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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone!

I used to visit this forum a few years ago when I was researching GSDs. My husband and I (finally) adopted our first GSD yesterday! He's a 5 year old male GSD named Duke. He is a great dog and seems to be adjusting well to his new home. We do have one concern though...

On the way home we bought him a rawhide bone and gave it to him in the back of the car. He really didn't pay much attention to it. In the house he also pretty much ignores it most of the time. Occasionally he will pick it up and walk around with it and then lay it down. Our concern is this: when he has his rawhide bone in his mouth, if we reach for it or try to take it he growls at us. Sometimes he will drop it and stand over it or lay in front of it as if he's daring us to try to get it. If we reach for it or approach it he growls. He even once growled and raised his lip and showed his teeth. This really scares me. I am afraid to assert myself with him because I know he can take my hand off if he wants to. His foster dad told us we need to stop this behavior quickly and let him know we are in control. He said if we back down when he does this he will know he has the upper hand. How do we do this safely?! And should we be concerned about this behavior? Otherwise he is super friendly and calm. He has played with a tennis ball and let us reach for it and touch it when it was in his mouth. It's not like he loves this bone...he hardly messes with it at all. But if he has it he certainly doesn't want us trying to take it.

Please help!

Thanks,
Holly
 

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Star hand feeding NOW and NILIF- look up NILIF on here. He is resource guarding because he is afraid you will take his bone and never give it back so he is protecting his resource. However, of course that is not okay behavior and if you fear him he will use your fear to push things to and past the limits. I would not give him any bones right now first of all and hand feed each meal so he understands you control the food, but will give it to him for behaving appropriately. Once he trusts you through hand feeding because it will teach him you not only give food back but control it gaining leadership work on the drop command with a toy.

To do this I like to have 2 high value toys....something they love to play with. Put one in his mouth with the other out of sight. Then while he is engaged with toy 1 bring out toy 2 from hiding and say "drop it". Usually they will drop it instinctively to inspect the other toy. Give him the other toy and tons of praise the minute he drops it. You can also use a clicker and treats to really mark the dropping behavior or actually use the treat as the lure instead of toy 2. So instead you would bring the food near his nose, say drop it, allow him to drop the toy, click, and treat. I would do this for a few weeks before transitioning this to an actual bone.

When you decide he is good with drop it add a bone to the mix. Give him his bone, then wave a treat by his nose, say drop it, click, and treat. Keep making him drop the bone for a treat or toy and in a month he'll understand that when he drops whatever you want from his mouth he is given something else and gets his bone back.

You need to totally remove bones from him now because when he growls and you back off he is learning he controls his resources and not you. This can turn into turf guarding, food guarding, and other possessive behaviors that will lead to someone getting bit eventually. Say bye bye to bones for now, hand feed all meals, and work on drop it. Some OB classes with you guys even if he knows the commands would be really good just to assert your leadership and help form a bond. Right now your a stranger trying to take his stuff and he is just worried he won't get it back if he doesn't lay down the law.
 

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Not advising you to do this, but if my dog ever bared his teeth at me for any reason, I would absolutely rock his world. He would be laid up for days getting over it. If he only shows this behavior where his rawhide bone is concerned, then take it away from him and never give it back. He is definately resource guarding and this needs to be corrected asap before it gets any worse. Do you practice NILIF?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the quick responses!

1. We were already thinking maybe we should just lay off the bone for a while. So we will put it up and not get it out for a while. Like I said, I don't even think he will notice or care. He rarely touches the thing.

2. He does take treats pretty gently from our hands. We have not hand fed him a meal yet, but will try that. We do run our hands through his food before giving it to him. Should we just hold the bowl on our lap and get handfuls of the food and give it to him?

3. We are not familiar with NILIF. I guess I'll have to research it. Do any of you have links to a good summary of the program?

4. Duke's foster dad had the same approach as you did, RazinKain. He told us Duke did this to him once or twice and he grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and laid him down and told him no. He held him there until Duke calmed down and he said Duke didn't challenge him after that. However, my husband and I are very inexperienced with GSDs and with asserting leadership with dogs. We do not feel comfortable doing something like that with Duke...mainly because of fear of how he would react. Since he doesn't know us, we worry he might bite us if we do something like that with him.

5. He has a tennis ball and he once growled when we tried to take that, but since then he has played with it with us and allowed us to touch it while it is in his mouth and will take it from our hands. I'm hoping it isn't a toy aggression but rather the resource guarding as you both pointed out.

Please offer any other suggestions you might have. And thank you!
 

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I would also correct the snot out of him until he saw the light, but I know what I'm doing and you don't which means it's just not safe for you do to that. For now, you should take the rawhide away from him and anything else that he doesn't want to let you have. Try and find something he likes to play with with you, like tuggy or fetch, and do that so he figures out that playing with you is a good thing.
 

