Do I have a potential problem with aggressive behavior?
August 17, 2011 8:55 PM   Subscribe

My adult female Rottweiler exhibited resource guarding aggression for the first time today. I am inclined to simply not give her the treat that made her growl ever again, but what else should I be doing to insure we don't have a problem?

If she were anything but a Rottweiler (obligatory pic), I wouldn't be very concerned. But because she is a big toothy Rottie, I have to give this a second thought.

As a result of this question, I got my girl some Himalayan chews to try out something new. They came in the mail today, and she went apeshit for it. She has never liked anything nearly as much - not meat, not her buffalo bully sticks - nothing.

Normally, she is not food aggressive IN THE SLIGHTEST. She never has been. I routinely take food and treats back from her (as does my husband and other people) and she doesn't mind. She's not aggressive about anything. Never has been in the nearly two years we have had her. Today, though, when my husband bent down to examine the stick she was chewing on so enthusiastically, she growled as his hand grew near. He got it away from her without a fight, and she never snapped at him, but the growling was a concern.

I have two more sticks, but I am inclined to not give it to her anymore, because I don't see any need to give her any reason to get growly - she has plenty of other chew toys (kongs, antler, bully sticks) and I want to discourage this behavior.

Tl;dr - What else can I do to insure that my dog doesn't turn into a growling, snarly mess over treats and toys? Am I overreacting because she growled once at my husband when he reached in to grab her treat?
posted by msali to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Give her something she likes. Once she has it, give her something better (like real meat if you absolutely have to) and take away the thing she likes. Repeat exhaustively, trying to ease slowly to a point where she will never guard anything cause she knows you always have better stuff.
posted by about_time at 8:59 PM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Or trade her one of exactly the same thing if it is the apex of Greatness. She'll figure out that losing it is rewarded! I think removing it permanently will achieve the opposite goal.
posted by mckenney at 9:06 PM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Work on taking the toy away from her. If she lets you take it without any problems, hold onto it for a few seconds (I like to pretend to eat the chew toy) tell her she's good and give it back to her. Do this with all sorts of toys and treats, if she is super guardy of the Himalayan treats and you are worried about her biting you start out with something of lesser "value" in her mind that she won't guard so highly.
posted by wwax at 9:42 PM on August 17, 2011

Is she young? If so, you can probably work on it. My childhood adopted dog was adopted at age 4, and just never got rawhides or anything else "better" after numerous super growly and totally out of character incidents. And he was a great, laid back dog otherwise, absolutely the best with kids. Moose, the now 1 year old lab pup we adopted earlier this year, does get awesome chews, but only after he and I worked out that a) he wasn't going to lunge at me if I took away his Awesome Treat, and b) I give him other things, so it's okay. It didn't take ismore than 2 or 3 days (spaced out over 10-15 minutes each, using advice similar to this thread). But he's kind of obsessive about respecting his place in the hierarchy... I can leave boxes of treats at dog eye level and he won't touch them. So I'm not sure if that's typical.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:53 PM on August 17, 2011

I had a similar issue with my Corgi, who would be cool with anything but a certain type of rawhide, and she'd go bananas if anyone ever came near her when she had one.

We did what others said; I gave it to her for a few seconds but held another one in my hand and as she ate one for only a few seconds, I'd say, "Leave it," and then have her come get another one.

But for some reason it just didn't work with this type of treat; she was crazily possessive about them and I had to stop buying them for her.
posted by kinetic at 2:02 AM on August 18, 2011

Dogs are easy to condition. This behaviour is not acceptable. The moment she starts to growl, shout in a loud, sharp and stern voice "NO!" and also point right at the dog whilst looking in her eyes. She should be in no doubt about who you are addressing, and who is in charge. Rinse and repeat for obedient, well behaved dog.
posted by dougrayrankin at 4:14 AM on August 18, 2011

Dougray, that may work for some dogs. For others it will teach them that when they have something good, the owner will fight them for it.
posted by about_time at 4:53 AM on August 18, 2011

There was a question on a similiar topic about 2 days ago. Here was my answer to that question...

