluntarily giving me her bone pays big dividends. Not only will she get to keep her bone, but also in addition she will get some special treats. The following night I give Deuce his chew and I hold on to Rio’s.
We walked towards the small fridge where I keep their treats and I produce big chunky hotdogs. Rio is next to me eyeing both items. I hold the chew and I extended to her without fully letting go of it. Now she has it in her mouth while I hold the other end. As she is holding it I ask her to drop it. Which for my dogs, and me it means release from your mouth.
She does so quickly and I give her a hotdog for her good efforts. I proceed once again to have her hold the chewie while I am still holding on to it. I repeat the drill and when she releases I give her more hotdogs and finally her bone.
We end the mini-training session with her chewing her bone in peace. Having me hold on to the bone instead of relinquishing the bone altogether, is a preliminary step to teaching her that if she releases, she will get something really good. One must be careful and knowledgeable enough to know where to begin with these learning exercises. When done appropriately nobody gets hurt and the dog on its way to learning that releasing anything of value means she will get it back. Or, if the item is not appropriate – case in point, she brought in a dead bird yesterday, which of course she could not have, she will get something worth her while for allowing me to remove the item from her mouth.
It is important to underscore the difference between teaching the dog to “share” and teasing the dog with a coveted possession. In the former the dog surrenders by choice his possession and the choice is reinforced by giving the dog something of high value followed with an immediate opportunity to have their bone, etc. back.
Resource guarding is the label used to describe a dog displaying a myriad of possible behaviors in a effort to warn you that what they have is theirs and that they have no intention of sharing. Some typical behaviors offered by dogs when guarding can be: body-blocking- the dog positioning themselves between you and the resource, slowing down all movements or acceleration of consumption of the item, growling, teeth bearing, air snapping (bite in the air- no contact made) with of course the possibility of a bite!
These are warnings and as such should always be taken seriously. When the dog guards an item my recommendations is to ALWAYS, defer to the dog at that given moment but to take the necessary steps to teach them otherwise once the situation has been diffused.
When the dog is in a threatening mode, it is not the time to try and push your weight around as you try and show your dog who’s the boss…
YOU are always the boss – don’t you forget it! 🙂 And because you are the boss you are well advised to take the high road by diffusing any sort of aggression instead of having it escalate. We must handle the situation in a manner that that keeps the dog from biting while setting up appropriate scenarios where the dog learns that you being around his precious chewies is always a reason to celebrate.