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Discussion Starter #1
Oliver, a three-month old poodle has never shown aggressive behavior until now. He was chewing on a bully stick for about an hour while I did some house cleaning. I figured that was probably enough. When I went to take it from him, he growled and snapped at me. I was able to get it from him but he could have bitten me hard.

Is this normal behavior? What should I do? I wouldn't want a cat to walk by and have him attack her.

How should I have handled this?

P. S. He's fine with his food. He was just really, really into this chew stick.
 

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That is resource guarding. He doesn't consider his kibble good enough to guard, but his bully is a real treat and he doesn't want it going away. You can work with a dog and train him to not resource guard. I am not sure how you do that, but I am sure there are some stickies or threads on it here. He is just a baby so he doesn't necessarily know any better. It is up to you to teach him :)

Next time he has had enough bully time, don't just grab it from him. That probably freaked him out. There he is all happy and munching on his treat when out of no where you take it from him for no apparent reason (to him). If he hasn't been taught any better, then I would say it is not anything to worry about that he snapped. Don't ignore it obviously, but just see it as a normal part of a puppy learning his boundaries. For kids and puppies alike, boundary settings are no fun so it is vital to use a lot of positive reinforcement. When bully stick time is over, get a tiny little treat in your hand and walk over to him. As you walk over, try to get his attention. The way I would do it is, "*dogs name*! Wanna treat?! Treatie?" And if I got her attention I give her the treat and while she munches I take away the bully stick. I like to break one treat into tiny pieces so that it takes them a little more time to eat it and more time for me to take the bully away and make it "out of sight out of mind".
 

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I usually never take my dogs treats away unless they are quite large and I feel they have had enough. Those are the treats that I cannot first make smaller before I pass them out. If you have the need to take away a treat and especially a high value one ... you should trade up for something even more of a high value. I would not let the dog have a bully stick until you train with smaller less value treats. The trade up game is how I trained my three. :) We started with small milk bones to a tastier treat to hot dogs to real bones ... etc... I can take anything I wish from my dogs without a problem. I do not however feel the need to take away their treats as I gave them the treats as a reward.

This is what I would do ... not necessarily correct. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks to both of you. I will try giving him a treat to replace the bully stick.

These sticks, even the smallest ones, are way toobig for him to eat all at once. I haven't traded up because, to be honest, I use the bully stick to keep him occupied while I do something like clean and a biscuit wouldn't keep him occupired long enough. It's either that or his crate because I can't clean if he's not occupied. Because he sleeps in his crate (next to my bed), stays in it three days a week while I'm at work, and is put in it whenever I go out for awhile, I try not to put him in it when I'm home unless I really have to. The bully stick worked really good. I dusted and sprayed and swept and he totally ignored me. But it really is too much for him to consume in one session.

I do use small treats for training, and I do break them up into tiny pieces. He seems to enjoy them just as much as if it was a whole treat. (He's in puppy training and we do clicker and treats.)
 

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The idea of trading up is to make it ok for you to take from. You can give him the bully stick, but when you are ready to take it give him something else. I would probably use a piece of cheese.

I wouldn't worry too much about the cat. You should supervise when he has food like that, but most times if the dog resource guards, that means the dog growls and the cat backs away. Cats know what a growl means, they use the same language. When my dog has growled at my cat over some special treat, I've separated them until the treat is gone.
 

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The idea of trading up is to make it ok for you to take from. You can give him the bully stick, but when you are ready to take it give him something else. I would probably use a piece of cheese.

I wouldn't worry too much about the cat. You should supervise when he has food like that, but most times if the dog resource guards, that means the dog growls and the cat backs away. Cats know what a growl means, they use the same language. When my dog has growled at my cat over some special treat, I've separated them until the treat is gone.
I agree with the cheese as a trade-up ... smelly and tasty! Lol! :) They love smelly treats!
 

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Trading up is the way to go. Also, resource guarding with other animals is different with people, and a full grown cat could easily run away or even beat up a puppy if it came to it, but a cat has the sense to back off from a growling dog.
 

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When my boy was little little and I gave him treats I would sit near him as he ate them. Randomly I would pet him and/or touch the treat and occasionally I would take the treat from him and then give it right back. I never did any trading up (though not for any particular reason, I think it's a great technique) but I did make a point to show him that me taking things from him wasn't the end of the world.
 

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When my boy was little little and I gave him treats I would sit near him as he ate them. Randomly I would pet him and/or touch the treat and occasionally I would take the treat from him and then give it right back. I never did any trading up (though not for any particular reason, I think it's a great technique) but I did make a point to show him that me taking things from him wasn't the end of the world.
Oh yes, I forgot all about that stage. I did that too. It's a great way to train.
 

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Trading works perfect. :) Or, if you don't have anything to trade, if there is something else that will distract your dog and cause him to walk away from it, that works too. We taught our dogs to um.. run to the windows barking... by saying "*gasp*What-Wuz-That?!" and then they run to the windows to see what I think they should bark at.. and sometimes the bully stick is just missing when they come back.. they never seem to think twice about it. :-/
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Hahaha!! I love the thought of running to the window all excited, and the bully stick mysteriously "going missing."

