Resource Guarding

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Resource Guarding

Postby SherriA » Thu Jun 14, 2018 6:57 am

Can anyone point me to good resources about how to deal with resource guarding?

My foster pup is exhibiting some serious resource guarding. He's come at me multiple times, snapping, sometimes connecting (never breaking skin; he seems to have pretty good bite inhibition) over things that I would never expect him to try to protect, and typically without any warning. I only have him for a short time - he'll be moved by the end of the month - but I need to deal with this ASAP. The foster director is talking to her trainer and another foster who is a trainer, but I'm not holding my breath for a lot of help there. They mention the dog trying to become dominant over me, etc which just isn't how I think about these things.

I used to have a copy of "Mine!" by Jean Donaldson years ago but I have no idea where it is now. I probably loaned it to someone and never got it back.

I've never dealt with a real resource guarder before, so this is foreign territory for me, and it appears to be escalating quickly so I want to try to head it off as much as possible.

I wonder how much of this is due to the fact that the poor guy is spending 18 hrs/day crated right now? I'm in the corporate office all week, so he's crated from 7 am until after 6 pm when I get home. The dog walker comes mid day and takes him for a 20 - 25 minute walk, and he's out of the crate from when I get home until I go to bed around midnight, but then it's back in the crate all night again. He can't run around my yard because, while it's fenced, there are ground hog tunnels under the fence and under the shed that he's much too interested in, so I have to keep him on a long line even when he's in the yard. This was a really bad week for him to come to my house. I usually work from home and only go to the corporate office once/week, but this week I have to be there every day. There were no other options, though. He had to get out of the kennel where he was staying, the family was threatening to take him to the vet to be euthanized, and he didn't have a health certificate to go to a foster home in MA. I'm dealing with some medical issues, so I can't walk him at night, though I do try to take him out somewhere. (Last night I took him to the local coffee shop where my knitting group meets on Wednesdays. He got to hang out outside with us on the porch, meet lots of new people, get lots of treats and attention. It was a good couple of hours for him!)

Most of the time he's sweet, silly, affectionate. He likes to cuddle and give kisses. But when there's something he feels protective of (a shredded toilet paper roll, the cotton hair band he stole, the area between the chair and coffee table where he stashes his toys, the horrible tasting berry that he spit out repeatedly but didn't want anyone else to have, etc) he suddenly gets aggressive.
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby maxs_mommy » Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:52 am

"Mine" is a good resource, also a version of NILF may be in order where all good things come from you and reaching for anything that's "his" is always a trade-up or at least a trade. Given that he's a beagle, I'm assuming he's a foodie? I might either carry easy treats (peanuts, cranberries, charlie bears or kibble) or stash treats where you can trade for anything and everything at any time. It would seem that the little guy is royally insecure if he's guarding things he doesn't even really want so while the 18 hour crate isn't ideal it is a stable routine. Does he guard from Henry or just you?
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby SherriA » Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:03 pm

He's actually not a foodie which makes it very challenging. He's been very respectful of Henry so far but I'm also very adamant that Henry's space not be encroached on.

The trainer sent me a brief article to read but it's more geared to preventing it from happening rather than dealing with the behaviour already established. Guess I need to re-buy Mine!
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby SherriA » Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:47 am

Thanks Connie! Looks like I have my weekend reading lined up. :)

I talked to the volunteer trainer for the rescue and she is recommending a basket muzzle because this has been unpredictable and because there is typically no warning before he lashes out. So, that will be arriving this weekend probably. I have no issues with muzzles, but that feels like treating the symptom rather than the cause in this case. I'll certainly give it a try, anyway.

I really need to figure out what he considers high value so that we can work on trading. So far he hasn't been willing to trade for hot dogs or string cheese (when guarding my cotton hair band) or his toys (when guarding the space by the chair/coffee table).
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby connie » Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:57 pm

I think the muzzle will allow you to work on the problem, but I agree, it would be best if a real solution could be reached. However, if a muzzle is going to keep someone from being bitten, I'm all for it!

