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I have an 18 month old male Border/Healer. He is not neutered yet. He is a very energetic pleasant dog. He was my son's dog but when the dog was a puppy my son left for college. He is now very attached to me. He follows me everywhere when I am home. When I am not home my wife and other son play with him, walk him, etc... He is perfectly fine with them, content and pleasant. Beginning about 6 weeks ago the dog began acting differently when I am home, however. Now whenever my wife or EITHER of my sons get close to me the dog growls, gets close to me and stays between me and whoever is approaching me. (The dog could have been playing with them shortly before I got home.) This behavior can occur when I'm standing in the kitchen, lying on my bed or sitting on a chair or sofa in the den and the dog is near me. Regardless of where I am, when my wife or my son's approach me the dog gets closer to me and growls. If they continue to come closer he growls louder, shows his teeth and even nipped at my son once. He did not break skin but he left teeth marks. I firmly tell the dog to stop and tell he is is being bad but it doesn't stop him from growling, etc. I have to put him in his crate until he calms down. When I let him out of the crate, the dog will play ball with my son in the same room as I'm in as of nothing had occurred. I don't know if this is protectiveness or possessiveness on the part of the dog. I have to think the latter since the dog is not afraid of my wife or sons when I am not home. In any case, I need to stop this behavior. I am more concerned how the dog would respond if someone he was less familiar with than my wife or son's approached me.

I am very anxious to hear any ideas on how to stop my dog from acting this way.
 

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I have an 18 month old male Border/Healer. He is not neutered yet. He is a very energetic pleasant dog. He was my son's dog but when the dog was a puppy my son left for college. He is now very attached to me. He follows me everywhere when I am home. When I am not home my wife and other son play with him, walk him, etc... He is perfectly fine with them, content and pleasant. Beginning about 6 weeks ago the dog began acting differently when I am home, however. Now whenever my wife or EITHER of my sons get close to me the dog growls, gets close to me and stays between me and whoever is approaching me. (The dog could have been playing with them shortly before I got home.) This behavior can occur when I'm standing in the kitchen, lying on my bed or sitting on a chair or sofa in the den and the dog is near me. Regardless of where I am, when my wife or my son's approach me the dog gets closer to me and growls. If they continue to come closer he growls louder, shows his teeth and even nipped at my son once. He did not break skin but he left teeth marks. I firmly tell the dog to stop and tell he is is being bad but it doesn't stop him from growling, etc. I have to put him in his crate until he calms down. When I let him out of the crate, the dog will play ball with my son in the same room as I'm in as of nothing had occurred. I don't know if this is protectiveness or possessiveness on the part of the dog. I have to think the latter since the dog is not afraid of my wife or sons when I am not home. In any case, I need to stop this behavior. I am more concerned how the dog would respond if someone he was less familiar with than my wife or son's approached me.

I am very anxious to hear any ideas on how to stop my dog from acting this way.
There has just been a huge discussion about resource guarding on another thread, it's a bit of a mess so I'd prefer not to refer you to it but feel free to check it out.

I think it's important to preface my advice with a note: If you do not feel comfortable dealing with this on your own, or even if you do I would heavily consider a behaviorist or trainer to coach you and show you what to do, us on the internet can only be told too much and there's a lot of signs you could miss as an experienced owner that could be important to why this is happening.

You need to start heeding growls, they're a way of communicating your dog is uncomfortable with the situation and the person needs to back off, the reason your son got bit was because you didn't do that. I know growling is seen as bad or misbehaving often by people who do not know dog behavior but it's a very good thing because it's a warning. Take away that warning and you have a dog that bites. You take the desire to warn by punishing it so that needs to stop immediately.

The good thing is that if your family are happy to work with you then it's rather easy to fix. Set up the situation where he normally growls but get the person to stand at a distance the dog is not growling and make the person start throwing treats or high value food at the dogs feet very quickly, if the dog isn't taking the treats then you're likely too close. If your dog isn't good motivated and is instead toy motivated you can do the same but you play a game with him when the person enters. It needs to be immediate, person enters the good stuff begins. After a very short time get the person to exit very quickly and at that time end all reward. If the dog follows the person out the room in a positive manner then great, reward that. Keep repeating that and increasing the distance, remember any growling or not accepting treats and the person is too close and the dog is over threshold so isn't going to take in the information.

Keeping the dog's stress levels are key to working on this kind of behaviour because of something called trigger stacking, basically it takes a few days for stress hormones to leave the body sometimes and that means your dogs threshold lowers meaning he's less tolerant to things. Things like chewing, playing games and relaxing will keep that threshold up high so he's more tolerant.

