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Hi, I have a 7 month old golden retriever who has shown resource guarding tendencies. He’s done it with high value chews but most recently we have had a few incidents when I was eating and talking to my sister and she went to pet him and he nipped her. Another time I was feeding him kibble from my pouch and my 5 year old stroked him and he tried to bite her. Today I was serving his food ( I still had the bowl) and he turned around and snarled at my brother. He also growled at him when I was sitting eating my dinner and my brother tried to stroke him. I’m really worried because I have a 5 year old and an 8 year old who are walking around with food etc all the time. How can I stop him from reacting to this I can’t possible spend the whole day separating them for the rest of my life?? I have contacted a behaviourist and will hopefully have an appointment soon but is there hope?
 

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I too have a resource guarder (not a golden). Here is how I handled it.
1. Food - Start by making it very clear that the food comes from you and doesn't just appear. This takes time and effort on your part, but it went a long way in managing/ resolving the issue with food. To do this,
1.a) You hand feed. This can go on for a week, but it must be every meal. It is ok to use a glove to protect your fingers from the shark teeth. If they try to snatch, close your hand. If they growl, close your hand. They don't get the food till they are nice. This needs to be every bite of the food. Put just enough in your hand that you can comfortably close around. This is very time consuming, but it was worth it, as it resolved most of the issue.
1.b) Nothing in Life is Free - To get anything, including food, including the food in your hand for above, the dog must do something. It is as simple as a "sit." This teaches 2 things: Manners and Self Control. Puppies have neither until taught. This progresses to the manner training to wait until you say it is ok to eat. This also progresses to many other well mannered things including getting out of a vehicle, going in or out of a door, and so much more. For now though, focus on meals / food. This doesn't take long. Just remember the short attention span and to give the food quickly.
2. Resource guarding other things - As soon as it happens, no matter what it is, that item gets put up. You don't need to say anything. Just pick up the item and put it up. This needs to be done in front of them. This teaches that the behavior they gave resulted in play time being over and all fun and games comes to a stop. This takes a little bit longer as the attention span for a puppy is extremely short. This must be consistent, by everyone and everywhere and every time. Every time they are allowed to continue playing or with the good times, it reinforces the incorrect behavior. You can also put them in their bed, but a word of caution here. The dog senses your emotions. It is very easy for a dog to translate going to bed/crate as a discipline and then you have a whole different set of issues to resolve. If you want to do this, I recommend 1st putting the item up, spend a minute or 2 ignoring the dog (collecting your thoughts/emotions), then put the dog in their bed/crate with no words spoken.

Above needs to be done by all adults in the house, not just the primary caretaker. Dogs are smart. They easily figure out who is a "push over" in the home. If you have kids, I recommend waiting for this issue to be resolved before interaction. As I said, dogs figure out who is a push over very quickly. Your dog snapping for any reason needs to be unacceptable behavior where everything fun immediately stops, including feeding. If it continues, you are putting yourself/others in a situation that could result in a bad dog bite.

Good luck. If you want more information or more details, find me on FaceBook. We can message.
 

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I too have a resource guarder (not a golden). Here is how I handled it.
1. Food - Start by making it very clear that the food comes from you and doesn't just appear. This takes time and effort on your part, but it went a long way in managing/ resolving the issue with food. To do this,
1.a) You hand feed. This can go on for a week, but it must be every meal. It is ok to use a glove to protect your fingers from the shark teeth. If they try to snatch, close your hand. If they growl, close your hand. They don't get the food till they are nice. This needs to be every bite of the food. Put just enough in your hand that you can comfortably close around. This is very time consuming, but it was worth it, as it resolved most of the issue.
1.b) Nothing in Life is Free - To get anything, including food, including the food in your hand for above, the dog must do something. It is as simple as a "sit." This teaches 2 things: Manners and Self Control. Puppies have neither until taught. This progresses to the manner training to wait until you say it is ok to eat. This also progresses to many other well mannered things including getting out of a vehicle, going in or out of a door, and so much more. For now though, focus on meals / food. This doesn't take long. Just remember the short attention span and to give the food quickly.
2. Resource guarding other things - As soon as it happens, no matter what it is, that item gets put up. You don't need to say anything. Just pick up the item and put it up. This needs to be done in front of them. This teaches that the behavior they gave resulted in play time being over and all fun and games comes to a stop. This takes a little bit longer as the attention span for a puppy is extremely short. This must be consistent, by everyone and everywhere and every time. Every time they are allowed to continue playing or with the good times, it reinforces the incorrect behavior. You can also put them in their bed, but a word of caution here. The dog senses your emotions. It is very easy for a dog to translate going to bed/crate as a discipline and then you have a whole different set of issues to resolve. If you want to do this, I recommend 1st putting the item up, spend a minute or 2 ignoring the dog (collecting your thoughts/emotions), then put the dog in their bed/crate with no words spoken.

