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Dog is guarding when kids are around

469 Views 3 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Kathyy
We have had our 9 month old mini labradoodle since he was 8 weeks old. He is my fiancé’s and i’s first experience raising a dog as adults. I have a daughter, who is here all the time. And he has 2 kids here every other week. Our dog is great 99% of the time, however he still occasionally exhibits guarding behavior. When all 3 kids are in the house, he can get possessive when chewing a bone or playing with toys. We have taught the kids to be respectful and not leave him be during a chew session. But, if one of the kids walks within 5-10 feet of him he starts to growl and stands over his bone. We have never allowed the kids to try and take a bone or toy that is used for food away from him. He exhibits similar behavior with his toys as well, and generally seems more stressed when all 3 kids are home.

He has never shown this behavior towards myself, and often tries to chew a bone while in my lap. What are some things that can be done to minimize this behavior? While he hasn’t done so yet, I don’t want a situation to escalate where he would bite.
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Guarding behavior is genetic.

Crate the dog or gate the dog when he has something he would guard. It really is that simple.
Thankfully, even genetic behavior can often be improved and modified with the appropriate training plan, especially when you start early! Resource guarding specifically often has a quite good outcome. You've got good instincts with encouraging your kids to give the dog space, and a crate or pen where the dog can safely enjoy his goodies without being bothered is absolutely a great management tool to start with.

I would also highly suggest the booklet Mine! by Jean Donaldson - available relatively cheaply as an e-book if you want it instantly. Dr. Patricia McConnell, an applied animal behaviorist who works with difficult dogs and also writes many helpful books and articles about it, has a blog post here that will give you a brief overview of how trading games work, step by step, to modify the dog's reactions from "people might take my goodies" to "people being around my goodies is awesome". You can do the treat-tossing with the kids in the room, or (if they're old enough, interested, and happy to follow instructions), the kids can help tossing treats themselves. You can even have the dog behind a gate or pen at first for an added level of security, both for the dog and for you.

Kids move oddly, speak in higher pitches, and are generally more unpredictable than adults, so it's not uncommon for dogs to be a little more wary around them, even if they grew up with kids around. But with some work, it's very likely you can help him feel more secure. It's a good idea to always let him have his space with his food and high-value chews or treats, of course, and he may never be a dog who will be happy with kids being on top of him (figuratively) while he has an awesome goody. But that doesn't mean there's no room for improvement so you can all feel a little more secure and comfortable with the situation.
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I'd put up food and toys today and he only gets them when safe in his crate or separated by a physical barrier from the kids. You might even put up a pen around the crate so he isn't worried about poking fingers although I'm sure the kids are well behaved and don't do that anyway. I'd contact a behaviorist to get better hints on how the kids can modify their body language around him. Not staring at him, turning away, how to get him to respond to them with toys and food and so on. The booklet is helpful and do get it but your idea and what's really going on need an impartial expert eye. Timing is all and not easy!

Really good that you noticed this and are planning to adjust a bit so your pup feels more secure.
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