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Not advising you to do this, but if my dog ever bared his teeth at me for any reason, I would absolutely rock his world. He would be laid up for days getting over it.
Or you might be the one laid up for days getting over abusing your dog. Taking that attitude can cause HUGE problems. How do I know? I have fostered dogs who were beaten and became fear aggressive because of it. In fact, I adopted one and it took years to get him to the point where he was safe around people. I could say a lot more but I'll just leave it at the ultimate goal with your dog should be to establish yourself as a calm, consistent and fair pack leader. You want your dog to trust and respect you and never to fear you. Fear brings out the worst in a dog.

To the OP: Growling is actually a good thing. A dog growl means, "Back off!" You never want to train a growl out of a dog. However, resource guarding is not a desirable behavior. I would follow the instructions for trading up except I would do it with food. You must always have the higher value food in your hand. Here are good step by step instructions: Resource Guarding

Also, rawhides really aren't safe or healthy chew toys. I would just throw that out and once you've got him more comfortable with giving you things you can get him a bully stick or something like that.
 

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I would also correct the snot out of him until he saw the light, but I know what I'm doing and you don't which means it's just not safe for you do to that.
What's up with this Elaine? It's just plain bad advice and you know it. If you truly know what you're doing then you don't have to "correct the snot" out of any dog. You know very well that if you do that with a dog you don't know you're likely to end up getting bitten. If it is a dog that you know well then it is a training error on your part.
 

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Absolutely DO NOT try to "CORRECT the snot out of him" now unless like some said you are prepared to fight him. Almost certainly he will try to protect himself and fight given his history I think. "Trading" the thing he has for a higher value thing is the way to go with a strange adult dog and much safer for all.

If he was a little puppy then you could corrct him for that behavior (gently of course0 and even just train him from the start that you or anybody can take anything he has around or in his mouth without him reacting other than a sad look! But not an adult GSD unless you are very prepared for his reaction.

However, you also can not show any fear or hesitation around him or else he will learn that he is pack leader and can do as he wants to do.
 

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What's up with this Elaine? It's just plain bad advice and you know it. If you truly know what you're doing then you don't have to "correct the snot" out of any dog. You know very well that if you do that with a dog you don't know you're likely to end up getting bitten. If it is a dog that you know well then it is a training error on your part.
Kind of depends on what she means by "correct the snot out of" - might be appropriate for some things and some dogs but certainly not in this particular case for reasons of safty of all involved.
 

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Since you are apprehensive and admit you aren't that dog savvy, I agree with the posters who have said DO NOT correct the snot out of him or you may get a nice bite out of it.

A rawhide, or raw bone, is most likely viewed as high value to him and he's going to defend it. For now, keep those types of things away from him.

I totally agree with feeding him by hand, and I would NOT be messing with his food, as in putting your hands thru it while he's attempting to eat. YOU hold the bowl, YOU dish it out to him. Piece by piece of necessary..

My feeling on messing with food, is, my dogs don't mess with my food or while I'm eating, I'm not going to mess with theirs.

Give him a few weeks to learn to trust you, he sounds like a nice dog otherwise, and heck you could have way worse problems than him 'guarding' 'defending' , high value stuff like bones.

IF you want to give him something ,,I am assuming your crating him at times?? Buy a kong, fill it with peanut butter, put it in his crate with him, and let him enjoy it in peace.:)

I also agree with not not showing him fear or hesitation because he will pick up on that and take advantage of it.

For right now, I'd let him settle into his new home and you all can just enjoy each other:)
 

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Thank you so much, everyone! Y'all are making me feel better about this. Something just didn't sit right with us when we thought about correcting him and asserting our authority. We just are not confident doing that right now. Last night the bone was in another room so I just went and picked it up and put it up on a high shelf. I'm sure he won't even notice.

We don't run our hands through his food WHILE he's eating. We run our hands through it before putting his bowl down. A friend of ours (who is a GSD owner) suggested that so his food will have our scent in it. I tried hand feeding him this morning, but he wasn't interested. He hasn't eaten anything yet today. I think he is just eating lightly since he's still getting used to the place.

Regarding crating...we actually do not have a crate yet. We adopted him on Saturday and had already ordered a crate on Amazon (2nd day air). It should be here tomorrow (Tuesday). We would NOT have done this had his fosters not told us that he can be completely trusted loose in the house. They told us he had never chewed anything in their house. He has slept overnight twice now loose and did not disturb anything. We left him loose in the house yesterday for about 30 minutes while we ran an errand, and he did fine. Today is our first work day with him and we adjusted our schedules so that he won't be home alone for more than 2-3 hours at a time. We will see how it goes. Honestly, we aren't too worried about it. He has shown no interest in chewing anything, and has had no potty accidents.

His fosters told us that he really hasn't shown interest in toys. They tried the Kong with PB but they said he didn't care much about it. We gave him a tennis ball yesterday and he has had a couple of good chewing sessions with it. He likes it, but doesn't play with it a lot. I think the "trading" thing will work better with treats for him. He definitely loves treats and we are able to get him to "perform" for treats.

