Resource guarding (other dogs) balls/food/me
Our 17 month old female GSD, Siena, is becoming protective of food/treats, balls (she's obsessed) and sometimes me when other dogs are around (never to humans, only other dogs). It has never become a problem until the past 6-8 weeks. She goes to daycare (at a private home) 3 days a week since she was about 4 months old and there have never been any problems until recently. It is making me nervous to have any of these items around if there are other dogs in the vicinity. Generally there is 4 dogs total in daycare, with the occasional other dogs being boarded, but never have I seen more than 6 or 7 dogs at once.
The daycare provider is a certified dog trainer and has her own female white shepherd (Sierra) and a husky (Nika). Those two dogs, of course are always around Siena and they get along great and play together, etc..
It started off with general low growl/bark when the ball is thrown (whether or not there was a dog actually interested in the ball, she would show her disapproval. We took the ball away, effectively giving her a time out with it.
Once at a training class (Sierra was there as she was taking the free-style class with us) after the class was over, Siena was cleaning up the floor for remaining treat scraps and Sierra walked up and Siena challenged her. Both Cheryl and I were there and broke it up easily. Sierra is the 'alpha' in the pack and Cheryl said NO other dog has ever challenged her (is Siena stupid or thinks she is alpha, not sure). The following week when I dropped her off, Siena did not want Sierra near me and did a bit of guarding (so I removed myself by walking away and not giving her the opportunity, as I was instructed to do).
About 6 weeks ago, Cheryl was giving Siena her meds in a meatball and there was a puppy there and the puppy came up while she was doing this and Siena bit the pup on the ear. She got an immediate time out and there were no other problems (the pup just stayed away).
Less than two weeks ago, following a vet visit, I dropped Siena off at daycare as I always do. I was giving her the meds (in the meatball) and she was licking my fingers when Sierra came up and gave a sniff. Siena bit her on the lip and a fight ensued. I tried (unsuccsessfully) to break them up by pulling them apart and my arm got in the way and I got bit (not bad, could have been worse) by Sierra. Cheryl grabbed Sierra by the hind legs and pulled them apart and all was done. During the scuffle and treating injuries, we failed to give Siena a time out and she was oblivious to it all and brought the ball and said "can we play". I couldn't believe it, but it happened so fast. She challenged Sierra any time the food was around that day, but not since then.
Then, Tuesday, there was a cocker spaniel there (boarding all week) and Siena was on one side of the fence (with Cheryl and the other 'big' dogs) and I was on the side with the cocker and Siena was bothered by the fact that I was playing ball with the cocker (even though she was getting her own ball play). She kept growling at the cocker and we decided to keep them separated until Siena had gotten a little tired out and then all the toys would be removed and they would be introduced. It worked beautifully and there were no problems through out the day.
Yesterday, when I picked up Siena (of course she was still playing ball) something happened (we did not see anything specific) and next thing, Siena had a hold on the cocker and she would not let go. I let Cheryl handle it and luckily, the cocker did not have any punctures, but was visibly shaken (so was I). Siena got an immediate time out and was removed from the scene (these seem to work well for her).
Cheryl and I discussed what is going on and why is this happening all the sudden. She said they played together nicely all day with no problems (four dogs chasing the ball, no problems).... I seem to be the 'instigating' factor here and that concerns me. Our plan, for now, is to give time outs for ANY guarding behavior she exhibits and will take away balls/food/me, whatever she is guarding until she learns it is an unacceptable behavior. More than that, I do not know what else can be done to stop this NOW. Most of her socialization is done at daycare (she takes them off leash on trails/walks, etc. and does not ever have any problems). I discussed it with my other half last night and we agreed on the training protocol... any guarding she gets time out, no matter where she is or who we are with.
I have friends who have dogs that are like this and it is scary and unpredictable. one can't have ANY food around her doberman because it will for sure fight any dog. Another that challenges Siena (shepherd about 2 years old, female) with toys and we just don't allow them to have it and watch them very carefully (they have tangled, generally started by the other dog).
Anyway, I want to get any constructive feedback I can from the users of this forum, because it has always helped in the past. I am a first time dog owner and probably need my own training, but our exposure to other dogs is pretty limited and we've yet to have any issues other than that at daycare...and I do not want to have any issues and don't want to have to worry about Siena becoming unpredictable.
She does have some continuing digestive issues that we have been battling since we got her and possibly a nerve issue in the hind legs. We started with a holistic vet 2 weeks ago and are making changes. He asked about how she is with other dogs and up until that fight with Sierra she was good for the most part... I will see him again tomorrow and bring this to his attention, just in case there is a medical reason...
By the way, I totally trust Cheryl and her capabilities. She never uses punishment and always uses time outs and/or positive reinforcememt or wanted behaviors. I think the problem may be me (watching too much Dog Whisperer?)
Diana - owned by Siena Rose (Oct 29, 2006)
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