All Dogs Resource Guard, Part 2
It is important to read part 1, so if you didn’t get the chance yet, you can read it by clicking the link below:
In this part of our resource guarding discussion I will be offering techniques that can be used to desensitize your dog to your approach, and counter condition his feelings about your approach, if he has some bad feelings already, and has shown signs of resource guarding it is important to consult a professional for help because some of these techniques will be risky is you are not certain about your dog will respond. If you have any fear that he might guard or snap, please contact a trainer, and don’t try these steps until you have.
If you have a dog who will chew his bone happily, but if you stand up from the couch he runs and takes the bone under the coffee table, you could help him to over come this fear of your approach and let him learn that, quite frankly if you are getting up off the couch, it isn’t to take his stinky bully stick, there are likely things you are far more interested in, in the kitchen! So while you might not worry about this behavior, it is causing stress in your dog’s life, that is completely unnecessary, so let’s help him overcome it!
There are two parts to this training, and from there you could have many different stages that you must complete both steps to move forward. The first part is desensitization, and the second part is counter conditioning. You might have to desensitize and counter condition your dog to you leaning towards his bone, as a first stage, and actually touching or picking up his bone as a last stage, so there could be many stages in between.
The key to successful desensitization is not to push it! I always say it is like gambling, quit while your ahead, don’t keep betting until you are broke! So when I first start out with a dog that behaves the way I explained in the previous example, where he will take his bone and hide with it, I will start out with a behavior that will be the least threatening to him, so he is learning my approach is not a bad thing, and I might just turn and walk away. So the very beginning of desensitizing your dog to your approach might look like a dance: you start a distance away that your dog accepts, meaning he does not continue to retreat and put distance between you. Don’t corner him either, give him the option to run further away, but he chooses not to. Let’s say 5 steps away, so stand 5 steps away from your dog, let him notice you, maybe count to three, and then turn and walk away. Don’t rush it! approach again and take 4 and a half steps toward your dog, and wait a few seconds and walk away. If he retreats away from you, we have pushed it too far!
Here is a video of me practicing desensitization with a dog who is a low level resource guarder:
The next stage for this might be when i can get within 1 step of my dog, and I might just barely begin to reach for his bone. If you are standing, don’t bend down and reach for his bone, these are two separate stages, so either bend down near him with his bone, or remain standing and reach for his bone from the standing position, so you don’t come very close to it at all. Again if at any point he picks up his bone and runs away, you have pushed it too far, so have a seat, and take a break, but definitely do not get upset with your dog! Just like it is in’t appropriate to punch the dealer in the face when we lose, we cannot get upset with our dog when we push the desensitization too far. Just take a break, and start again, and learn your lesson! Think on the bright side; in reality you didn’t lose any money!
For the second part of this training you want to counter condition your dog about his feeling about your approach. Instead of being something that causes stress or anxiety, teach your dog that approach means really great things happen to him. Sticking with our above example again, we could sometimes do our approach with some very tasty treats. As you approach your dog toss him a treat that he can eat right where he is without having to walk away from his bone. Teach him that when you approach, treats just start coming to him!
If you want to counter condition your dog to your arm reaching for his bone, the easiest way to do this is to have a treat in your hand, reach towards his bone, only enough to not send him running, and leave the treat behind. Repeat this several times until your dog see your arm coming and he gets excited to see it because he knows it means rewards are coming, rather than his bone is leaving! Again don’t push it. Don’t practice a bunch of these and then just grab his bone to take it away. If you work up to the point that you can put your hand right next to the bone, and leave a treat behind, then you can move onto to touching the bone and leaving a treat behind, or even picking it and putting it right back down with a treat.
Here is a video of me practicing counter conditioning with the same dog:
The key to success will be to work slowly and use management when you can’t train, so that you don’t run into issues where you are forced to take something from your dog. In other words, if your dogs real trouble is with bully sticks, manage his environment and be sure he never gets a bully stick, unless you are ready to train, and I would suggest having three treats of different levels. So maybe you have lamb lung as the lowest lever treat, meat log could be the next best thing, and finally boiled chicken could be the best treat option, just in case we need to up the ante! If it isn’t bully sticks, but instead is something like tissues, that you don’t want you dog to ever have, it is best to work on a leave it command.
To be the most successful with this kind of training I like to lay it out on a piece of paper, I start on the far right and write down my end goal, maybe taking a bully stick from my dog. I then go to the far left and write something very simple that I believe I will be able to do with my dog, like perhaps approach within 5 feet of my dog while he has Bully Stick. And then I sit and write as many different stages as I can possibly think of in between. The more the better! It might feel like it is going to make more work for you, but it will be quite the opposite, you will have the most success by taking it slow! So you might have 20 or more stages, and at first in your training sessions you might only get to three or four of them, but just take it slow.
If at any time your dog’s behavior makes you more nervous than you feel comfortable with, please stop this training and consult a professional. Cetified professionals can be four at the following sites:
Join Us Tonight! Our very first Blog Dog Walk of the season! The weather is supposed to be perfect, so come on over to the great lawn at 9:00p.m. and discuss resource guarding, or just come for some good dog talking company! We will meet near the basketball courts on the great lawn and we weill begin to stroll around the lawn for about an hour, so come at 9:00, or join up with us later. All are welcome.