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Hi, I'm new to the website. We have a new golden puppy and he is our first dog. I read many many books before he arrived and have adopted an approach of positive reinforcement. He is a very confident puppy (the vet commented on this) and is sweet and playful. Often when he plays he growls but as it sounds like playful growling it hasn't bothered me. However if I stop him doing something he is really enjoying (e.g. my son dropped his sandwich on the floor and my puppy went to eat it) my puppy will growl/snarl at me in a very cross way and bite me (not like playful nibbling but a cross snap). I am obviously trying to teach him that this is wrong, but the thing that I really wanted to ask more experienced owners is: does this suggest that my puppy might grow up to have aggression problems i.e that unacceptable aggression levels are inherent in his nature? Or is he just pushing boundaries and trying to be boss? I am very worried as I have children and specifically chose a golden because they are known to be good with children. Incidentally I got him from a very reputable breeder and he is 9-10 weeks old. I cannot tell you how much I would appreciate some guidance. Many thanks Charlotte.
 

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Humankind. Be both.
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Many dogs, even Goldens, will guard food or other resources they feel are extremely valuable.

First thing I would do is STOP trying to snatch such items back from him, as it only confirms in his mind that they are worth "fighting" to keep. So if a sandwich falls, score one for the dog. If he snags a tissue from the trash, again, score for him. The only way I'd suggest trying to get things like that back is if you can trade up for something he thinks is "worth it" in the moment.

And no, that is NOT rewarding unwanted behavior. At the point that he has something he may guard, it's about damage control. The goal is to get it back, or get through the situation in such a way that he doesn't feel he has to escalate to violence. It's not about who is "boss." Dogs have a mouth full of razor sharp teeth; when we insist on getting into a (excuse the language) "pissing contest" over showing the dog who is boss, the dog comes out on top in that moment (ability to use his teeth) .... only to end up the loser when he loses his home, or life, when we decide we can't have a dog who bites.

SO -- teach all your kids that they are NOT allowed to try and take stolen items from him. They are to come get you -- and you handle it via a trade. Work on good management around the house so he's less likely to gain access to forbidden stuff. Enroll in a good puppy class (followed by several good obedience classes). Consider hand feeding him and/or using the bowl, but only putting a little in at a time, so your hand is constantly adding MORE to the bowl. Avoid the temptation to "punish" a growl or snap ... in the end, it almost ALWAYS makes it worse.
 

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Humankind. Be both.
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He's very young, and he's trying out a new behavior. It doesn't mean he'll automatically be untrustworthy in the long term. You do have to be proactive, but don't write this dog off just because he's being a brat.

What does your breeder say? This is precisely the kind of thing a good breeder would want to hear, and he or she may have some good tips.

Beyond that, the best approach to resource guarding, in my book, is to teach your pup that people are a consistent source of good things. Practice trading games with your pup constantly. Get him to drop something good by giving him something better, and then give him the first thing back again. Practice this constantly. To this day, I still have my dogs hand me their toys on a command, and then I give the toy right back with praise.

You can also teach a non-aversive "leave it." You show the dog a treat and close your hand when he goes for it. When he finally tries an alternative behavior (waiting, sitting, looking in your eyes, etc.) you praise him, say "leave it" and give him a better treat from the other hand.

By ingraining these habits, you have a better chance of seeing your dog leave that sandwich alone on a simple command. And the times you do have to take something from him, he's more likely to expect something good, rather than feeling like he has to defend what he has.

The best response to resource guarding is utter calmness and prevention of reward. If he bites you, don't flinch, and don't yell. He needs to learn that bites don't work. If you squeal, jerk away, or yell at him, he'll learn to do it more intensely the next time. You also have to prevent him from getting the reward. Also, while you're training alternative behaviors, do your best to prevent him from going through the process of getting something great and feeling he has to defend it. The fewer times he goes through that undesired emotional reaction, the less likely he is to ingrain it.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks so much Stephanie and 'TippyKayak' I'll follow your advice. I have tried to call the breeder but haven't got through to her yet I'll try again tomorrow.
 

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PS - I do agree with Stephanie that in the short term, if he does beat you to something he wants, it's best to write that thing off instead of having a confrontation with him or a blown "leave it" command. That is, unless it's a safety issue, in which case you simply have to get the thing and deal with the consequences.
 

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Wonderful and wise advice.
 

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Hi, Have you signed up to puppy training classes in your area yet? I see you are in London...south, north, east, west? Once you have the basic commands in practice the wait and leave commands will be the ones you will be using a lot and wil be the most useful in these situations. Its really essential to try to use them now and as soon as he does wait or leave even for a moment to reward him and to keep at it as he will then associate this quickly with positive action rather than what hes doing now. Some snarly and bitey stuff is common, they can be little sharks, the golden behaviour they are known for is mainly their trained behaviour as they train so beautifully as a whole. I habe a boy and he was a handful as a pup but hes so lovely now and yes he still needs a tight reign at times but hes nothing like he was, he just needed consistant training and a lot of
loving! There is a UK section to the board too which you may find helpful as there are local resources and local people with knowledge within Uk..click on my name and it should show I belong to it. Im not sure how you link to it otherwise, sorry, Im sure there must be another way too.
 
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