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Problems with resource (and possibly anxiety) aggression - frustrated by conflicted advice

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Marcos Scriven, Jan 24, 2019.

  1. Marcos Scriven

    Marcos Scriven PetForums Newbie

    Jan 24, 2019
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    We have a beautiful rust-coloured 10-month-old miniature Labradoodle named Rosie.

    From early on we noticed food aggression, and from the outset practised various methods we read online to desensitize her to approach (E.g nice treats dropped by bowl, slow feeder bowl etc).

    Initially it seemed to work, but gradually over the past four months it has spread to toys, random items, and spaces. We've had two dog trainers, and one professional dog behaviourist over that time.

    Each has had different ways of expressing essentially the same processes - avoidance (don't let the situation occur in the first place), redirection (redirect bad behaviour to good), desensitization (treats in food bowl or near anything she is guarding).

    I work from home, so she is rarely left alone for long, except a few hours some evenings. She gets two long walks a day, and plenty of time playing.

    This week has been the nadir, with several times exhibiting aggression; the lady we have look after her just once a week has sent her home today and said she will no longer look after her.

    Aggression includes:
    1. Darting across the room, often with a loud bark, at one of us if we even pick up pieces of lint or tiny non-food debris.
    2. Snapping at other dogs if I'm giving her a treat in the park and another dog wants one
    3. Fiercely guarding a spot in the park she wanted to roll around in, to the point the other dog owner was very worried
    She can be lovely, but we feel all the professional advice we're getting just isn't working. Friends who say they noticed any issues in their dog resorted to punishment, which is something we have steadfastly refused to do.

    But now it's getting to the point we are seriously concerned about an incident, and that we can't trust her to be left with anyone again (for holidays etc).

    Of course I google such things, and there's often threads where responses seem to descend into insulting each other, and so I'm concerned that might happen here.

    All I can say is I'm extremely emotionally conflicted about keeping Rosie or finding a way to let her go. I'd be gutted about that, as would my partner, but not sure what to do.

    If it's a choice between losing her, or trying something like a citronella collar or even light punishment, I'd consider it. It's just so hard when a professional says that's absolutely wrong, and when in various forums some people say either sometimes a dog just needs that, or other times the owner is stupid or horrible to do it.

    I've also read conflicting reports about boot camps - some saying they work, with others saying it doesn't transfer to home or other situations.
    #1 Marcos Scriven, Jan 24, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
  2. Linda Weasel

    Linda Weasel PetForums VIP

    Mar 5, 2014
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    I certainly wouldn’t use any form of ‘punishment’ or confrontation. This will only result in her being even more convinced that she needs to protect the stuff she feels valuable; and punishment or boot camp won’t get to the root of the problem, it’ll maybe cause her to suppress or be scared to exhibit the behaviour, until maybe just that one, unexpected time.....

    If you have truly tried and persevered with the methods you’ve been given, and you feel that you otherwise have a well-balanced and mentally stable dog, I would suggest discussing medication with your Vet, to be used in conjunction with a behaviour modification programme. Medication isn’t a cure but can make a dog more amenable to changes.

    I assume she has also been Vet-checked to be sure there’s no physical reason for her to behave like this.

    There is a resource guarding sticky on here, and I’m sure others will come up with something else.

    Edit: Just noticed in your title you say ‘Anxiety ‘. Why do you think she’s anxious?

    Do you do any formal training with her?
    #2 Linda Weasel, Jan 24, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
    Jamesgoeswalkies and Lurcherlad like this.
  3. Siskin

    Siskin Look into my eyes....

    Nov 13, 2012
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    This looks to me like resource guarding and it can be a difficult thing to stop or even just manage. There is a sticky at the top of the forum which has a lot of good advice. I’m loathe to comment here too much as if haven’t had any experience of it with my dogs and your dog appears to be more of a serious issue. I didn’t want to read and not comment at all though.
    Hopefully others more experienced will be along soon
  4. tabelmabel

    tabelmabel PetForums VIP

    Oct 18, 2013
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    Have you kept in touch with the breeder and informed them of the problems you're having? What temperaments have the parents and littermates got?

