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 wwwbaxterandbella.com 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!