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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby maxs_mommy » Sat Jun 16, 2018 11:37 am

would you be willing to sacrifice a pack of hair bands as rewards? lol You could collect them when he's asleep for another day. I'm only slightly kidding if that's what makes him happy.
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby SherriA » Sun Jun 17, 2018 5:38 am

I wish! It's "treasures" that he guards - random things he finds and seems to attach meaning to. I wish I could predict them enough to prepare! Yesterday it was a lace shawl that I keep on the back of the living room sofa. He was sitting with me, ignoring it, when I decided it would be a good idea to put it away so he didn't chew it. Suddenly he noticed it and was in my face growling when I tried to move it! I did sort of get him to trade, at least. I waved his leash at him and he started to chase it so I was able to get the shawl away.
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby emmas_mom » Sun Jun 17, 2018 2:55 pm

Sherri, looking at your last comment, I wondered if it could be a sensory issue - sight or touch - rather than true resource guarding? Is it ONLY when someone goes to move something that he reacts, albeit unpredictably? Is he okay with hands moving around his peripheral vision or within the vicinity of his head when there is no resource involved? For example during play, cuddles, grooming?
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby connie » Mon Jun 18, 2018 6:15 am

Interesting question. It doesn't seem so much that he wants certain items, so much as he wants you NOT TO TAKE them when he is there, Sherri?

In the scenario with the shawl, for instance, I wonder what he would have done if you'd suddenly started tossing bits of chicken several feet from him; would he forget about the shawl and scramble for the chicken? How attached does he get to something he's 'guarding' when something better is on offer? And I don't mean on offer in your hand, but available on the floor but he has to go get it?

There are two dogs, littermate girls, in my Manners class who will bite and show the behavior that is what you describe with your foster. They have bitten their owner and quite a few other people; it definitely seems like a behavior in them that is based on fear of movement, esp of someone approaching them.

And FWIW, I don't think this behavior is a consequence of him being crated for more hours than usual, recently. Do you know anything about his years before he came to you?

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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby SherriA » Mon Jun 18, 2018 6:55 am

Jean, he's fine with hands, movement, etc. He doesn't like raised voices (they piss him off), but he's fine with being touched, handles, thing moving in the periphery of his vision, etc. I can take toys away, or his food bowl with no issue at all. He doesn't seem bothered by me coming from the side vs front, etc.
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby SherriA » Mon Jun 18, 2018 7:08 am

It's still very unpredictable, so I haven't had anything handy to try to distract him with. And, unfortunately, throwing food isn't an option since Henry will fight over food on the floor. Throwing chicken would be the start of a brawl :(

He will leave the item behind and come running into the kitchen for a treat, etc (especially if he sees/hears Henry run to the kitchen) but then he races back to whatever he left behind so that I don't take it while he's eating. And he's fast! More often than not he beats me back to whatever it is at least once, snatches it up and growls or snaps at me when I approach. He's got a baby dog's attention span, so when he loses interest it's over and done with.

I don't know a lot about his first few months, but we're pretty sure that there's more to it than the family told us, just based on behaviour I've seen and what the kennel owner where he stayed for a couple of weeks saw (she said, after talking to the woman surrendering him, that she wanted them put on a "do not adopt" list, though I don't have specifics about why she feels that way). We're told that he was just too much energy for them. They did say that he bit the man in the house, but that was when he grabbed Moe by the collar and yanked him away from the table where they were eating and dragged him outside. He apparently yelped in pain and then lashed out strongly enough to break skin. That's when they said they were going to take him to the vet to be euthanized. He shown pretty good bite inhibition with me - connecting but not leaving marks.

He was a lot better this weekend, giving warnings instead of immediately lashing out, and I'm sure it's something that can be worked on. A new addition to it is humping. When I take something away from him he grabs my leg or arm and starts trying to hump me. He's got razor sharp little claws, and he grabs on tight! And he's persistent, trying again and again and again. He did that when I took away a blanket he was starting to chew, and when I took the leash he's trailing out of his mouth because he was chewing it. He did it one other time last week but in the midst of the biting I didn't take much notice
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby connie » Mon Jun 18, 2018 8:27 am

It's still very unpredictable, so I haven't had anything handy to try to distract him with. And, unfortunately, throwing food isn't an option since Henry will fight over food on the floor. Throwing chicken would be the start of a brawl :(
OMG yes, you would have to stage set-ups with Henry safely off-scene. :fie: Which does limit your ability to react spontaneously to the events.