As to why he's doing this kind of behavior is a question I can't personally answer. I do know it's questionable if dogs guard people and a lot of cases the person gives the dog "confidence" to express how they're truly feeling and when they're not there they're not but this might not be the case in your instance. It could be anything, what is important is from now on the people coming near you is a positive thing. Take it slow and make sure everyone is safe.
 

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There has just been a huge discussion about resource guarding on another thread, it's a bit of a mess so I'd prefer not to refer you to it but feel free to check it out.
I'd recommend not checking it out, it's a disaster.

ETA: I suppose there is some good information to be had there, it would just require a lot of sifting through arguing to acquire, so that's why I'm recommending spending your time in a more useful way by looking through the provided info :)

I'd also recommend reading the information provided to you in your other identical post here.

just so you know, since you're new, it's generally advisable to create one thread about a single issue instead of multiples :)
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Gingerwrinklepup,

Thank you very much. You're comments are insightful and useful. I have attempted to get my son and wife to understand that continuing to approach the dog and make him more uncomfortable is the wrong way to approach it. IMO you can't use dominance to change how a dog feels, even if it might change how he reacts. What they've been doing, in terms of making him lay on his side or crating him clearly hasn't worked. Hopefully, my wife and son will understand the situation better after they have read your post. Again, thank you very much!
 

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Hi Hiraeth,

Thank you for responding. I am looking into the books recommended in the response to my other post.

I appreciate the Board's convention. I posted something similar a month or so ago and did not get any response so I thought it might be because of the title I used or the forum I posted in. Consequently, I thought I'd try different titles and post on the General Forum as well as on the Dog Training forum. I apologize.
 

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Gingerwrinklepup,

Thank you very much. You're comments are insightful and useful. I have attempted to get my son and wife to understand that continuing to approach the dog and make him more uncomfortable is the wrong way to approach it. IMO you can't use dominance to change how a dog feels, even if it might change how he reacts. What they've been doing, in terms of making him lay on his side or crating him clearly hasn't worked. Hopefully, my wife and son will understand the situation better after they have read your post. Again, thank you very much!
Right if your family has been "alpha rolling" and using the crate as punishment might be why this is happening. Get them to stop that.
Heres a couple of links why we shouldn't use punishment type corrections

http://www.dogwelfarecampaign.org/press-statement.php

http://www.dogwelfarecampaign.org/implications-of-punishment.php

Get them to read and get them on board with the positive training and then work from there :)
 

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Hi Hiraeth,

Thank you for responding. I am looking into the books recommended in the response to my other post.

I appreciate the Board's convention. I posted something similar a month or so ago and did not get any response so I thought it might be because of the title I used or the forum I posted in. Consequently, I thought I'd try different titles and post on the General Forum as well as on the Dog Training forum. I apologize.
Ah, okay, that's understandable. Just make sure to check back and respond on both threads so you catch everyone's advice and people know you're reading both :) A moderator *may* shut one down because it's a repeat topic, but I'm not sure, if they do, don't worry, everyone will still have access to your other post.
 

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He may be resource guarding you.

One problem with dogs who resource guard a person (my dog Pip resource guards me) is that you are both the resource and a social facilitator - that is, not only are you a resource valuable enough to guard but your presence makes him feel braver. You're his backup. So it's very easy for you to accidentally escalate him instead of de-escalating the situation if you intervene at all. Because these other people come in the room, he guards, AND you get agitated - so surely he must have made the right call to guard you!

This is probably a problem that would benefit from a home visit by a behaviorist. In the meantime, though, what I would do is when this type of situation happens: " Now whenever my wife or EITHER of my sons get close to me the dog growls, gets close to me and stays between me and whoever is approaching me." I would calmly get up and leave the room. Don't look at the dog, don't talk to the dog, don't interact with the dog at all. Just remove yourself from the equation. He's lost his resource AND his backup and shouldn't have a reason to escalate.

Having other family members take over some of the routine chores such as feeding, walking, training, etc may help him build more of a bond with them, too, but by itself it's probably not going to be a solution.

Good luck. It's hard. Pip used to guard me from the other dogs quite badly and the hardest thing in the world to do was walk away from a situation where he was growling and posturing at one of them without saying or doing anything. But over time along with a lot of other techniques it has definitely helped (he is an anxious dog in general and has needed a lot of work on various issues).
 

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He may be resource guarding you.

