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Pup growled when I touched his bowl

Discussion in 'Dog Chat' started by Doodle23, May 16, 2021.


  1. Doodle23

    Doodle23 PetForums Newbie

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    Hi

    This morning, I gave my 3 month old pup his breakfast in his crate as usual. After I’d put the bowl down, I realised he looked a bit uncomfortable where he was stood to eat so I tried moving the bowl to make it easier for him. He growled at me quite loudly, which took me by surprise as he hasn’t growled at me before.

    I’m not sure what to do about this, or how worried I need to be. Does it just stem from when he was with his litter mates and they all ate out of the same bowl so had to fight for it a bit? I feed him raw food and he doesn’t show any aggression about his treats like chicken - I offered him a piece of chicken then moved it away and back again and he was fine. Any advice anyone?
     
  2. ShibaPup

    ShibaPup PetForums VIP

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    How would you feel if someone stuck their hand in your food or moved your plate when you're hungry? :Hilarious

    Growling is simply communication - he isn't comfortable and that's ok :)

    There's a couple of things you can do - make moving towards his food positive, so move towards and throw him something a bit better such as a bit of chicken or a bit of cheese. Once you're able to get close enough where he is comfortable you can add nice things to his food bowl while he is eating. This shows him that a human moving towards his dish is positive and he is going to get something nice. He doesn't need to worry you're going to take it from him.

    Ideally you also need to leave him to eat his food in peace - without being bothered
     
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  3. Teddy-dog

    Teddy-dog PetForums VIP

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    It sounds like a bit of resource guarding. There’s a good sticky on it if you wanted to have a read!

    though, I wouldn’t be overly worried, you’d just given him a delicious meal and then put your hand near it and to him, you might be taking it away from him! I wouldn’t mess with the bowl while he’s eating, that can make it worse. Once you’ve put the bowl down just leave him to it, that will teach him that his food is safe and no ones going to take it from him. If you want to help his association with you near the bowl the best thing to do is walk past and drop a nice yummy into his bowl, then he’ll know you coming near it is a good thing.
     
  4. Teddy-dog

    Teddy-dog PetForums VIP

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    Ooops cross posted with Shibapup
     
  5. tyg'smum

    tyg'smum PetForums Senior

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    Nothing to worry about - he was just telling you "Oi! I was about to eat that!"

    As others have said, best to leave him alone when his food's down, otherwise he may well start resource guarding. If you do need to take something yummy away from him, then you should trade it for something equally yummy (for example, my Lily has the peanut butter jar to lick out. Unfortunately, after a while she starts to gnaw at the jar itself, which is hard plastic, and I don't want her to swallow splinters of it. That's when I offer her something else to chew on - in our case it's usually a buffalo tail - as an acceptable swap. And plenty of praise when she takes it.)

     
  6. Cully

    Cully PetForums VIP

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    Edited my post. Had dogs all my life until 6 years ago. Training methods have obviously moved on since I needed to teach them good food manners.:)
     
    #6 Cully, May 16, 2021
    Last edited: May 16, 2021
  7. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

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    Sorry @Cully, that method has long been discredited and will be more likely to create issues around food etc.

    If, as others have advised, you leave them in peace to eat from the start, they learn that nobody wants their food.

    Then, in an emergency situation, if you need to take something harmful from them they shouldn’t stress over it.

    It’s always best to do a swap with something of higher value too if they have something they shouldn’t.
     
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  8. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    Yes, dogs need to be okay with having things taken from them because it may be at some point that they have something dangerous.
    However, you do not teach a dog to be okay with having a resource taken away by taking away resources, that's like preparing for a famine by starving. You want to have some good padding going in to a famine to help you get through.

    In the same way, you want to build up all sorts of positive, pleasant experiences around food so that when there is a time you do need to remove an item, the dog will view it as a weird anomaly and not react negatively.

    Basically it's the difference between sensitization and desensitization. Sensitization is when you make the annoying thing more and more annoying through repeated exposure. Repeatedly removing a dog's bowl is annoying at best. Most dogs are affable enough and their regular kibble is not high value enough to cause a reaction, but the dog is not being desensitized, they're very likely becoming sensitized, and that one day they're not feeling particularly well, or the food is particularly good, they may snap. Other dogs will become completely sensitized and become serious resource guarders.

    A better approach is to build up lots of trust and positive experiences around humans and resources. When a dog has a resource, leave him be. If another dog (or resident child) is making the dog uncomfortable, back your dog up and remove the dog or child to show your dog that you not only respect his right to that resource, but will help him defend it. This builds trust.
    When eating, again, leave the dog be. Don't stare at him while he eats, stand too close, or loom over him. Just put the bowl down and leave him to it.
    If your dog shows subtle signs when you're near them with a resource, it may be a good idea to work on some desensitizing or adjust your own behavior around them with resources.
    Things like eating faster, or slower or even stopping eating when you approach can be a sign of unease. Using their body to cover the resource, looking at you with hard eyes, stillness, tight lips, that's a warning - stay away. The more you respect the subtle signals the more trust you build.

    One thing you can do is walk by, drop something higher value in to the bowl, and then walk away. This creates pleasant associations with human approaching the bowl. Mine eat raw wings and necks fairly often, I'll feed them their usual meal, get the raw out, dump it in each bowl while they're eating, and walk away.

