I am having dinner while both dogs are chewing on their nightly chewy. Rio is sort of waiting for Deuce to finish his so that she can go explore to see if there is anything left that she can have. I notice this from the corner of my eye as Deuce comes into the kitchen with the chewy in his mouth. My eye then catches a pouncing Rio. With the speed of thunder, she grabs the chewy that Deuce has in his mouth and claims it for herself.
Deuce and I remain motionless and incredulous! Rio has never attempted something like this before. She is now lying on one of their beds chewing the item as fast as she can.
I go to her and she is clearly guarding the stupid pig’s ear from me: keeping an eye on me and my movements from the corner of her eye while blocking the item with her shoulder and ready to jump into action should I try to remove the bone.
I know better than to forcefully remove the item from her so I stand there thinking of my next move. I ask her to go to her crate, which she refuses to do.
I get it, she is not going to let me have her precious possession, but I cannot just let her get away with taking the chewy from Deuce as she just did. I am very aware that she can try and bite me if I attempt to take the bone away, so I don’t. This is just a slippery slope. Instead I ask her now to sit on the other bed, which is adjacent to the one where the pig ear is. After a few forceful requests, she does. She is still very agitated and keeping a watchful eye on the treat. I kneel close to the item and I keep telling her to stay. I do not attempt to lift the pig ear, but at the same time I need to have her do something for me so that I can then allow her to chew on the item.
She stays put and as I move the bed with the chewy a bit closer to me, she controls herself and remains in place. I tell her to take it and then I remove myself from the situation.
I direct Deuce to his crate and shower him with other chewies to enjoy. Once Rio has finished her second chewy she acts as if nothing has happened, but I am not happy! I ask Rio to go to her crate again in a more forceful tone of voice than the one I normally use with them. She complies and immediately goes to her crate.
By this time Deuce is done chewing his goodies and I let him out of the crate. Rio, of course, wants out… just in case there are more tasty morsels she can have. She is in the crate and I leave her there giving her a few minutes to settle as the whole previous event was arousing enough for the three of us.
Once out of the crate I decide to give her a bit of a cold shoulder. I do this for the remainder of the evening. The idea here is not so much to “teach her a lesson” as time has gone by between the event and now me giving her the “cold shoulder”, but more than anything because I am angry with her and I now need the time to cool off.
I realize this event cannot repeat itself. Rio needs to learn not to jump at Deuce in the hopes of getting his chewy and she must learn not to guard the stupid chewy from John or me. This type of work is tedious; definitively not my favorite type of training, but it must be done.
Part of the protocol involves trading the valuable object for something at least equally valuable or better yet, more valuable. The ultimate goal here is to teach Rio that surrendering the precious item when asked to do so does not mean she will not get to enjoy it.
As a general note, guarding between dogs is normal dog behavior. Now, it does become a problem when a fight or even a possible fight over a resource might take place. In addition guarding from people is NOT what we want. It is possible to teach dogs to share and depending on what is being guarded, how involved and lengthy the protocol. Some dogs are consummated guarders so in effect every single item (food, bowls, toys, locations, bones, etc.) must be worked on individually. If we do not teach the dog that he needs to relinquish the coveted item and that after doing so he will get it back, he will continue to guard.
In the case of Rio, there are just a few items such as high-value chewies and marrowbones that she guards. For the time being very tight management will take place when they are enjoying their nightly chew as I work towards teaching her that Deuce’s chew is not fair game.