Above needs to be done by all adults in the house, not just the primary caretaker. Dogs are smart. They easily figure out who is a "push over" in the home. If you have kids, I recommend waiting for this issue to be resolved before interaction. As I said, dogs figure out who is a push over very quickly. Your dog snapping for any reason needs to be unacceptable behavior where everything fun immediately stops, including feeding. If it continues, you are putting yourself/others in a situation that could result in a bad dog bite.

Good luck. If you want more information or more details, find me on FaceBook. We can message.
How do you put up the item when he's resource guarding it?
 

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I'd march him back to wherever you got him and ask for your money back.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
He’s not a toaster that I’ve just bought that I can just give back. That has serious implications for me, namely that I have really bonded with him and he’s a lovely boy otherwise and my kids also adore him. I was just really hoping that someone would tell me this is something that we can work through and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
 

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He’s not a toaster that I’ve just bought that I can just give back. That has serious implications for me, namely that I have really bonded with him and he’s a lovely boy otherwise and my kids also adore him. I was just really hoping that someone would tell me this is something that we can work through and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I feel for you, really. I wouldn't want to have to return my dog to the previous owner either. It just seems so strange to me that this is a golden retriever that's being so aggressive. Golden retrievers are known to be one of the least aggressive dogs! It does make me wonder about the integrity of his breeder's breeding practices. That just seems so unlike your typical golden retriever.
 

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How do you put up the item when he's resource guarding it?
For my home:
First, if I am concerned about getting bit, that is the 1st issue I address. That take priority over resolving the guarding issue. For that, you need to see a professional trainer (not a pet store training session). That is not something that can be addressed behind a computer. Meantime, the dog does not get free access to anything but water and bed. Free access only encourages the problem and every day will make it worse to resolve. If not addressed, someone will get seriously hurt.
Once the getting bit issue is resolved, then I address the resource guarding. This is tailored to the dog in front of me. For some, a simple "drop" and "leave it" is all it takes. For others, if they do not know these commands, a firm "no" and then I take the toy.
If they run off with the item, then the situation has changed from a teaching moment to a game with them. I simply walk away and ignore them. This has taught me that they cannot have that item yet. I simply wait for them to drop the item; then I get it and put it up. This hasn't worked on the guarding problem, but it also doesn't reinforce the bad behavior. Then we go back a few steps in the training. This is where the feeding by hand comes into play. That method teaches many things. For toys, the "feeding by hand" still works, just modified. They only get the toy when you are engaging them. You start the play session, you also end the play session. I wouldn't recommend having a fetch/retrieve session, as they will simply either run off with the toy or start guarding it; neither do you have control in. A game of tug is good for this training session. Teaching "drop" and "leave it" are vital tools to learn.
If they start guarding large items, that are clearly not for dogs, (like your bed, couch) then they don't get access to those luxuries. It make require having a leash on the dog when loose in the home. With the leash, you can remove them from the off limits item.
Look into Michael Elise or Susan Garrett training videos. They have a good balanced way of training and their methods are effective. Understand, if you are only on the 100% positive training side, Susan leans more this way. Michael is more balanced and deals mostly with protection dogs, but many of his instructions are good for companion homes.
 

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If you stroke him while he's growling, you are rewarding the behavior and encouraging him to do it again.
I don't agree with this at all. He's growling because he thinks whatever it is he has will be taken away and does not want to be stroked. That's not rewarding him.
 