Can we "trade" with an object, such as a bone, and treats? As in, when we are ready to try something like a bone to train him that it is ok to let us have it, could we give him the bone and then trade up for treats?
 

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NILIF is going to be your best bet for this dog. If this was a puppy, or young dog, or even an adult you knew well and had raised since puppyhood - perhaps a correction would be in order.

The combination of a 5 yr old adopted dog, insecure leadership on your part, and resource guarding and not knowing whether he's bluffing or not (don't assume he is, he very well may not be) is not a good combo to correct him.

What I would recommend you do is put a prong collar on him with a drag line in the house. Minimum 6 feet of line. This way you can take the line and issue a correction via the collar, and remove him from the situation.

I'd also ditch the rawhides as someone else already mentioned. But you need to address this - don't just get rid of the rawhide and ignore the problem since the rawhide isn't there to cause it. Set him up with a desirable item (toy, treat, etc) and start working on "leave it." Put the item on the floor, tell him to LEAVE IT and when he approaches it issue a correction via the collar. Reiterate the leave it command, and begin again.

Only have the collar and drag line on when you are there to supervise for safety reasons.
 

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I would also correct the snot out of him until he saw the light, but I know what I'm doing and you don't which means it's just not safe for you do to that. For now, you should take the rawhide away from him and anything else that he doesn't want to let you have. Try and find something he likes to play with with you, like tuggy or fetch, and do that so he figures out that playing with you is a good thing.
Instead of correcting the snot out of a new and confused dog that is merely resource guarding.

I would, instead, teach him to trust you and your new leadership role as not someone who is a taker................ but a someone to be trusted and a giver.

Just come in low with a huge hunk of cheese and when your dog moves to eat the cheese, you can then take the rawhide.

So they learn that you are to be TRUSTED and only mean good when you want what they have in their mouth.

Rather than you are suddenly the SCARIEST THING EVER which never helped build trust in my dog training book.

 

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You've gotten great advise in this thread, I just wanted to point out that rawhides and tennis balls aren't particularly good for your dog to chew on. Rawhides can cause blockages if they ingest large chunks; tennis balls are bad for his teeth. Go with bully sticks instead of rawhides and get the balls that are especially made for dogs instead of tennis balls.
 

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Thank you so much, everyone!

Regarding crating...we actually do not have a crate yet. We adopted him on Saturday and had already ordered a crate on Amazon (2nd day air). It should be here tomorrow (Tuesday). We would NOT have done this had
Can we "trade" with an object, such as a bone, and treats? As in, when we are ready to try something like a bone to train him that it is ok to let us have it, could we give him the bone and then trade up for treats?
So I just read your post :) and YOU have a good chance of ending up an EXCELLENT dog trainer! Cause you already see that we can be smart and use our human brains to help with these issues. Rather than just use force and terrify them into compliance.

Absolutely trade up for treats. Hand feed. Tons of POSITIVE based training so your dog learns that you are wonderful and that people are wonderful. Listening/learning/obeying people is WONDERFUL!
 

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You've gotten great advise in this thread, I just wanted to point out that rawhides and tennis balls aren't particularly good for your dog to chew on. Rawhides can cause blockages if they ingest large chunks; tennis balls are bad for his teeth. Go with bully sticks instead of rawhides and get the balls that are especially made for dogs instead of tennis balls.
Why are tennis balls bad for teeth? I've never heard this before.

Thanks!
 

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I read the article about trading...that makes so much sense to me. A real good idea for when my new puppy gets here. Thanks so much for this forum...by the way ...could i use this "trade" for training the pup to drop and leave stuff he might pick up out side.???
 

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Why are tennis balls bad for teeth? I've never heard this before.

Thanks!
The glue erodes tooth enamel. Also tennis balls can get caught in the throat or windpipe.

Personally I will only use balls that are bigger than a tennis ball and made for dogs out of rubber or some other safe material.
 

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:D
Since you are apprehensive and admit you aren't that dog savvy, I agree with the posters who have said DO NOT correct the snot out of him or you may get a nice bite out of it.

A rawhide, or raw bone, is most likely viewed as high value to him and he's going to defend it. For now, keep those types of things away from him.

I totally agree with feeding him by hand, and I would NOT be messing with his food, as in putting your hands thru it while he's attempting to eat. YOU hold the bowl, YOU dish it out to him. Piece by piece of necessary..

My feeling on messing with food, is, my dogs don't mess with my food or while I'm eating, I'm not going to mess with theirs.

Give him a few weeks to learn to trust you, he sounds like a nice dog otherwise, and heck you could have way worse problems than him 'guarding' 'defending' , high value stuff like bones.

IF you want to give him something ,,I am assuming your crating him at times?? Buy a kong, fill it with peanut butter, put it in his crate with him, and let him enjoy it in peace.:)

I also agree with not not showing him fear or hesitation because he will pick up on that and take advantage of it.

For right now, I'd let him settle into his new home and you all can just enjoy each other:)
I consider this to be excellent advice.
 
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