Hello, I figured this would be the right place to get some initial advice on the situation with my parent's dog..
Here's whats up:
My parents own a ~10 month old Cavapoo (Poodle / Cavelier cross).
She's been with them since she was a 3 month old pup.
Basically, she's a cute and awesome dog. No problem feeding her by hand, taking/giving toys, brushing her teeth, bathing, combing.. a very easy going, playful and fun dog..
..until she takes possession of a sock.
Having taken possession of a sock, she will instantly 'transform' and become extremely defensive to the point where I'm actually concerned that something is seriously wrong.
Here is what will happen:
- She instantly stops responding to any and all commands.
- Will 'guard' the sock by lying down on top of it.
- Will growl and show her teeth when anyone dares to come close.
- Will bite - hard - when anyone tries to take the sock.
- Will continue guarding the sock like her life depends on it, for hours, even if people leave the room or enter the house. Normally she would be ecstatic and happily greet people. When she owns the sock, it's like she's 'zoned out'.
I've noticed she's actually 'shaking' from adrenaline and anxiety while she holds the sock, continually in fight mode, at the ready to engage anyone who dares to take it.
It's just bizarre.
I've got bitten on several occasions when I didn't notice she'd taken a sock and simply wanted to stroke her head, not paying attention. She bit hard enough to break the skin and cause bleeding.
The only way to end such episodes is to wait until she falls asleep or to take the sock by force.
By force, I mean by putting on thick gloves or by putting my foot on the sock and pulling it away. She will growl, snap and bite like a rabid animal at my hand/shoe until I've taken the sock away.
She will then immediately transform back to a normal happy-go-lucky dog.
So what is going on here?
No such behavior is displayed when dealing with food, toys or anything else.
I have no idea what's causing this but I've informed my parents that we probably need advice from an experienced dog trainer.
I have very little experience with dogs, but this does not appear to be normal behavior at all. In fact, it is dangerous behavior. If this continues, at some point, an unaware person or some kid WILL get bitten.
Well, first, make sure she can't get ahold of socks. Put dirty socks in a hamper that closes, don't leave them on the floor. Fold them and put them away immediately after doing laundry. If you're lucky, she'll just forget about socks. Obviously they have some sort of value to her, and if she can just forget about them the problem might be solved.
If she does somehow get a sock, don't force her to give it up because that will only make the problem worse. It's important that she never feels she has to guard the sock, and when you come at her with thick, heavy gloves and forcefully take it from her, you only confirm her fears. She's not eating the sock, so it's not harming anything and there is no emergency, so there is really no reason to forcibly take the sock. Try trading for it with a really high value treat, like a hot dog or cheese.
And she's a dog, so who knows why she decided socks are her thing? She's young, so it could just be a weird puppy behavior that she grows out of if you make sure she never has the opportunity to take socks.
You need to go on lock down and make sure that there are never any socks left around for her to guard for your own safety and for her well being. I would also suggest contacting a behaviorist. They may recommend medication to see if it helps with such severe resource guarding.
OP, don’t let her near any more socks, even if that means confining her to rooms that socks don’t typically appear (the kitchen comes to mind). This needs to be addressed, either with meds or behavior modification (with an experience trainer) or both.
That was my golden retriever, except he did the same with washcloths and towels too. We saw a behaviorist, and the key is to find HIGH value treats and 'trade' that way (we had to give hotdogs and throw them away from the dog, and take the object while he was getting the treat, then give more treats). That being said, we never managed to cure him of the issue, we would probably have had to work on it for hours every day, and we adopted babies and ended up having to give the dog away (to someone who knew how to deal with those issues) after he snapped at them when they tried to take a toy back (but he barked all day if he was gated away from us too).
I'm seriously terrified of taking stuff away from my dogs still after that experience. I always trade, but my new puppy has shown signs of the same thing towards a friend already, so I'm nervous.