"A more personal experience is my dog. When we first got him, and we gave him a rawhide treat, he would suddenly turn into this wild resource guarding dog. It was as if the rawhide triggered a sleeping wild animal instinct and he would growl anytime me or my wife would go near him with his treat to the point where he would snarl and show his teeth in lunge stance. This was pretty scary for us because we never saw our dog growl or be aggressive before. He was calm as a button 99% of the time.

Well, we knew this was unacceptable. We eventually got him to calm down significantly about rawhides by doing the following. Before giving him a rawhide, I would lay the treat at my feet about 1 foot in front of me and about 2 feet in front of the dog while he was sitting. We would just stand there and if he tried to move or get the treat, I would immediately snap my fingers and say no. It would be a few minutes and then I would tell him to lay down and I would sit. Still, with the treat out of reach for him, I would start playing with the rawhide. Picking it up and moving it, basically showing the dog that it’s my treat. I did this for several more minutes. I would then let the dog sniff the rawhide before taking it back and playing with it some more. Eventually, I would let the dog have it. While he was chewing it I would pet him and make sure he was calm and show that it was ok for humans to be around while he ate the rawhide. If he growled at all, I would immediately take the treat away and put it in front of me for a minute or two before giving it back to him, trying to show that there was no need to guard it and if he was calm, then he would get the treat back. We give him the occasional rawhide, but typically avoid them as stated above."

posted by amazingstill at 5:56 AM on August 18, 2011

Best answer: Taking things away from dogs on a routine basis is the way to CREATE resource guarding behavior. This whole business of taking food and toys away from dogs is ancient history and has caused far more cases of resource guarding than it's prevented (think about it, I give you a cookie, then I take away the cookie, what am I teaching you?). If you give her something, leave her alone with it, if she has something she shouldn't have, trade her for something better. Teach her a leave it or "give" command by TRADING, not just taking, once you give it to her, it's hers, forget any nonsense you'll hear about how it's still YOUR treat, it's not, and this sort of thinking will make this issue far worse and far more dangerous. The quoted passage from amazingstill is precisely what behaviorists LOATHE to hear, and is exactly the opposite of what modern trainers and veterinary behaviorists recommend, it may "work" on some dogs, but it will make things far worse in most, and it is still not actually solving the problem.

I would give high value treats only in her crate, I would simply not give her the problematic chew again, and please stop taking things away from her. You can start retraining her to not feel the need to resource guard with something low value, trade for something better, then give her back the first thing (this is teaching her that you asking for her to give up something can be good for her, AND it doesn't always mean she loses the first thing forever).
posted by biscotti at 7:14 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, as always. I really appreciate all your responses.
Our girl has never, not once, shown aggression over anything AT ALL until yesterday with her new Himalayan chew. She can have raw meat, bully sticks, peanut butter filled kongs and she will not mind in the slightest if they are taken away from her. Partly I think this is due to the fact that she is not so much food driven as she is affection driven. She would drop her most highly prized treat in an instant to be with her people. That's what made the behavior yesterday so strange.
I am not going to encourage it anymore because I simply won't give her this treat again. I loathe seeing my dog growl, because it is so unlike her to do so. She won't suffer the loss, she has plenty of other high-value distractions. I am going to keep an even more watchful eye over her than I already do.

(PS - The other night I went to a movie with my mother-in-law. When introduced to one of her friends, this woman exclaimed, "Oh! You're the dog girl!" I'll take that. I am quite the dog girl)
posted by msali at 9:03 AM on August 18, 2011

a leave it or "give" command by TRADING, not just taking, once you give it to her, it's hers, forget any nonsense you'll hear about how it's still YOUR treat, it's not, and this sort of thinking will make this issue far worse and far more dangerous.

It absolutely is YOUR treat. You bought it, you gave it and you can take it away. Your dog needs to know your'e the pack leader. Dogs only respect you if you're in charge and assertive. If you're in charge you don't "trade" but you also don't just take it from her. You walk up to it and own it. You stand there assertively until she gives it up. Your dog needs to know you are the one that gives and that takes away. She may be confused as to what you want at first but she'll get it eventually once she figures out what you want. If your dog doesn't give it up and you have to trade her for it she's obviously telling you you're not the one in charge and you're going to have a much bigger problem on your hands in the years to come.
posted by no bueno at 6:41 AM on August 19, 2011

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