Update On Chaos' Resource Guarding

I’ve been crazy busy lately and not able to post too much about Chaos’ early weeks with us.  I figured that an update on the guarding deserved its own post.  I’ll get to the rest of his education in a post tonight or tomorrow. 

I’m happy to report that the guarding behavior is all but extinguished.  For the first week, I went back to hand feeding most of the best parts of meals, including holding on to kongs while he unstuffed them.  I wanted to teach him to happily look away, then come away from food when called.  I couldn’t do it with raw food, cooked meat, or even canned food, so I started giving some bowls of kibble.  He didn’t growl or grumble over anything in a bowl, but he did stiffen up a bit and eat faster when called or approached.  At first, we couldn’t get him to look away from kibble even by placing a piece of warmed meat up on his nose.  Instead, I started calling his name, taking the food bowl, asking for a sit, giving the warmed up meat when he complied, and then immediately returning the bowl.  The whole thing took about 2 seconds once he learned the drill.  I would only do it 3 or 4 times at each meal:  1 or 2 right at the beginning then a couple after he’d had a while to dig in.      

After about 3 days, he started happily and reliably looking up from kibble and sitting when called.  I repeated the exercise first with canned food, then with cooked meat, then with raw.  Working through that hierarchy of yumminess – only moving on to the next level when Chaos seemed to really enjoy complying - took about another 3 days.  Now I have friends doing it when they come over and Chaos couldn’t be happier about having someone approach his stuffed kong or bowl. We’ve also been doing object exchanges with toys and chewies, but have seen no possessiveness there.    

Whole raw meaty bones are at the pinnacle of the Chaos’ personal hierarchy or yumminess, and they’re still a bit of an issue.  We’ve only worked with them twice since the deer leg guarding that kicked this all off.  I needed to lay the groundwork with less valuable items first.  He still growls a bit if approached or especially if touched when he has a bone.  It’s the trickiest guarding to overcome because nothing seems to appeal to him more than those bones.  My solution to that has been a version of hand feeding in which I sit with Chaos and hold onto the bone when I offer it to him to chew.  I help him pull off the best chunks.  It’s a pretty gross task, but I’m stuck with it.  He’s fine when I keep holding the bone, but he still growls a bit if I let go for a few minutes and then come touch it or him.  It’s far less intense than the initial growling, however, and I expect it to cease soon.  I hope to have him dropping meaty bones when asked within a week.  Then I can scratch “solve resource guarding” off my list of puppy priorities.    

This is why it’s so incredibly important to start doing this stuff with puppies.  They’re so easy.  Going forward, I will consciously continue to occasionally toss warmed up seasoned meat into Chaos’ food bowl as I pass by for the rest of his life.  I’ll also ask him to hand me a bone, stop eating and look at me, or come away from yummy things from time to time.  It has been my experience with adult dogs that unless families continue to make simple requests like these part of the dog’s routine, then resource guarding that seemed to have been solved can recur.  Some folks pointed out in comments to my last point that this puppy attitude changes are more likely to permanent regardless of follow-up, but I think err on the side of caution.    

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