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He’s not a toaster that I’ve just bought that I can just give back. That has serious implications for me, namely that I have really bonded with him and he’s a lovely boy otherwise and my kids also adore him. I was just really hoping that someone would tell me this is something that we can work through and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
For most dogs, yes, you can get through this. It takes lots of focus and dedication. As you know and others have said, it is not common for this breed to be aggressive. At a computer glance, your dog just seems like one that has gotten away with bad behavior and now it has escalated to something that could get dangerous. You should get a good trainer to help you; not one that does big training classes. This needs to have one on one sessions. Look into bird hunting clubs, they are a good resource for finding trainers tailored to the breed.
 

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So, you can probably work through it with the help of the RIGHT behaviorist. But I can't say that I would trust a dog who has snapped around my children. But I don't have children, and one of the reason I don't have children is because of a 10 lbs aggressive chihuahua. Not really, I wouldn't have children anyway, but having an aggressive dog that I know for certain would bite a kid makes it easier to explain to people.
So, I hear a lot about people who start out when the dogs are small puppies, and they feed them, and walk up and touch them, take away their bowl, give it back, mess around with them, etc etc etc, and almost always, I then hear that the dog is displaying resource guarding. Well, yeah. The dog has dealt with you messing with it for long enough and finally escalated to telling you to back off. I'm not saying the OP did this, because it doesn't say if she did, but this is just my experience.
I start out very young by hand feeding. I also will randomly offer some high value treat during mealtime, so the puppy starts out knowing that me being near them when they eat means good things, not bad things. I never just take things from them, especially when you're in the teaching phase. I can now. If I needed to get something away from my dogs, I can. They do not, nor have they ever displayed resource guarding with anything (except the chihuahua, but he was an adult rescue and honestly, I'm just not worried about him and his 14 teeth). But during the teaching period, I always try to instill in my dogs that I am not there to take anything away from them without giving them something better in return. By the time they're full grown, with full grown teeth, they are not apprehensive to have me around them or their food/bones. My golden routinely, from the time she was a small puppy and to this day, will bring her benebone or whatever she's chewing up to me and stand with it by my mouth, at which point I will pretend to chew on it with her and tell her thank you lol. Or she likes to bring me her bone and have me hold it for her while she chews it. Anytime she has anything remotely exciting, even if its something she really shouldn't have, she comes directly to us to show us and has never tried to hide with it or keep us from taking it. I think it's all a combo of good breeding and responsible training that's worked for us.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Re last poster I read a lot about resource guarding before buying him and from day1 did everything I could to prevent it. His bowl was never taken away we would all go up and add to his food while eating ( he doesn’t guard his bowl). If he took off with a slipper we just let him have it and he soon got bored. If he had something he really shouldn’t he knows ‘give’ and he gets a treat for giving the item back. Which is what makes this situation more heart breaking because I worked so hard to never cause him to worry around food.
i will admit I’m struggling with how on edge I feel when he’s around my kids at the moment it is exhausting because I’m on high alert at all times.
 

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Have you considered the possibility that the resource he is guarding is actually you, and not the food? In your description at the top of the page, food is in the picture every time, but so are you. I ask the question because at one point my last golden would treat me as a resource to be guarded, and while she was never overtly aggressive towards humans, she would make it clear that I was "hers", and she was aggressive to other dogs that approached me. She would have been around your dog's age at the time - the early "teenage" years. It was dealt with fairly easily by making sure she knew that I called the shots, not her, and that I didn't need guarding.
 

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Have you considered the possibility that the resource he is guarding is actually you, and not the food? In your description at the top of the page, food is in the picture every time, but so are you. I ask the question because at one point my last golden would treat me as a resource to be guarded, and while she was never overtly aggressive towards humans, she would make it clear that I was "hers", and she was aggressive to other dogs that approached me. She would have been around your dog's age at the time - the early "teenage" years. It was dealt with fairly easily by making sure she knew that I called the shots, not her, and that I didn't need guarding.
Hi Christine you make an interesting point and it did give me food for thought but then I realised he’s done it with high value treats when I wasn’t around and once to me when he had a yak chew and he’s also not bothered if I’m approached when I don’t have food
 

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This dog would also only have access to the most boring toys around. Nylabones and that's about it. Why would you buy him super special treats like rawhides, yak chews, bully sticks, etc when you know this is the outcome?
Sorry, you bought this dog as a pet and he is failing as a pet. He is a threat to your family. I think the behavior is above and beyond what any owner could manufacture. The breeder needs to deal with the problem they've created.
 
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