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Old 02-10-2013, 06:39 PM
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Food Aggression - Doing the Right Thing?

So, Carly is 12 weeks old and, up until a week ago, never showed even the slightest sign of aggression. We gave her a new brand of bully stick and, while chewing it, she growled and snapped when we reached to pet her. In an effort to curb this, we pet her head/body occasionally (not every time) when she's chewing on chew toys, Kongs, etc. She's done it about 5 or 6 times since then, sometimes very mean-sounding.

We've always hand-fed her half her food and given her the other half in Kongs. We have NEVER taken away her food and only take her water away when she has too much....but we even stopped that completely and just give her limited amounts of water at a time.

Chewing her Kong or bully seems to cause the most issues lately. Sometimes we can come up, pet her on the head and she barely notices. Other times, just moving towards her elicits a growl or she runs away with the item.

When she does it, we let her know she's wrong right away. Usually with a NO and grab of the neck skin (we're not pulling away or acting scared at all), sometimes she'll go in timeout. After a moment, we'll allow her to keep eating.

We've been "handling" her while eating since the day we got her....but apparently that hasn't worked. We do not want a dog that has ANY aggression...food, toy, or otherwise.

Are we doing the right thing?!
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Old 02-10-2013, 06:44 PM
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Please stop giving her the items that are causing the trouble.
Otherwise, I think you're doing just fine, but you'll get a lot of good advice from wiser heads than mine here.
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Old 02-10-2013, 07:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brentnclemson View Post
So, Carly is 12 weeks old and, up until a week ago, never showed even the slightest sign of aggression. We gave her a new brand of bully stick and, while chewing it, she growled and snapped when we reached to pet her. In an effort to curb this, we pet her head/body occasionally (not every time) when she's chewing on chew toys, Kongs, etc. She's done it about 5 or 6 times since then, sometimes very mean-sounding.

We've always hand-fed her half her food and given her the other half in Kongs. We have NEVER taken away her food and only take her water away when she has too much....but we even stopped that completely and just give her limited amounts of water at a time.

Chewing her Kong or bully seems to cause the most issues lately. Sometimes we can come up, pet her on the head and she barely notices. Other times, just moving towards her elicits a growl or she runs away with the item.

When she does it, we let her know she's wrong right away. Usually with a NO and grab of the neck skin (we're not pulling away or acting scared at all), sometimes she'll go in timeout. After a moment, we'll allow her to keep eating.

We've been "handling" her while eating since the day we got her....but apparently that hasn't worked. We do not want a dog that has ANY aggression...food, toy, or otherwise.

Are we doing the right thing?!
No that is not the right thing to do. She is not 'wrong' she is absolutely right in 'warning you' -by growling - that she is afraid you are going to take the item away. What you ARE doing is reinforcing to her that you are a threat and will 'attack' (grabbing the skin on her neck is an attack in her eyes) if she has something you might want. The 'next time' she may not growl or run with the item, but may feel threatened enough and forced by your actions (you ignored the warnings and 'attacked' her) to defend herself and the item and bite.
A bully stick is an extremely high value item to a pup - giving rise to the instinct to guard it to keep it -the more valuable the item to the dog the more likely they will be to guard it. Put them away for now, and work on teaching her to trade. Start with a non food item, a toy or ball, when she has it, offer her a high value treat, when she drops or leaves the toy to take the treat, give her the treat then give her the item back. Repeat, repeat repeat, as often and with as many non food items as you can. This teaches her that she can trust you when she has an item, and that more often than not she can safely give it up, get a reward, AND get the item back. If you are asking her to give up an item that you must keep ie: a sock, then trade her for it, and toss a few extra treats on the floor to distract and reward her, while you remove the item. This can be very helpful should she ever pick up a bone, or something that can harm her.
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Old 02-10-2013, 07:56 PM
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Originally Posted by laprincessa View Post
Please stop giving her the items that are causing the trouble.
Otherwise, I think you're doing just fine, but you'll get a lot of good advice from wiser heads than mine here.
Only problem is...it has moved from chew toys (bully) to food...I can't keep that from her!

Charliethree, thanks for the input. That certainly makes sense and we'll work on the "trading" concept. We've actually limited bully sticks lately and only give them to her when we're holding the other end. In fact, she'll chew/eat things in our lap/hands with no problem, it's when she's by herself and we approach that she displays the aggression (again, every once in a while, not nearly every time).

So we'll work on trading with lower value items...but what about food? She likes her kibble more than anything, so I don't see a trade taking place. I'm thinking we need to be near her when she's eating, with the occasional pet...not bugging her too much, but not leaving her to eat on her own. Make sense?
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Old 02-10-2013, 08:34 PM
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When she is eating her food leave her alone. Don't bother her. She needs to feel that she can eat in peace. Would you want someone randomly patting you when you are trying to eat?
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Old 02-10-2013, 08:35 PM
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Originally Posted by brentnclemson View Post
Only problem is...it has moved from chew toys (bully) to food...I can't keep that from her!

