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Background: 2-year old, neutered male Pomeranian husky mix that we’ve had since he was 8+ weeks. Been 9 months since we’ve introduced a female who is 11 months (spayed if that makes a difference).
Dog started showing resource guarding initially when he was still a puppy with his first pig ear (of course, what else?). That’s when I decided to spend a good amount of time researching and learning how to curb this. It wasn’t easy by any means, but it got to a point where I would say it was successful. He’s always been great at commands and I could tell him to drop it/leave it and he showed no care if I walked by or was near him when he had a high value treat. Seeing that I was the one that did ALL this training with him, he was especially good with me even with bully sticks, Himalayan chews, etc to the point where he would literally eat them on my leg if I happened to be sitting by the floor.
Fast forward to now and it’s a completely different story. It almost seems like he’s a different dog which makes me sad and stressed. He’s even began resource guarding his KIBBLE which he doesn’t even like all that much. That is kind of the problem seeing that despite only having food out during meal times, he gets bored with whatever brand of kibble eventually so leaves about half in the bowl. Before I would just take it away and put it down later. No problem. Recently he has started walking away from it, but as soon as I get up to check if there’s leftover kibble or not, he will quickly start walking towards it ahead of me while looking at me over his shoulder (sometimes even with a low growl). Other times he’s acted like this (but were more easily avoidable): package arrived and I set it down in the living room and he started resource guarding it (he’s learned that sometimes packages are things for him, but this was the first time he’s been aggressive versus just excited/curious) & another incident was when we tried adding a few drops of breath freshener into his water bowl which made him not want to drink it but he guarded that as well.
Another reason why this is worrisome is that it’s a very different type of resource guarding than I’ve ever seen him do. Hard to describe but I would have to say it seems more…assertive? If that makes sense. Tail up, ears up, and a “dominant” stance where he will even bark at you if you enter his sphere that he’s protecting. (He actually lunges and snapped at my partner when he walked past during the water bowl incident. He did not actually make contact though).
He still does his normal body language when he’s resource guarding chews though which he is BACK to doing. Just this evening he was resting on the ground by the bed not too near an old hood he had been chewing on, when I decided to move toward the end of the bed. He seemed to think I might be going for the hoof on the ground (??) abs quickly went and hovered over it. At this point I’ve become attune to reading his body language and knew what he was doing/thinking. He then sat down with the hoof between his hands giving me a look of wide eyes and ears back, which I know well now means that he will be forceful if he has to.
What made this somewhat small incident tonight more stressful to me is that because of the whole guarding-kibble-thing he’s started doing, I’ve started a new method to try to curb this. And it seemed successful! Which is why when he reacted like this towards me I felt even more defeated. Yes it’s only been a few days, but it’s been MONTHS since I’ve been adjusting to his new personality. I’ve pretty much stopped touching him at all, not giving chews unless I know he’ll be in his kennel for a long period of time, never approaching him unless he’s in that relaxed/playful mood (mouth open, panting, calm eyes), and dropping treats randomly when I do approach.
As for the new training, what I’ve been doing is having his bowls out in a less restricted space during meal times so he feels less inclined to guard. Then I’ll set down the empty bowl, make him sit and wait while he sees me drop some kibble into his bowl. I walk away and wait until he’s finished with the 5-8 pieces. I’ll approach the bowl, sometimes feeding him one from my hand, and drop a few more into his bowl. I’ll switch it up and sometimes approach even when he is still finishing up and drop some more kibble. I’ll keep doing this until his portioned out kibble is gone. So far no aggressiveness whatsoever, but this also helps him eat everything in his bowl at a time. Hard to tell how well it’s working since I know it’s still early and I haven’t done it where I’m approaching when he’s left a good chunk of food behind.
If you recall from my backstory above, we did add another dog into the mix in Aug 2019. I’m sure it is no coincidence that his behavior has started escalating since the addition of the second dog. As he’s started to get along better with her, his aggressiveness with us have gotten worse. Yes we do feed them separately. When they’re playing they get along great, but they have gotten into their fair share of fights since living together. Nowadays their relationship rarely has full-on fights, but there will be many instances throughout the day where my first dog will stare and sometimes even growl at the puppy to show her that whatever she is doing isn’t okay with him. (Usually approaching him if he has something or even when he’s just laying down relaxing).
Just kind of at my wits end here with him. It’s come to the point where I’m more nervous being around him since I’ll never know what new thing that never bothered him before will make him react. Both dogs get even more walks and exercise than they used to because of us being in quarantine, but it hasn’t seemed to help his behavior. I’m going back and starting from square one with the resource guarding but it’s definitely disheartening. I understand the resource guarding around other dogs that DO want your possessions, but with humans? Especially when he was SO good about it post-training the first time around??
If anyone has any other advice or encouraging stories that would really help. I’m under a lot of stress and anxiety dealing with my otherwise amazing dog’s behavior. Thank you!
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