One problem with dogs who resource guard a person (my dog Pip resource guards me) is that you are both the resource and a social facilitator - that is, not only are you a resource valuable enough to guard but your presence makes him feel braver. You're his backup. So it's very easy for you to accidentally escalate him instead of de-escalating the situation if you intervene at all. Because these other people come in the room, he guards, AND you get agitated - so surely he must have made the right call to guard you!

This is probably a problem that would benefit from a home visit by a behaviorist. In the meantime, though, what I would do is when this type of situation happens: " Now whenever my wife or EITHER of my sons get close to me the dog growls, gets close to me and stays between me and whoever is approaching me." I would calmly get up and leave the room. Don't look at the dog, don't talk to the dog, don't interact with the dog at all. Just remove yourself from the equation. He's lost his resource AND his backup and shouldn't have a reason to escalate.

Having other family members take over some of the routine chores such as feeding, walking, training, etc may help him build more of a bond with them, too, but by itself it's probably not going to be a solution.

Good luck. It's hard. Pip used to guard me from the other dogs quite badly and the hardest thing in the world to do was walk away from a situation where he was growling and posturing at one of them without saying or doing anything. But over time along with a lot of other techniques it has definitely helped (he is an anxious dog in general and has needed a lot of work on various issues).
Surely with this method you're going to escalate or hide the RG because the person coming in is causing the resource (you) to go away then they're going to try RG it more severely or will stop growling to stop you going away but may bite if they come close to you. You're basically punishing the growl with that method. It won't address the problem associated with the people.

From the info provided (other people Alpha rolling and using harsh methods) the dog is just fearful of the people and only expresses it when the back up is there so your method may not be the correct one imo?

You would need to address the reason for feeling insecure around those people and then turn it into a positive that they enter.
 

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Surely with this method you're going to escalate or hide the RG because the person coming in is causing the resource (you) to go away then they're going to try RG it more severely or will stop growling to stop you going away but may bite if they come close to you. You're basically punishing the growl with that method. It won't address the problem associated with the people.

From the info provided (other people Alpha rolling and using harsh methods) the dog is just fearful of the people and only expresses it when the back up is there so your method may not be the correct one imo?

You would need to address the reason for feeling insecure around those people and then turn it into a positive that they enter.
Welp, that's part of the plan that my behaviorist and I worked up and instituted and has worked along with counter conditioning. So it didn't "surely" escalate the problem but rather solved it. Me intervening in any way is what would escalate the problem every time, including one time escalating to a quite a severe fight. There really isn't any way to trade up to a person, and a person is independent and can remove themselves from the situation without having to be "taken."

It's punishment, but because the person being guarded is also usually a social facilitator the dynamic is different than with an inanimate object and it helps to remove that social backup.
 

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Welp, that's part of the plan that my behaviorist and I worked up and instituted and has worked along with counter conditioning. So it didn't "surely" escalate the problem but rather solved it. Me intervening in any way is what would escalate the problem every time, including one time escalating to a quite a severe fight. There really isn't any way to trade up to a person, and a person is independent and can remove themselves from the situation without having to be "taken."

It's punishment, but because the person being guarded is also usually a social facilitator the dynamic is different than with an inanimate object and it helps to remove that social backup.
I get what you're saying, my dog has guarded a few times with food or with dogs/people approaching me but when I tried to move him on from the situation then that's when he's going for the dog/people (not me). I think this is slightly different though, the dog sounds fearful of the people themselves approaching so that needs to be dealt with, you don't need to do anything apart from sit there and the dog will learn from being treated that people approaching you is none threatening and you don't go away.

Edit: By saying "surely" I didn't mean to say it's a guarantee that would be the outcome, it was questioning myself in a way, I don't know why I said surely precisely.
 

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And to clarify, absolutely I think that counterconditioning to other people being around the owner should be done. But the timing and method of doing that when the resource being guarded is a person and the other people involved are family members is tricky. That's why I think the OP should really consult a behaviorist to help them, it's a bit beyond internet advice.

But if the dog is RGing the OP, IMO removing the social backup in the moment so the situation doesn't escalate even further (dog has already nipped family members) is important for safety. Unlike a bone, a person can get up and walk away themselves so there isn't the bite/safety concern that there is with taking away an inanimate object from a dog. And doing so is an easy thing to start until they can get in person advice.
 

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And to clarify, absolutely I think that counterconditioning to other people being around the owner should be done. But the timing and method of doing that when the resource being guarded is a person and the other people involved are family members is tricky. That's why I think the OP should really consult a behaviorist to help them, it's a bit beyond internet advice.

