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This is my first time owning a dog. My wife and I complicated the situation by taking in a young stray only 6 months after getting our first dog. We went to lots of classes and got help from many friends on training them and they are well behaved in the sense that they respond quickly to my commands, I can walk them without a leash and make them come with 100% recall, and they respect the rules we set for them.

One of the dogs is a large dog, he's half great pyrenees, half lab. We had him since he was very young. The other dog is smaller about 50 lbs and she is also well behaved except that she is jealous (always trying to get pet when you are petting the other dog) and she takes the larger dogs food from time to time. This has made the larger dog, who before this has always been very very passive to become defensive when it comes to his treats.

Today I was with the smaller dog and approaching the larger dog while he was eating his bone. He looked defensive so I put the smaller dog in the garage and approached him at which point he growled at me. I think I made a mistake then because i slowly walked away went inside grabbed a treat and used it to approach him. Should I have tried to reprimand him for growling at me? I have to admit I love my dog but even though I met him when he was 5 lbs, seeing a 100 lb dog growl at you menacingly is still scary.

In any case I would like to know how others feel the proper way of dealing with a situation where a large dog is growling at you. He has never been aggressive except for this one time he growled at me. He has never bit anyone and has been in one short fight with a pitbull who has gotten into a fight with every dog on my block.

Oh one thing I forgot to mention which is probably the most important factor. We just had our first baby 10 days ago so there is a chance the dogs are feeling neglected (they get a walk a day now instead of 2 and less play time with me).
 

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This is my first time owning a dog. My wife and I complicated the situation by taking in a young stray only 6 months after getting our first dog. We went to lots of classes and got help from many friends on training them and they are well behaved in the sense that they respond quickly to my commands, I can walk them without a leash and make them come with 100% recall, and they respect the rules we set for them.

One of the dogs is a large dog, he's half great pyrenees, half lab. We had him since he was very young. The other dog is smaller about 50 lbs and she is also well behaved except that she is jealous (always trying to get pet when you are petting the other dog) and she takes the larger dogs food from time to time. This has made the larger dog, who before this has always been very very passive to become defensive when it comes to his treats.

Today I was with the smaller dog and approaching the larger dog while he was eating his bone. He looked defensive so I put the smaller dog in the garage and approached him at which point he growled at me. I think I made a mistake then because i slowly walked away went inside grabbed a treat and used it to approach him. Should I have tried to reprimand him for growling at me? I have to admit I love my dog but even though I met him when he was 5 lbs, seeing a 100 lb dog growl at you menacingly is still scary.
Never, ever punish a dog for growling. That is their way of warning you, and if you punish them for warning you they will skip the growl and go straight for the bite. A growl is something to listen to, because it is telling you to back off. You did the right thing by going to get a treat. He is "resource guarding" his bone because it is high value. You can help this by giving him a treat every time you walk by him when he is chewing. He will learn he doesn't have to protect his bone. Also, if you have to take the bone away, "trade up". Offer him a treat, and when he goes for the treat, take away the bone. You can practice doing this too.

In any case I would like to know how others feel the proper way of dealing with a situation where a large dog is growling at you. He has never been aggressive except for this one time he growled at me. He has never bit anyone and has been in one short fight with a pitbull who has gotten into a fight with every dog on my block.

Oh one thing I forgot to mention which is probably the most important factor. We just had our first baby 10 days ago so there is a chance the dogs are feeling neglected (they get a walk a day now instead of 2 and less play time with me).
I think he is resource guarding his bone but they may feel a bit left out now that baby is home. I haven't had a kid yet, but from what I have heard from other dog owners is that it is pretty difficult managing both baby and dogs at first, but once you get into a pattern and into the hang of the things it gets much easier. Just hang in there!
 

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Yes, he is resource guarding. You handled it very well! NEVER punish a growl.

1. Separate the dogs when they eat. Do not allow the smaller dog to bother the bigger dog when he is eating/chewing on a bone.

Read this: http://ahimsadogtraining.com/blog/resource-guarding/ (An excellent informative article about resource guarding AND some steps to minimize it)

2. Don't immediately try to trade up the bone for a treat. Start with something less valuable that the dog enjoys but not as much as a bone. Teach him the game. THEN move up slowly to more and more valuable things.
 

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You did the right thing by not reprimanding him. You never ever want to punish a growl, or bared teeth, or any kind of "warning" sign. By reprimanding the warning, you teach the dog to skip the warning and go straight for the bite/attack. You did good by walking away and coming back with treats. Stay a distance far enough away that he doesn't start to guard or feel threatened that you will take his bone. Toss a couple treats to him. You can toss them to make a trail of treats leading away from the bone if he is not wanting you to approach at all. If you can get close, do as LilasMom said and "trade up" by giving him treats as you take the bone. I like to have several treats in my hand, give one, and have more in my fist to keep his attention as you remove the bone. Remove the bone calmly and smoothly, don't snatch it away. You were also very good to remove the other dog, major kudos for thinking of that! Since you know he guards the bone, you can practice with that. Hold it while he chews on it, and offer treats throughout. For now I wouldn't leave the bone out and about as it is something he is valuing so highly.
 

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Thank you all for the great advice and comments. I am going to keep all of this in mind. I wasn't sure what to do at the time and I have to admit I did more the right thing out of fear (or respect) for the size of the dog :).

I think that the advice about keeping them separated while they are enjoying treats is a good one. I have a feeling that this behavior started in reaction to the new dog taking away his treats and him originally being confused about this since there had been no need to defend it before her arrival.
 

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You very much did the right thing! It is refreshing to read. Generally these sort of statements are followed by "I forcefully took the bone and punished the dog." which is ALWAYS the wrong answer. By growling at you he was warning you, so he did the right thing as well. If you punish that growl, the dog associates growling with punishment and opts not to give that warning system anymore and may just end up biting first.

First things first, stop allowing the other dog near his food. Stop allowing them near each other when food is involved period. Dogs resource guard naturally, but there is no reason to foster it. You're on the right track with getting a treat. You're going to want to start working on games of trade. Begin with something low value and offer him a higher value item. I have two resource guarders. One is fond of toys, but of course will trade me a toy for a piece of hot dog or kibble. Offer up the higher value item with the command "Give" and trade it for the low value item. Generally after we have traded I give BACK the lower value item to show them that not only will I not take things away without them getting something better in return, I will not take things they can have. With my severe resource guarder, I did games of trade, NILIF (there is a sticky in the training forum), and tossed high value treats to him while he was eating (and at a distance in which he was not reacting to my presence so as to not REWARD the growling.) I also started off hand feeding him his meals, but like I said, he is a severe resource guarder now managed.

It's good to establish a strong "leave it" as well so if you're in a situation where you don't HAVE an item to trade, or they are going for something they really SHOULDN'T have, they respond to the command. :)
 
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