Charliethree, thanks for the input. That certainly makes sense and we'll work on the "trading" concept. We've actually limited bully sticks lately and only give them to her when we're holding the other end. In fact, she'll chew/eat things in our lap/hands with no problem, it's when she's by herself and we approach that she displays the aggression (again, every once in a while, not nearly every time).

So we'll work on trading with lower value items...but what about food? She likes her kibble more than anything, so I don't see a trade taking place. I'm thinking we need to be near her when she's eating, with the occasional pet...not bugging her too much, but not leaving her to eat on her own. Make sense?
Teaching her to trade for items that she will easily give up, a toy, but not her favorite toy, to start with, makes it easier for her to succeed and get rewarded. Once she has acquired the behavior - giving up the item for a reward, and knows what to expect - she gets a reward, as well as getting the item back - then you move on to more difficult things, gradually making it harder for her while offering higher value treats as it gets harder.
With food items your primary goal is for her to feel comfortable with you nearby while she is eating/chewing. To teach a pup that it is safe for you to be nearby when eating, add to the 'plate' - drop yummy treats on the floor to start with or if/when she looks up at you, toss a couple in the bowl. repeat over and over. This teaches her that your presence means good things happen and you are not a threat to her food bowl. I personally do not advocate touching a dog while they are eating - for some it is percieved as a nuisance for others it may be seen as a threat to their food - causing them to feel the need to react. However if you feel that she needs to accept touch while she is eating, practice first while you are hand feeding - feed her from one hand pet/touch with the other. As soon as she finishes the food in your hand you stop the petting, creating a positive association between the touch and the food. If she has her kong or bowl leave her alone with it for now.
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Old 02-10-2013, 09:36 PM
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When she is eating her food leave her alone. Don't bother her. She needs to feel that she can eat in peace. Would you want someone randomly patting you when you are trying to eat?
No, I wouldn't...but I'm not a dog...I wouldn't growl at or bite them either. I provide ALL of her food and protection and don't think it's unreasonable to expect her (with training, of course) to not bite me if I get too close.

Charliethree, thanks again for the info. It really doesn't have anything to do with touching her while she's eating, I just would like a dog I can trust not to be aggressive.

My concern is twofold:
1) What if someone else besides me or my wife - a neighborhood child, for instance - comes up to her while she's playing with a toy? The kid doesn't know that it's a high-value toy/treat for Carly....so then, "out of nowhere" we have dog bites, angry neighbors, hospital bills...
2) I'd rather take care of something like this now than later. Obviously it's an issue with her and it's easier to deal with it now than finding out she has an aggressive streak when she weighs 70 pounds and has real teeth and jaw strength.

Thanks again for the input. I'll try and start out easy with toys...adding treats to her food...great ideas!
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Old 02-10-2013, 11:45 PM
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I absolutely understand where you are 'coming from' and commend you for having the foresight to work with your pup and focusing on trying to prevent possible problems in the future. A well trained and socialized dog is safer to own, and to live with in the real world.
If your neighbours have kids, do your pup a favor and socialize her with them, if possible, keep it safe and a good experience for both your pup and the kids. Despite the golden reputation of being 'naturally' good with kids, they do need to be socialized with them at a young age. I have a 5 yr old golden boy with a fantastic temperament, but who did not get the early socialization with children (none at home or nearby) and he is afraid of them.
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Old 02-11-2013, 12:25 AM
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Handfeed handfeed and handfeed. IMHO the bully sticks are a bit early.
I will tell you my mistake - everytime Rose had something she knw she was not supposed to have she went under the bed. So every time I knew where to find her and went under the bed and took it. Until one day, when she had enough of it and she growled at me. I took her giving up the items for granted and taught her that she will lose anything she had while under the bed.
When she growled I started laughing and got up ran to the kitchen singing loudly "peanut-butter". She came running after me and traded me for a lick of peanut butter off my finger.
From there on I had to undo my mistake, I took my behind under the bed with her and gave her toys, then treats and then started trading with her while under the bed.
Today she had my sweater in her mouth, expensive one too. My first reaction was OMG NOOO(our neighbor's dog got lost today so I must have left it on my bed while we were out looking for Coco). She sensed it and hesitated on where to go with it. I had to change my posture, calm down and exclaimed - What a good girl, Thank you Rose, Good girl! She came to me and luckily my sweater had no holes in it. She was also proud for giving it back and also getting a piece of cheese for it.
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Old 02-11-2013, 03:04 PM
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Great advice! I definitely need to be careful of my body language when I'm coming towards her...don't want to make her run away before I even get close. Claudia, glad to hear you were able to help Rose be a happier pup and share her food/toys!
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