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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone! I just introduced bones/chews to my 4 month old golden puppy this week and have had some problems with potential resource guarding. I bought a new chew with chicken (his first meat chew) in the center and went to take it out of his mouth when I noticed he had started eating it (I wanted to monitor how much he was eating so he wouldn't get diarrhea, which he ended up having anyway). He gave a low growl when I went to pull it out of his mouth, and I moved my hand away in shock. I took it away and gave it back awhile later. I continued trying to take it away to see what he would do and once in awhile he would growl again, usually when he just started chewing on the center. Whenever he growled I still took it out of his mouth to see what he would do (I wasn't too worried about getting bit because he can be a landshark at times anyway when playing) and I was able to take it out of his mouth without him doing anything. I looked up some tips on this site and started teaching him to "drop it" while trading another item and giving the bone back. At times he drops it and at other times I pull it out of his mouth, occasionally with him growling. I'll still pull the bone away when he growls and give him the treat to show that I just want to trade, which he happily accepts. His behavior has really worried me because I really didn't want an aggressive dog. However, I'm not sure how "aggressive" this behavior is considered or if it's somewhat normal since I was literally pulling the chew out of his mouth while he was eating it and it was the first meat chew he's ever had. My trainer recommended buying multiples of the same chew and trading them so he sees they are not a scarcity that requires guarding. In general he is a very sweet puppy who came to us with an excellent temperament - strangers are often telling us how calm and well-behaved he is. He hasn't guarded anything else of his yet. He eats literally everything he finds on the ground and I've had no problems sticking my hand in his mouth to take them out or forcing open his mouth to loosen his grip on any clothing items he's grabbed. Since adopting him I have been hand feeding him a meal daily and putting my hand in his bowl while adding more food to get him used to us being around his food. He typically likes to chew his bone near our feet so we have no problems approaching him or petting him while he chews it, since he's used to us being near, only when I try grabbing it from his mouth. I haven't had this problem yet with the Yak cheese chew. Do you think I should be worried or am I overreacting? Anyone else have this problem with "mild" resource guarding, and did it escalate? Thanks for your help!
 

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Welcome to the forum! Cute puppy you have there :)

It might be too high value of a treat for your pup to have yet. If you search this forum, you will find a lot of threads with people asking similar questions. Sometimes puppies are not as good at handling very high value items. It doesn't mean you have an aggressive dog, he's probably just not mature enough to handle something that valuable yet.

I would focus on trading items and teaching him drop it, but probably wouldn't let him have another one for a while, until you've been able to really solidify drop its and trades and he's grown up a bit. You don't want the behavior to escalate (which you can, by doing something like forcibly taking it from his mouth), or reward him for guarding by letting him keep it. If it continues with that particular chew when he's older, I just wouldn't give him things like that.

Piper did this when I gave her a bully stick for the first time. She was also around 4 months. It was kind of scary, because she was otherwise the sweetest, most kind and lovable puppy, but her whole body got stiff and she did NOT want to give it up. Her body language was pretty clear, and she did it several times. We practiced giving up the bully stick a lot for a few days, but then I read here that sometimes practicing taking it away from dogs can worsen the guarding. We started learning trades and drop its a lot, but she didn't get another bully stick for a while. I started hand feeding her and putting my hand in her food bowl, touching her at mealtimes (that was never a problem, just with the bully stick).

When I did give her a bully stick again, several months later (I actually don't use them anymore, because they make her sick, and I don't like how they can be processed, lots of chemicals and a risk for infections), I held it in my hand and let her chew it from my hand, and we practiced trading items.

She's never guarded anything else, and never guarded the bully sticks again. If she had, I just wouldn't have given them to her--some things are too high value for dogs to have and there's nothing wrong with that. She's perfectly content with regular bones and other chews.

So no, it doesn't mean that you have an aggressive dog, and it doesn't mean that your dog will be a major resource guarder. At least in my experience. It's probably just immaturity, and highlights a something to work on with your pup. But to be on the safe side, if you take your dog to daycare or something, I'd make sure they don't have toys, because you don't behavior like that to get reinforced...its not uncommon for dogs to guard things from other dogs.
 

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He's a cutie! I totally agree with Piper on this. Our Daisy got growly with certain types of bones right around the same age, and we did not let her have those until she was older and demonstrated an ability to give things up when asked. She had plenty of other chews and toys, and we worked on trading, leave it, watch me (I love that one) etc. I think you're doing everything right to prevent a full-on case of food guarding, just take the problem chews away while you continue to work on his basic obedience commands.
 
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Discussion Starter #4
Make sure to continue to do swapping exercises and you'll do just fine! You have a really cute puppy :)
 
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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks everyone! I have taken away the problem chew and we've been practicing drop it and trading daily. He has been really good at dropping his Himalayan yak cheese chew for more treats! Hopefully I can re-introduce higher value ones in a few months.
 
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