Since I don't have anyone here to make the bully stick disapper, the cheese idea sounds great! He's never had cheese and that would be trading up for him. Yummmm. Cheese! I will try that out for sure.

Thanks for all the suggestions!
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Oh, and thanks for the info on the cats. I spent a lot of the weekend watching "The Dog Whisperer" On Demand, like seven episodes. Some of the behavior I saw really freaked me out. Actually, Oliver has some of that behavior. But he is only a puppy. And I'm trying to nip those behaviors in the bud. Trying ... .

Anyway, I think you're right about the cats. It's not like they're passive creatures. As a matter of fact, I actually saw Phoebe chasing Oliver yesterday after he barked at her! Normally she'd turn and run back into the basement. And he did run from her. I think that's good. I don't want either species beating up on the other.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
One of my cats, Molly, after five weeks still only comes up from the basement when Oliver is in his crate, when I'm at work and at nigh. Phoebe, though, is very interested in him. It started when he was sleeping on (not "at," "on") my feet and she came over and sniffed him. Totally unbeknownst to Oliver.
 

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Oh, and thanks for the info on the cats. I spent a lot of the weekend watching "The Dog Whisperer" On Demand, like seven episodes. Some of the behavior I saw really freaked me out. Actually, Oliver has some of that behavior. But he is only a puppy. And I'm trying to nip those behaviors in the bud. Trying ... .
Please don't watch any more Dog Whisperer. Dominance theory is outdated and long debunked and much harm has been done to dogs in its name. Please read Ian Dunbar or "Culture Clash" or "Don't Shoot the Dog".
 

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I agree with all of the posters about trading up and about this behavior being very manageable. However, I would go a step further. I think it would likely be very helpful for you to take a puppy class or a private lesson from a good trainer and get comfortable and grounded with your dog. While resource guarding isn't an unusual behavior, to see it in a pup this young is sort of interesting. It might mean that he is capable of being a bold little handful in other areas as well. A trainer entering the picture at this point might be really helpful in establishing good behavior and good boundries.

It is 1,000 times easier to prevent problems than it is to fix them. Getting ahead of the challenges might be really, really good.

While a 3 month old pup growling over a prize possession isn't Shocking or Scary, it isn't really "normal" either. It's pretty early. This isn't BAD, but extra support and "tools in the toolbox" for the handler is only a good thing.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
So you're telling me that I have a messed up dog and if I don't pay someone to help me now, the next 10-16 years of my life (or less if I die before he does) are going to be me cringing in fear from a dog running amok over me? Because he growled and snapped at me when I tried to remove his bully stick?

Great.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
What did you mean when you told me I need to pay someone in order to "get comfortable and grounded with [my] dog" because I am interpreting what you mean and perhaps it isn't as insulting as I think it is so I figured I'd ask before I continue to take offense.
 

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So you're telling me that I have a messed up dog and if I don't pay someone to help me now, the next 10-16 years of my life (or less if I die before he does) are going to be me cringing in fear from a dog running amok over me? Because he growled and snapped at me when I tried to remove his bully stick?

Great.
No one ever said your dog was messed up. And it may seem ridiculous to pay money to a trainer to help fix this, but if it is not controlled it could escalate to biting and be MUCH worse when he is an adult. If he does it to another person or worse child and actually bites down, they could press charges. Solving the problem now is very important if you don't want to be dealing with behavioral issues for the rest of its life. It would be HIGHLY beneficial for you and your dogs relationship to have a trainer help out. It does NOT mean whatsoever that you have a bad dog, he just needs to be trained. Sometimes a little extra help is needed and that is ok. Unfortunately, sometimes this means paying for classes or training, but that is what you have to take into account when getting a dog.

Just taking away bully sticks won't solve the problem, he should learn that it is OK for things to be taken away and that he will get it back eventually.
 

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When my boy was little little and I gave him treats I would sit near him as he ate them. Randomly I would pet him and/or touch the treat and occasionally I would take the treat from him and then give it right back. I never did any trading up (though not for any particular reason, I think it's a great technique) but I did make a point to show him that me taking things from him wasn't the end of the world.
This worked great with our young BC mix...we just made "sharing" cool things a normal, everyday occurrence from the day we got her. She has no issues with anyone taking something from her mouth.

Our older dog came to us as an adult and already had the habit of resource guarding and is a pretty aggressive dog anyway. She was abused very early in life and using anything that seems like discipline (even just scolding) will cause her to escalate in a defensive manner and it can get dangerous. The only way to deal with her is to give her a command, she's mostly ACD and very bright and she likes following instructions and being praised for it. So, she never gets a "no" or "bad dog" or anything like that, she gets a "do this" instead. With her, the key was installing very good "drop it" and "leave it" commands. I never try to physically take anything from her mouth, she WOULD bite me, but she will drop anything on command and let me retrieve it. Even her dinner ;). You cannot say "Bad dog, don't do that" to her or she'll get aggressive, you have to say "Do this, good dog!", then she's very cooperative and happy. Only positive feedback for that one ;).
 
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