    Did you buy this dog from a reputable breeder that socialised the pup properly and reared it well with regard to feeding and care schedules?

    Is there any chance at all that this pup could be from a puppy farm?

    If you did get the pup from a reputable breeder, they will probably have some helpful info to help you - and they need to know what's going on with your dog as, if the littermates also have problems, they won't be wanting to breed these parent dogs again.

    I will leave it to others to suggest any tips to help but, as you have had professionals in and are still having difficulties, information about your dog's littermates will be valuable info to help you make an educated guess as to whether these behavioural problems are going to be fixable.
    Jamesgoeswalkies likes this.
  5. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

    Jan 5, 2013
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    I’m not experienced with this but would just say that at 10 months you’ve tried quite a lot of different things which might confuse the issue/dog and possibly no one thing has been long enough, consistently?

    I would definitely advise against punishment of any kind, including Boot Camp though as that could backfire massively and push the dog to feel threatened.

    I would go back to the positive, reward based methods but stick to them consistently and long term.

    Manage situations at home and only give chews when she will be left in peace to finish them.

    Toys are only out for a game and then put away.

    Work on obedience so you can redirect her quickly to an alternative behaviour and then offer lots of praise for getting it right, building her confidence and reducing anxieties.

    Manage her interactions when out and around other dogs. I wouldn’t use treats when other dogs are around. Ask friends not to either. If that’s an issue for them I’d walk her elsewhere.

    It could be she’s not that relaxed around other dogs, generally.
  6. Jamesgoeswalkies

    Jamesgoeswalkies PetForums VIP

    May 8, 2014
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    You've had two trainers and a dog behaviourist in four months? No wonder both you and the dog are both confused and the modification isn't working- the behaviourist alone should have given you a programme to work to that should take at least 4 to 6 months to implement. And given you skills to manage the behaviour, probably for years. With Resource Guarding prevention is part of the cure.

    Unfortunately, Resource Guarding can become an integral part of who a dogs is, thus the need for continuity of approach and is generally connected with anxiety/insecurity so it may be an idea to get your behaviourist back in the see what else they can suggest - including calmatives - so that you can sure that you are coming at this from as many angles as possible.

    O2.0, Torin., Magyarmum and 1 other person like this.
  7. Marcos Scriven

    Marcos Scriven PetForums Newbie

    Jan 24, 2019
    Likes Received:
    The behaviourist is the most recent one, and the only one for the past few months. The initial two trainers were just one off guidance, before we sought more advanced help.

    We are concerned it's not just resource guarding - last night, for example, Rosie approached the couch (which she is steadfastly never allowed on), with a chew toy. She didn't sit on it, just rested her chin.

    My partner just moved his feet a little (which were on the couch), and she growled. He then froze for a little, then moved his feet to the floor. At that point Rosie darted towards him and barked loudly, before then running away with a slipper.

    Other times she will approach from the other side of the room, and sit by you. Sometimes she will like to be touched on the chest or under chin (we rarely touch the top of her head now), but other times she will let out quite a growl. It's really very difficult to tell if and when she wants to be touched, at which point the worry is erring on the side of caution and never touching the dog.

    We did have her checked out by a local vet for any obvious signs of discomfort causing behavioural issues (in fact, that was a requirement of the application to the behaviourist), but they found nothing. Behaviourist has suggested seeing a top vet at the RVC who is apparently very good at finding medical causes for aggression.

    We've used both the Adaptil collar and plug in to apparently no avail.

    Another example of conflicting advice is the behaviourist suggests playing tug, as as way to both engage her, and to teach her to 'leave it', which she does. But others I have read online say this is 'adversarial', and not appropriate to do with a dog, especially one that guards.
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