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Serawyn
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We kept going back and forth between spaying before or after the first heat. Finally, we were going to get Ellie spayed at 8.5 months because her mom went into her first heat at 9months. We figured, it was close enough and we didn't want to risk her having a heat cycle. The day before her appointment, Ellie went into heat :(. My poor girl. She is restless, clingy, and overall..... sad.

She has always had a bit of resource guarding with food so we've been working with a dog behaviorist on her "working" for her food. Since her heat cycle started 5 days ago, resource guarding has elevated to a whole new level. She's disinterested in eating, but once I have her sit down and put her food bowl out, she becomes very possessive. I used to be able to work in the kitchen while she is eating. I could walk by, touch her, even pet her without any issue. Now, just going near her would make her freeze and I know if I touch her, she will growl to warn me off.

Yesterday, I bought her a puzzle game to keep her mentally stimulated because she is so restless and mopey. As usual, I always have her sit for the item, then I'd trade it for something high value, take the item away, and repeat the pattern. I did this throughout the day and she was okay with me removing her puzzle game. At the end of the day, however, I went over to put the toy away and she snapped and showed teeth. I tried to trade one of her favorite toys for the puzzle, but she took the new toy and put her paw on her puzzle with teeth bearing. :( She's never shown possessive behaviors with toys before.

Is this normal behavior to expect of a female dog going through the first heat? She is obviously more confused, restless, whiney and clingy than before. We are keeping her inside the house and are always with her when she is outside in the our 8 feet high fenced in back yard. I DO NOT want her to get pregnant and we're doing all that we can to make sure of this. Please give me any advice on how to handle a dog in heat. She is our first dog and I'm terrified we're doing something wrong while she's going through her cycle.
 

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The behaviors of guarding/growling do worry me. I think working with a good CPDT-KA trainer would be a great idea. It sounds like you are doing many things right( trading etc), but I worry when I hear she gets stiff over her food bowl. Try hand feeding her for a few weeks. Make sure she always sits before she gets privileges or things of value to her. Being in season does not excuse these things. RUFF LOVE by Susan Garrett is a good book.
 
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Serawyn
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Discussion Starter #3
She's never stiffened up when we go near her food bowl, which is why I'm worried too. :( I've contacted the behaviorist, but it's a holiday weekend/week so he's gone until after next week. In the meantime, I did try to hand feed her, but she won't take the food from my hands. I also tried putting the food inside her Kong wobbler and placed it inside her crate, but she won't eat it. She only wants to eat from her food bowl. She actually sits down and waits for me to give her the command to start eating so that is great. It's once she starts eating that the guarding behavior starts. Thank you for the book recommendation. I am in the middle of reading "MINE!" by Jean Donaldson so I'll order the other book afterward.
 

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The day we went to get Buddy, his breeder advised us on one thing and we have followed it ever since. He had asked us to sit in front of Buddy when he eats, always, and 'help' him to eat. I simply push his food toward him so that it becomes easier to eat, add some water to the dog food (he likes it dry with water added), etc. This has had two benefits - 1. Minimized resource guarding. 2. He never gulps down his food but prefers to eat at a sedate pace.

However, this being said, I think Ellie's increased resource guarding is more likely due to her heat cycle. The poor dear is feeling all bothered and confused and this is causing her to react in ways that she normally would not. It is great that she is waiting for your command to start eating. I think that she just needs some time to get used to this entire feeling of going through her heat. Just keep up with the training. I am sure that she would be alright and you can speak to the behaviorist once he returns from his holidays. Good Luck.
 

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Being in season can make the girls moody and emotional and a little bit "bitchy", but it doesnt create these issues.

I read Mine! and Fight! by Jean Donaldson too- great choice.

Just from road experience, I would say she is getting lots of your attention through this behavior. She eats the way you say she eats! If she won't eat when you hand feed her, then try again next meal time. It's the mental factor of who is calling the shots in a subtle way. When she is hungry, she will eat- your way. I think many of our dogs believe food comes from the universe along with toys and treats. It is helpful to emphasize that all privileges and fulfilled needs come from you. I'd tighten up for a month: back in her crate,'wait" to come out; sit or down before any kind of privilege like going outside or playing.
 
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