But if the dog is RGing the OP, IMO removing the social backup in the moment so the situation doesn't escalate even further (dog has already nipped family members) is important for safety. Unlike a bone, a person can get up and walk away themselves so there isn't the bite/safety concern that there is with taking away an inanimate object from a dog. And doing so is an easy thing to start until they can get in person advice.
Agreed there's no risk from this type of method unless people are coming at you while removing yourself or you're walking towards them and the dog follows and tries to intervene.

I'd always recommend a health check (forgot to mention that) and then a behaviorist especially cases where there's bite history but general things like don't punish the dog for growling or keep coming at the dog when that happens is very urgent. Unfortunately some people don't go down that route for whatever reason so atleast giving a direction to go down rather than leaving the OP helpless or looking into damaging methods is better than nothing IMO. It also helps to have an idea of what kind of method should be used when looking for a behaviorist because anyone can claim to be one and then use punishing methods and if the OP doesn't know any better they may go along with that.

My point was even if a bone could get up and walk away it wouldn't necessarily be a good thing because the dog is loosing the resource for warning the "aggressor" it's not comfy with a situation. I'd personally rather try address the issues than remove the reason for the problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Sassafras and Gingerwrinklepup,

This is clearly a complicated situation and it's hard to know what is right. My dog is brave but also skittish, in the sense that he jumps up and barks at every sound, movement, etc. He's chased a squirrel 4+ feet up a tree a few weeks ago. Sometimes he runs into an empty room, stares at the ceiling and starts barking at the overhead lights in the kitchen or dining room. My point is that I do not know if and how this behavior is related to his possessive behavior.
 

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How do I go about finding and evaluating a behavioralist. I have to say I've had a number of dogs in my lifetime but I never knew of or felt the need for a behavioralist before. I am not pooh poohing the idea at all. I just don't know where to start in terms of finding and evaluating a behavioralist. It this something I should discuss with our vet?
 

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My point was even if a bone could get up and walk away it wouldn't necessarily be a good thing because the dog is loosing the resource for warning the "aggressor" it's not comfy with a situation. I'd personally rather try address the issues than remove the reason for the problem.
I dig it completely. It's just that bones don't embiggen them, and valuable people do. The social aspect just makes it more complicated.

How do I go about finding and evaluating a behavioralist. I have to say I've had a number of dogs in my lifetime but I never knew of or felt the need for a behavioralist before. I am not pooh poohing the idea at all. I just don't know where to start in terms of finding and evaluating a behavioralist. It this something I should discuss with our vet?

Your veterinarian may have someone local they refer to, or you can look on http://www.dacvb.org/
 

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Personally I got a recommendation. I was going crazy looking for a behaviourist/trainer in my area but then gave up because I was having worries about anyone coming in and ruining my dog because they turned out to be not what they advertised.

Eventually I got a recommendation from someone who is connected to Victoria stillwell so I knew they'd at least be positive only and went from there.

I think if you enquire and maybe have a phone call and ask what methods they'd think of using, I think some people will do a free meeting to discuss all this so that's a good idea.

Personally anyone mentioning alpha or pack theory goes out the window generally. If you ever feel uncomfortable about anything they say then run away.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Sassafras and Gingerwrinklepup,

Thank you very much. I am looking into a behavioralist. I will steer clear of alpha or pack theory practitioners. I agree that eliminating the resource guarding behavior without addressing the underlying causes/motivations could be damaging to my dog. He is a very lovable and fun animal. It would be a shame to cause additional emotional/psychological issues, instead of addressing any he may already have.
 

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Sassafras and Gingerwrinklepup,

Thank you very much. I am looking into a behavioralist. I will steer clear of alpha or pack theory practitioners. I agree that eliminating the resource guarding behavior without addressing the underlying causes/motivations could be damaging to my dog. He is a very lovable and fun animal. It would be a shame to cause additional emotional/psychological issues, instead of addressing any he may already have.
What a cutie! Glad you're happy to choose positive methods, thats a good step, good luck finding a behaviourist! Give us some updates with how it goes or if you meet with a behaviourist and unsure about how they're going about things!
 

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Gingerwrinklepup,

Thank you. I will report back. I can tell you that just yesterday I had my wife and son begin tossing Tucker treats, i.e., string cheese, it's his favorite, when they approached and he began to growl. They backed off and tossed him cheese. Then did so several times as the got closer. I stayed by the dog but did not intervene in any way. He did growl a little when they got closer but stopped when they give him cheese. They ultimately were able to get up to him and he stopped growling. Let's see if he responds to this if we do it with consistency. Thanks again!
 
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