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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby connie » Mon Jun 18, 2018 8:45 am

It sounds like he has an issue with ANYTHING being removed from his vicinity, based on triggers I can't even conjecture. I have Manners class tomorrow -- the class with Lizzie and Biscuit, who have similar behavior -- and I'm going to ask Jane (our trainer) if that behavior is considered resource guarding and if not, how it differs. I can 100% understand a dog not wanting to relinquish a beef bone, for instance, but a dog not wanting a shawl removed from the couch?! That's got to be indicative of something else, dogs don't wear shawls! I'd like to understand this a little better, if possible.

I think the fact that he's progressed to giving warnings has to be viewed as a good sign.

My Dee is food-oriented to an extreme degree, to a degree that argues she might have had to fight for food as a puppy or have had inadequate food in the first 8 weeks; and a few weeks ago I went to put Charlie into his crate to eat his kibble, which was already in there, and was surprised to find DEE in Charlie's crate, eating his dinner. I reached in to pull her out by her harness, and she turned her head and very carefully put her jaws around my wrist but didn't close her jaws. I was startled. 'What, you're telling me you could puncture an artery in my wrist if you wanted to?' I said to her; 'Well, I could snap your neck if I wanted to, but we don't do either of those things here, so come on out of there and let Charlie eat.' She came out of the crate -- my tone wasn't angry at all, actually I was amused -- and got her own dinner, but it was something none of my other dogs would have done. Some dogs have baggage.

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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby SherriA » Tue Jun 19, 2018 8:48 am

After a weekend when he was mostly good, this morning we had another incident. Moe grabbed a lens polishing cloth for my glasses off of my desk. I didn't try to take it from him, but went into the kitchen for treats to see if he would trade. He dropped the cloth and ran into the kitchen for a cookie with Henry. I started to head to the den where he left the cloth, and when he started to race back to it I stepped on and grabbed his leash. He turned around and lashed out at me twice, connecting with my hand and with my leg. He seemed to know that I was going to go get his treasure and was using his leash to keep him from it. Rinse and repeat - into the kitchen to get a treat to bribe him, he has his treat but races back to the den for his treasure and raises his lip when I even look at him shredding it.

Just when I think maybe I'm making some progress, it's like we're back at the starting gate again.
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby connie » Tue Jun 19, 2018 11:27 am

I think your progress will be slow and the more it can be depersonalized, the better. In the scenario you describe -- and I'm sorry you got bit, that's SO annoying on so many levels, not to mention painful -- it might have been more effective to lure Moe into the kitchen for a cookie and then close the doorway gate or door so he can't return to the den. He should not see you remove whatever he had been guarding, that I think leads to frustration in him. It should just disappear when he's not near it. And using his leash personalizes it somehow, does that make sense? If I can't do a good set-up for this, I'd rather let him have the object again, and again lure him away with cookies. In fact, you might want to lure him away and let him go back to the item a few times, just to give him the message that 'it's nothing special, I don't want it, it's right where you left it.' If it were something dangerous that wouldn't work, but he seems to go for objects of fabric that have your scent on them.

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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby connie » Tue Jun 19, 2018 8:25 pm

Okay, I asked Jane about this tonight. (Jane is this trainer: http://www.canissapiens.com/aboutus.html )

When I described the articles that Moe 'guards', she wasn't surprised at all, and said 'I've known a number of Beagles who guarded tissues, and several who guarded space, like a spot on the couch.' 'What, like Sheldon Cooper?' I said, and she said 'Yes, if Sheldon Cooper bit people.' :help:

I related the incident of the lens cleaner cloth and she feels it was too much too fast. In no particular order:

1. Do set-up exercises for quite a while, don't actually try to remove something he has until you have gotten the behavior you want established. If Henry is around, include him in the exercises, but since you will be throwing food for Moe quite a bit, you might want to not include Henry.

2. Take two items, one of which Moe likes more than the other. (Me: 'Haha, like a lens cleaner cloth?' Jane: 'Yes, or maybe some tissues!') Give the lesser item to Moe and then, a few minutes later, take the greater item and toss it five feet or so from him. He will leave the lesser object to get the greater object. Don't do anything. Let him return to the lesser object and it's still there, he can still have it. Do this a bunch of times, I mean a BUNCH of times. You are teaching him that you give him really good stuff and it costs him absolutely nothing. You never take away anything. It's good, better and even better!

3. Never physically restrain Moe in this exercise. Her comment on your move in trying to get to the den ahead of him was 'yeah, they are eight times faster than we are, that never works' and on hearing that he bit after the leash grab, 'he took that as a direct challenge and he wasn't wrong, it was.'

