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Puppy Growling and Guarding
  • Ninu21Ninu21
    Posts: 7
    I've seen a few threads related to this topic, but they don't really address the same issue I'm having with my 3 month old pup, Sanji. I've trained him to wait to eat his food ("stay") until I tell him he can ("ok"). He does this very well and sometimes I ask him to give me his paw or lay down before I say "ok". I've read that this method helps the dog understand that the food is not his and that I am dominant and letting him have it. The problem comes when sometimes he starts to growl. I don't know what causes him to do this and it's happened about 10 times. I usually tell him to "stay" about half way through eating his bowl and he does this without any signs of aggression or discomfort. I've also fed him a treat from my hand half way through eating his food occasionally so he's comfortable with my hands being around the food dish and I pet him while he eats too.

    The first time it really got out of hand was this past weekend and then it happened again this morning. He's had food in between these two instances so, again, I don't know what's setting him off. He pretty much snapped and was snarling and showing me his teeth and so I took the food bowl out of his crate and he went for my hands. I grabbed his snout each time and held it closed and said "no" and after clawing and biting at me and giving me some decent cuts he finally calmed down.

    He doesn't guard anything else and the only other time he growled was around a really big dog. I don't know what's causing him to growl seemingly randomly but I don't think my method of discipline is working either. Any advice on this would be amazing because after those last two episodes, my hands could use a break. I'm not sure if this has anything to do with dominance?? I know he definitely sees himself above me at this point. Thanks in advance!

    This is Sanji's attitude face:

    [mod edit: changed category]
    Post edited by sunyata at 2017-03-23 12:17:52
  • LilikoiLilikoi
    Posts: 949
    He is not trying to arrange you and him in a Peking order. That's an old fashioned view of dog training that has been debunked. It's true that simpler animals like chickens and bulls establish a hierarchy, but even wild wolves do not. They work as a cooperative family unit to provide for their young together. It's been well proven that more sophisticated animals do not try to bully those below them to assert dominance. It's also been proven that dogs don't see humans as their own kind and do not think of you as part of the "pack." There's a great article on Sophia Yin's site explaining some of this. Or you can literally read scholarly articles and read through the actual studies and their results.

    Anyway, how old is he?? He looks quite young. I would never interrupt my pup when he's eating. I don't want to teach him that he has to worry about me taking his food away. I am not interested in his food, it is his, and I don't want him to feel threatened by my presence. I want him to know that I have zero interest in his food. I don't want it. I have him stay until I finish his food too, and tell him "okay" when it's ready. Sometimes I used to hold the food for him and show him that just because I'm touching it doesn't mean I will ever move it away from him. I sometimes pet him while he's eating and keep it very casual. I give the food, I do not take it away. I can be nearby without him worrying that his food might be taken away.

    Punishing a dog for growling can cause them to no longer give warning signs. Growling is a form of communication. If you punish them for growling, they might learn to skip that step and go straight to the biting without warning. I would keep it simpler and just let him eat his food from your hand or with you nearby, without you taking the food or pushing him past his threshold. If he doesn't like you to be right next to him, stay close without making him uncomfortable. Toss treats so he knows you being near is a good thing, not something to be concerned about. Slowly work up to getting closer.
    Post edited by Lilikoi at 2017-03-22 18:45:03
  • Mochi920Mochi920
    Posts: 330
    First off, why are you grabbing your puppy by the muzzle? That's only going to aggravate him even more and make him less willing to trust you. For starters, don't do that unless you want to escalate the situation. Also, you shouldn't punish your dog for growling unless you want him to go straight to biting you without warning because you're technically teaching him that growling is a no no.

    Is there a particular reason why you're telling him to stay while he's halfway through eating his food?
    Hmmm maybe he's guarding the empty food bowl and you reaching in to actually touch it made it worse.

    Edit: oops was in the middle of typing this out when lilikoi wrote a response. But yeah, didn't want to sound like I was echoing the same advice as if the first post wasn't there for you to read!

    Oh and I also do the same as @lilikoi
    I don't bother my puppy whiles she's eating. Maybe a little bit of petting but never touch her bowl unless I'm adding food in there. Oh and I sometimes just sit there watching her because it's like the satisfaction a mom gets watching her child eating :x
    Post edited by Mochi920 at 2017-03-22 18:53:36
  • Mochi920Mochi920
    Posts: 330
    Oh and you can look at the life thread @anjyil made for her puppy Coal. She also had issues with Coal and food and maybe it can kind of help you with yours if food guarding is what it is :)
  • Ninu21Ninu21
    Posts: 7
    That's reassuring to hear about the dominance thing @lilikoi I was worried after seeing him listen to my boyfriend. He never even tries to bite him. Sanji is 3 months old and I've had him for 5 weeks.

    The first time Sanji growled I'd just given him his food and at that point I wasn't making him wait or interrupting him. That's when I first got the advice to start the current method I've been using.