    When you absolutely must remove an item, offer something better, get the dog away from the resource and then remove it preferably without the dog seeing you do it. In this video, Penny has a turkey feather. I don't care if she has a turkey feather, so I'm not going to remove it, but I show how I could take it away if I needed to. I'd call her a little bit away, scatter treats to give me some time while she's sniffing and eating them, and then take the feather away.


    But ideally you don't remove items at all. That means enough management, a solid leave it, so that you're not having unnecessary confrontations over food and resources.

    Both my current dogs have a history of food uncertainty and both are comfortable enough with the humans in the house that they choose to come sit by us with a chew.
     
  9. Emlar

    Emlar PetForums Member

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    Our trainer advised that if you are worried about resource guarding with their food bowl then you can try teaching them that you near their food is a good thing. So walk past and drop a treat. Repeat. Then next time you do it be slightly closer, etc. So you're not interfering with their meal, or taking the bowl away, but adding something nice each time.
     
  10. Emlar

    Emlar PetForums Member

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    Sorry, cross posted! This is explained much better than my attempt :)
     
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  11. catz4m8z

    catz4m8z PetForums VIP

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    My lot must be comfortable then as 2 of them sometimes wont eat unless I go and 'loom over them'!LOL:rolleyes:

    Might be a good idea to practice abit of bribery and throw some tasty treats in with the food occasionally so you are associated with good things, also I think the trading game is very useful to teach pups to give things up in a positive way.
    TBH though I think most puppies go through this phase of challenging things....I know my lot all seemed to go through a resource guarding growly phase when little (it didnt last long and luckily puppies are generally quite easy to 'reprogram'!LOL).
     
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  12. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    I wouldn't class resource guarding as "challenging" things. It's simply a dog protecting an important resource - they need food for survival, it makes perfect sense that they would be protective of it.
     
  13. GB70

    GB70 PetForums Member

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    Not a good idea to touch them at all?

    Kids have been told repeatedly not to touch her or her food. But I figured it was good to get her used to it because kids aren’t reliable and I may miss them being stupid enough to do it one day.

    So from day one I’ve been giving her a stroke when she eats. I make her sit and wait by the bowl as I put the food in. Usually Chuck something extra in once she’s started and give her a stroke. Also I usually let her lick the spoon clean once she’s done and give her a stroke then aswell.

    She doesn’t seem to take any notice of any of the above. No growling or stopping eating. Maybe nature, maybe she figured he’s usually just gonna add something. But from what you’re saying it’s best not to touch her incase I trigger resource guarding?
     
  14. Boxer123

    Boxer123 PetForums VIP

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    I think you don’t need to go out of your way to do this. Despite our many issues resource guarding is not one of them. I do think some breeds are more prone than others. I’ve always left my boys to eat in peace.

    If I need to i can walk by them, move their bowls if needed (only time I’ve done this is when I was hand feeding Loki) if I want to take something I just do a swap. I do let them lick spoons (don’t tell my mum) and probably do give a little stroke. I do throw food in but don’t touch them whilst eating. There really is no need. If you are worried your children might touch her out her behind a baby gate or in a crate.
     
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  15. GB70

    GB70 PetForums Member

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    I'm less worried about the kids then I was initially. I was expecting to put the food down and sometimes she'd take her time. But she wolfs it down within a minute. So now I just wait, let her lick the spoon, then wash everything up (she's on Raw, so still worried about kids touching the bowl afterwards).

    I guess the real opportunity for the kids to be stupid, is when she's chewing on her Kong or a bone. I give her a stroke and a treat occasionally for the same reason. Perhaps i'll cut down on the stroke and stay with handing her a treat from my hand. I think the stroking has become a habit now :)

    As a resource guarder myself I should probably be more sympathetic to how annoying it is when people touch you/your food. I dont mind if you touch mine before or after i've eaten, but once I've started you'll get a growl. Never managed to teach the kids to stay away from me and my food though, they respect the dog more in this respect.
     
  16. Boxer123

    Boxer123 PetForums VIP

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    I think you have to be even more careful with higher value food like chews or bones.
     
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  17. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    I don't know how touching a dog who is trying to enjoy a meal or a chew can be pleasant for them, and the goal is to create a lot of positive, pleasant experiences for the dog with humans around resources.
    If you're constantly annoying the dog while she's trying to eat, that does compound over time, at best, it counteracts any positive you're trying to create.

    If you're worried about the kids making a mistake, give Posey safe places to eat where she knows she won't be disturbed. One of our dogs used to go under the computer desk to eat a chew, we made sure the kids always left him alone in there. A crate or behind a baby gate are other options

    Mistakes will happen, but if the dog has a long history of positive associations with humans and food, they're much more likely to shrug off a mistake than have a big reaction to it.
     
  18. GB70

    GB70 PetForums Member

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    Just to clarify, I'm not stroking her constantly while she's eating. I generally give her a stroke and chuck something extra in. I figured that would be a positive association with being touched whilst eating.

    But I guess I'll lay off the stroking and stick with the adding extra/handing a treat?
     
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  19. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    I would.
    And make sure she has a private place to eat and enjoy her chews, like the crate or separate room.
     
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  20. GB70

    GB70 PetForums Member

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    Mainly she gets them when kids aren't about, to keep her occupied. She doesn't really need them when they're in the room as she gets plenty of attention.

    When we're popping out. When kids are upstairs playing. Take to the garden/etc. But i'll keep the chews and kids well apart, just in case.

    She doesnt seem to react in the slightest. But probably just showing a lot of tolerance, which may well not be the case when she's having a moody day like we all do.
     
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