4. Once you have this behavior established, he will be less frantic about returning to the original item he was guarding, after you have given him better stuff. Then, when necessasry, you can unobtrusively establish claim to the item you want to remove. Jane gave this example: 'So I've done this exercise and he's confident now that he gets really good stuff from me. One day we're out walking and he gloms onto something disgusting. I toss a bunch of really good treats about five feet away from him, in a semicircle, and as he goes to get them, I move to the disgusting thing and put my foot on it. And in all the years I've done this, I have never gotten bit by the dog in the foot that is covering the object. Never. It's like I've established my ownership of it and they understand that -- but if I were to challenge them for it? It would be all-out war.'

Interesting, hope that helps a bit! I mentioned the muzzle and she shrugged and said what you already pointed out: it doesn't address the real issue. Moe is a guarder and may remain one, but management can prevent the more unpleasant consequences of that behavior.

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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby SherriA » Tue Jun 19, 2018 9:41 pm

Thanks Connie, that's really helpful.

We've had a bad day overall - he's charged at me and tried to bite just for looking his direction, leaped up and tried to bite repeatedly when I was getting cookies, and went after Henry when he couldn't get to me. He also tried repeatedly to hump me, grabbing on so tightly his little razor claws drew blood. Its disheartening (and painful; I'm covered in bite bruises).

This gives me a different way to look at it and I'm going to reread it in the morning after I get some sleep. Right now I don't like him very much and frankly just want him gone. I'm also a little concerned about moving him since I've been told not to put anything about guarding or biting or aggression into my notes about him. I think that's just unfair to whoever ends up with him.
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby connie » Wed Jun 20, 2018 4:55 am

I think you have to make accurate notes of his behavior. That's just not something that can be ignored. Whoever told you to not mention it is doing a great disservice to rescue, and that's something I feel very strongly about. If rescue adopts Moe out to anyone the way he is now, they're not rescue, they're something much less honest.

If Moe is not a viable pet dog, that assessment should be made no matter how cute he is, how hard a time he's had in his life, or anything else. If he cannot be adopted out, he should be given a humane end to his life. Hopefully we're not at that point yet, but reading your description of his bad day yesterday, I find myself wondering about things like brain tumors, seriously. That's not the behavior of a dog who is neurologically healthy.

No, I wouldn't like him either. I've had fosters I didn't like, and what I did at times like that was just separate them, all the time. They didn't get to be with the group or with me. They had a safe space and regular meals and access to the yard, but they were not part of the group. For your safety and Henry's, I hope you do that with Moe at this time. No way should he be close enough to you to grab on and hump. And he needs to be evaluated by someone above the level of the expertise that's available in rescue, it sounds like. Sorry you landed with this, Sherri.

There are so many great and good dogs in rescue, I will never be okay seeing resources used on dogs who are chronic biters, aggressive, or unpredictable in a way that poses a threat to the people and dogs around them.

And put the muzzle on him.

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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby connie » Wed Jun 20, 2018 8:32 am

Also Jane wants to know, was he guarding space when he had those episodes the other day, Sherri?

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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby SherriA » Wed Jun 20, 2018 8:11 pm

Yes, he's guarded space a couple of times, but not frequently. Mostly he guards things he finds. Not things that he knows are his, but things he expects will be taken away from him.

I sent Jane's notes to the foster coordinator and hopefully she will be able to work with him. He's going to her house and she will see if she thinks he can be safely placed. If not, she will unhappily make the decision that his original owners made. It's heartbreaking, but we don't have the resources to deal with a dangerous dog.

Today, of course, he's been really good. He went to the vet and had no issues. He hasn't shown any aggression. It comes out of the blue which makes it more difficult to deal with.

I'm keeping my distance, not letting him too close. Right now I'm on one end of the couch and he's on the other, napping. He looks so sweet and peaceful when he's sleeping.
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby connie » Thu Jun 21, 2018 5:49 am

I wish him all the best, and I hope your bruises and puncture wounds heal quickly, Sherri.