    I'm not sure if it helps to mention that he was the only pup in his litter. I know this brings a different set of challenges on it's own, but could this behavior be related to it too?

    @Mochi920 I was instructed to do these things (perhaps wrongly so) but it seems like there are a million methods out there and I've been told to do this and that by all kinds of people. I'm realizing the current methods aren't working so I'm grateful for your suggestions. This is my first puppy and despite all my research before getting him, I was surprised when I couldn't find a pattern for his outbursts. He otherwise is so perfectly behaved, it's shocking.

    But you both think it's food guarding and not something else that I'm doing? Because like I said before, it's only happened a few times and I can't tell what triggers it.

    Thank you!!!!
  • BiohazardiaBiohazardia
    Posts: 82
    Ninu, my puppy is so young he hasn't had this issue yet. But my breeder told me to feed my pup primarily out of my hand or via Kong for the first entire month to avoid resource guarding and to teach him that I control the food, the food is coming from me. I think the stay idea is pretty good, but hand-feeding I think could help since you would be 100% controlling the food.

    I am also putting a few pieces of kibble in his bowl so he understands it, then sometimes taking it away and adding more kibble or adding something nice and fun (a little salmon oil, a bit of egg, etc) then setting it down. I agree with the other posts that petting while he eats is always good. He has been 100% fine with this so far, but again, my pup is so young he won't show guarding behavior yet.
    Post edited by Biohazardia at 2017-03-22 20:53:52
  • Mochi920Mochi920
    Posts: 330
    Yes it gets quite confusing when there's so many different rights and wrongs that conflict with each other. Positive reinforcement is the best way to teach a shiba right from wrong and it is also the fastest way to strengthen the bond :)

    Does it happen during feeding time or whenever you walk by his food bowl?
  • spacedogsspacedogs
    Posts: 267
    I do something similar with our dogs, in having them sit and wait while I put the food down. Laika has food guarding issues that we've mostly worked through but she still gets anxious at meal times. She doesn't care once her food is down but while it's being prepped she gets upset and guards it from Rhyz and the cat, so we've taught them both to sit at opposite ends of the kitchen (it's a small kitchen so this only gives them like 3 feet of separation but it's better than nothing). Once she's sure she's getting her bowl of food she really doesn't care about anyone elses, however I can touch and pet her while she's eating I typically just leave her be and let her eat. I'd never take her dish away, that'd just reinforce her fear that she won't get her food.

    Here's an example of them eating - the food was ready so there was no fuss to be made at this point, she just waited nicely, offered me a paw, and our rule is to wait for them to make and hold eye contact before letting them take the food. We push the boundary of how long we expect them to hold it for every week or so, we've definitely noticed a more relaxed feel / less intensely hurried eating, especially from Rhyz. Laika still inhales her food but she doesn't freak out until it's put down any more.

    Progress is progress. Sometimes it takes baby steps, but for you the biggest progress will probably come when you cease to think of your relationship with your dog as a power struggle. Dogs gonna be a dog no matter how in charge you need to feel. :)
    Post edited by spacedogs at 2017-03-22 23:25:46
  • LilikoiLilikoi
    Posts: 949
    @Ninu21 - he's still very young. Ozzy (he's about 16 months old now) has never guarded his food, except once when he was very young and was eating a chicken neck. He just growled and ran away from me lol. So, I started holding his food regularly, and I still hand feed his kibble a lot of the time. Idk if I would even call that heavy "guarding" yet, but just expressing his discomfort with food being messed with, and letting us know that they don't want to share lol. So my aim isn't to teach him to be willing to share and be willing to let me take his food. My aim is to show him that I do not want to take his food from him, and he doesn't need to worry about me in his space during meal times.

    I think him being a singleton probably brings on a lot of additional challenges! Definitely be patient and be consistent. :)
  • Ninu21Ninu21
    Posts: 7
    Thank you for all of the tips! It's helpful hearing about your experiences too, as no one I know has this breed of dog.

    Last night and this morning I fed him from my hand with no issues. I'll continue this and see how he does.

    Thanks again for you help!
  • Ninu21Ninu21
    Posts: 7
    So we've figured out it's not actually the food he's possessive of, it's the bowl. He eats from my hand fine but then when we give him food out of the bowl he starts to growl. Do you think just feeding him from my hand will eventually correct this?
  • LilikoiLilikoi
    Posts: 949
    Maybe you could try putting a few pieces at a time into the bowl? Not taking the bowl away, but showing him that even when in the bowl, it's coming from you. Or hold the bowl with food in it and grab a few pieces at a time for hand feeding?
    Post edited by Lilikoi at 2017-03-26 17:44:14
  • SayaSaya
    Posts: 6675
    This book might help with this.
    Never had this issue with my shiba she only resource guarded from cat.
    Nicole, 5year old Bella(Boxer), and 4year old Saya(Shiba inu)

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