It’s MINE!

Have you ever had a dog that wouldn’t give up a toy or growled if you came near his dish while he was eating.

I’ve seen and heard of it before. The dog thinks, “This toy is mine! This food dish is mine! This person’s lap is mine! This crate is mine!”

It’s called resource guarding. And it can be an issue with little dogs.

So how do we prevent our sweet, adorable puppy from turning into Cujo?

Some people will tell you that you need to establish dominance when a puppy acts this way. “Show them your the alpha!”  I don’t agree. You can make the problem worse.

Instead, start when they are young. Remember the socialization period starts around three weeks of age and ends at around twelve to fourteen weeks of age. During that period (and we start these exercises before your puppy leaves here and you’ll need to keep practicing) you’re going to practice taking things from your puppy and offering him something really delicious in return. It won’t take long for your puppy to understand when a human approaches him whether he’s in someone’s lap on the couch, sleeping in his crate, eating dinner or playing with his favorite toy, that something really good is coming his way!

How do you do this?

We start with a very simple exercise. When a puppy or (usually it’s the litter here) have their head/s in the food dish enjoying a meal, I will reach my hand into the dish (between all the hungry heads) and add something really yummy like small pieces of shredded, cooked chicken. You can be sure that will get their attention.

When you get your puppy home you can do the same. When puppy is eating out of his dish, first do what we did and reach your hand down and add a bit of chicken or small piece of cheese. (These are what we call high value treats). Then step it up a notch. Next time reach down and pick puppy’s food dish up and give him the treat. Then give the dish back. Keep practicing this. Remember the treat should be small and special. You can’t take his dish away and offer him a piece of the same kibble he was just eating.

Use the same technique if he is chewing on a bone, a toy or a Kong filled with food. Take it away and give him the treat. Then give the bone or toy back. Sometimes when we first take away a special bone or toy a young puppy might growl or stiffen. If this happens, don’t reprimand the puppy, just follow through; take the bone away and give the treat, then give the bone back.

The lady I learned this from raises Bull Terriers (which are pretty tough little guys). Sometimes even young puppies would growl and stiffen at her on the first or second attempts. She never scolds the puppy. She just follows through with the exercise. And by the second or third time you could see the whole demeanor and body posture change on the puppy. It has already learned something better was coming and it didn’t have to “guard” it’s prize. (Please realize this is for young puppies. If you have an adult dog or older puppy past the socialization period who is growling or already has guarding issues, consult a professional trainer. I would highly recommend Don’t forget to use our discount code; “PINEWOOD”)

Keep doing this with different scenarios. Let’s say you’re sitting on the couch with puppy in your lap. Have another family member approach and give the puppy a treat while it’s in your lap. Or have another family member or friend hold your puppy standing up and a different person approaches and treats the puppy.

If puppy is napping in it’s crate,  (don’t startle him awake) quietly say his name to wake him and call him out of the crate for the treat.

The idea is whenever we have something that could be valuable to your puppy that we “replace” it (in the instances of food, bones, and things we’re taking away) with something better. And in occasions where we are approaching a treasured spot (a lap, crate, bed, etc) we’re obviously not taking that thing away but coming with a treat so the treat is more exciting then the “place”.

And that’s how we prevent Cuddles from becoming Cujo!

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10 Responses to It’s MINE!

  1. Didi Dame says:

    great tip!

  2. Kathy Liddell says:

    This is probably the most valuable thing I’ve ever read when it comes to dogs. We had a dog that resource guarded. I’ve probably had 15 dogs in my lifetime and none were like our Kayla – smartest, most beautiful and most difficult. When we first got her, we took her for training and the instructor did believe in making sure the puppies knew who was “alpha”. She told us we would always have a problem with this dog – I finished her class and went to another trainer. I thought she just didn’t like our dog. She was a mini Aussie and I was her everything. We socialized her as best we could – took her to puppy play dates (many times) and took her everywhere with us – that’s what she told us to do and we did. At the puppy play dates, she cowered under my chair and it took a lot to get her out – she never warmed up to the other puppies – even after 8 or 9 times. Her focus was on me – not playing with the puppies. The older she got the worse it became to the point where I had to lock her up when the grandkids came over. We tried more training with professionals, but it really didn’t help. She guarded her food, me and our home. We could calm her down when people came into our home (it took work) but when they left, she would go after them – bit but never broke skin. We did not trust her around children at all. I will say I always felt safe with her around if my hubby was out of town. In other areas she trained wonderfully! She could fetch like no other and learned new tricks so fast it was shocking! I loved that dog! She is gone now; I still cry when I think of her. It certainly was a problem though. I really like this approach much better – it makes sense! Thank you so very much for sharing! I will say, I hope we don’t have that problem again, but this will help us deal with it if it does happen.

    May I ask if resource guarding is a common thing in this breed? I have had 3 cockapoos in my life and never had this issue.

    • I’m glad it was helpful. I think this can be a problem with any dog, not specifically Cavapoos, but I have seen a couple with it. We have a neutered adult (he was never used for breeding) that is a resource guarder. We did not have this information when he was little to teach his owner how to prevent it. There’s always something to learn with animals 🙂

  3. Destanee & Josh says:

    Great info thanks for the tips!

  4. Cathy says:

    Thank you for this valuable information. I hope to get on your waiting list soon. I’ve done all the things you suggested so I’ll be eager to see a notification.

  5. karen beaver says:

    Thankyou for sharing your knowledge – very good reminders and training for owners

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