Dogs like this are certainly a test for rescues. If the behavior can be identified and addressed, they can be adopted and have wonderful lives. My very first foster Sheltie, Bandit, was a fear-biter. Probably because he was bred in a mill, sold in a feed store, and kept on a chain his first year. Shaky temperament + bad handling = terrified, defensive dog. He found a home with a 13-year old girl and her mom, and even though her grandpa nicknamed Bandit 'the butt-biter', he was well loved and had 13 happy years before he died, Then there was Hamlet, a Sheltie who bit everyone at times and cues that seemed entirely random -- his behavior couldn't be sorted out. He was euthanized, which IMO was better than him being trapped in that cycle of attack/appease/attack/appease for years. We did wonder if Hamlet had some neurological basis for his behavior, like a brain tumor. Impossible to know.

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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby maxs_mommy » Thu Jun 21, 2018 10:59 pm

He has been thoroughly vetted for thyroid issues, I assume? Maybe blood sugar check? His belligerence sounds like low blood sugar but it happens so randomly it's hard to know.
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby SherriA » Fri Jun 22, 2018 5:36 am

After spending more time with him and really looking at what's happening with a less emotional eye, it seems like he gets guardy and aggressive whenever he has something that he thinks will be taken away. Toys that I give him are fine. Food that he's given is fine. Anything he finds himself, though, he guards. Just now he stole a gardening glove. Whatever, have it, it's not going to hurt you, silly puppy! But he took it outside, and then came back in without it, and when I didn't let him go back outside to get it he got mad.

I think he must have been punished for taking things like puppies will do. The original owners didn't respond to questions about how they punished him when he did something wrong, but I can't believe it was just a firm "no!", based on his reactions.

Unfortunately for Moe, my house is not puppy proof. There are a lot of things he can get into that he shouldn't, and some of them could hurt him, like the shawl pin he stole from my desk with the sharp pin to hold it in place. There are things that I have to take away from him, though I've let him keep most of the harmless treasures he's found lately - paper and fabric etc. He's had some interesting poop lately....

Next weekend he's going to the foster director's home. She's got six dogs - four of her own and two fosters, I think. She's hoping that maybe he'll learn from the group. At any rate, he'll have other young dogs to play with and more room to run and burn off energy. We talked again last night and she's got a sense of what's been going on here, so she'll be somewhat prepared for it.
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby emmas_mom » Wed Jun 27, 2018 6:47 am

Sherri , PLEASE make the report accurate. This isnt just for the benefit of any potential foster or adopter, but for the reflection on all rescue groups should things go wrong and someone, especially a child, gets seriously injured. It is unethical of a rescue to leave such important info out of a report.
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby SherriA » Sun Jul 01, 2018 6:19 am

I've noted the resource guarding in his diary and hinted at the seriousness of it but I think you're right and I need to make it clearer. The foster director and adoption director are aware and agree he needs to never go to a home with kids but that doesn't mean all the adoption counsellors who make the matches will pick up on it. Thanks Jean for reminding me of the possible consequences
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby emmas_mom » Sun Jul 01, 2018 9:45 am

Even with a home without kids, the adopters need to be well advised - because they might have visiting neighbour kids or visiting grandchildren or just not be dog savvy enough to know what to do if something happens. Thanks for following up on this, Sherri. Too many dogs die (or are rehomed by the adopter without the rescue's knowledge, contracts notwithstanding) because a rescue fails to disclose, educate, and provide support in cases like this. where careful selection and management is needed.
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby connie » Fri Jul 27, 2018 5:40 am

Wondering what the status is of Moe and his issues?

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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby SherriA » Fri Jul 27, 2018 8:37 am

I haven't heard from her for a week or two but at last report he was still guarding, but in many cases they have been able to head it off before he turns Cujo, so maybe it's improving? Their house is more puppy proof than mine, so he's got less access to "treasures", but he will still guard things like the safetly tag on an electrical cord, etc. Interestingly, in their house (and in the original family's house) he guards the furniture, but he never really did that in mine. He was on and off all the furniture without any issues here. Sharon says when he gets up on a couch or chair she can see the look in his eyes change as if he's suddenly on guard against being yelled at or punished, and he will proactively growl or snap if anyone comes near him.

He's getting a lot more exercise at her place, and her female has put him in his place a few times. He's having lots of fun playing with the other dogs. She said the same thing I did - he's so sweet, until he isn't.
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Re: Resource Guarding

Postby connie » Fri Jul 27, 2018 9:18 am

So weird! I wonder if it's entirely behavioral, or if there is some neurological thing going on too. Well, I hope he makes the right choices more often!


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