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Hi, I'm completely new to this forum so if I'm posting something that's already been talked about I'm sorry (I truly tried to search everything first).

Anyway, I have a 5 month old male Pembroke Corgi. He's been an excellent dog since we got him at 2 months. However, about a month ago he started becoming aggressive towards anyone who would come near him while he eats or while he enjoys a larger than normal treat. We figured it was just part of being a puppy and started working with him, trading up whatever he was protective over for a better treat. He was doing okay (not great), but we were seeing some progress.

Then a few weeks later he escalated it when my husband (unknowingly) tried to adjust his bed. He bit incredibly hard and tried to shake when he did it. Things have kind of escalated since then.

He has always been better behaved with me (the wife), but has bitten me seriously three times this last week alone.

He's getting more and more protective of stuff. He currently won't let me take off or put on his leash (he bites when you try and approach him). He's really hesitant to let me touch him (and won't even allow my husband near him).

I've researched this topic to death and think he's mostly doing this out of fear and maybe some aggression (he's still intact--not that that probably has much to do with it). He's also getting his adult teeth, which just generally makes him crankier, but it's no excuse.

But I'm out of ideas. Everyday is something new we're not allowed to touch or be around. He's gone from growling to immediately biting within the last 2 weeks.

Previously, we've been able to brush him, cut his nails and give him bathswithout much fuss but lately he won't even let us approach him.

He's not a dominant dog (despite the aggression over stupid stuff). Anytime he meets another dog or person he immediately becomes submissive and rolls onto his back (maybe that's a warning sign? I don't know).

As soon as he's out of the situation where he feels like he has to protect his stuff he's 100% an adorable, well behaved dog (he even knows how to use a bell to ask to go to the bathroom---he's THAT easy to train). But he turns into this nightmare anytime we try to do something he doesn't like.

Our vet is an idiot and just said it's normal for this to happen and didn't find anything medically wrong with him or offer any suggestions. We're currently looking for a new one.

We've tried punishment (which, obviously didn't work), baby steps (where we approach him from a distance and decrease that every few days as he gets okay with it), and lots and lots of really good treats but he doesn't seem to care.

At first when he would bite us we would yell and throw him in his cage, but that only made him meaner the next time so that didn't last long. Lately, we don't react or pull away when he bites us (which I read was what you were supposed to do?) and it seemed to work for a few times but now he's just getting more aggressive because clearly that didn't work for him. We currently can only handle him if we are wearing my husband's hockey gloves because that is the only thing he can't bite or rip through.

I've tried contacting the breeder we got him from to see if there were previous issues with this (she assured us when we picked him up that there wasn't, but who knows) and I have yet to hear back from her. She is a certified breeder btw (we didn't get him from a puppy mill or anything).

I don't expect immediate changes, but is seems like nothing is working. He's just getting more and more aggressive. I don't know if we're the ones who caused this behavior, we've only had good intentions, but maybe we have done something.

I apologize for the long post (this is the condensed version!), but I'm at my wits end. I can't imagine not having him around, but it's getting harder and harder to see this ever improving.

Please help.

Thank you.
 

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I'd keep going with what you're doing with the trading. Specifically, try to trade for something better, and then give -back- the thing he had.

You're right in that the punishment likely made the behaviour worse, specifically if you punished him for growling that could be why he doesn't growl anymore and goes straight for the bite.
 

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I could see combinations of resource guarding and fear aggression being a potential cause along with if you punished him for growling in the past, he can become more likely to go right to biting.

Here are some reading suggestions, I am linking to Good Reads since the books would be available online at various sites and at many libraries/inter-library loan
Mine! by Jean Donaldson

Behavior Adjustment Training by Grisha Stewart

How to Behave so your Dog Behaves by Sophia Yin

I don't know what you mean by "certified breeder" so that might not actually be saying much about the personality traits of the breeding dogs etc.
 

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I *personally* don't like the "trading up" method of dealing with resource guarding. In my opinion, when your dog growls at you and you give him a more valuable treat than what he's currently guarding, you're rewarding him for guarding in the first place.

It's likely that your initial attempts to punish your dog for this behavior made him think that you and your husband are big, terrifying animals who take his valuable things away and toss him in a cage. How long ago did you stop the punishment routine? It sounds like your puppy is just scared of both of you.

Instead of researching and working on resource guarding, I'd suggest doing trust-building exercises with him in order to convince him that you and your husband aren't just going to suddenly turn into yelling monsters.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
It's been about 3 weeks since we ended the scary throw him in the cage thing. It probably wasn't the best thing to do, but we were already running out of options at that point. Thank you for replying, I'll do some research into trust building exercises. But after that point, do you have any suggestions as to how we fix this possessive problem? I'm a little skeptical he will just be 100% okay if he learns to trust us.
 

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My post went to moderation for links but I would suggest reading--

Mine by Jean Donaldson
Behavior Adjustment Therapy by Grisha Stewart
How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves by Sophia Yin
 

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I *personally* don't like the "trading up" method of dealing with resource guarding. In my opinion, when your dog growls at you and you give him a more valuable treat than what he's currently guarding, you're rewarding him for guarding in the first place.
The reason why this isn't the case is because you can't reward/punish an emotion. The dog is scared you're going to take away his item. You have to show him that there's nothing to be scared about, and instead change how he feels about you approaching him to a positive emotion. "Oh good, my person is approaching! They usually give me something yummy!" vs "Oh no! My person is coming! They're probably going to try and take this great thing I have I better get ready to protect it!"

You can suppress the behaviour, but you don't change the actual root of the problem.

For example, if I were afraid of spiders and screamed when I saw them, punishing me when I screamed wouldn't make me -not- afraid of spiders, it would just make me stop screaming.

Instead if when I saw a spider, you gave me a $100 bill, I might start to feel okay about them.
 

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It's been about 3 weeks since we ended the scary throw him in the cage thing. It probably wasn't the best thing to do, but we were already running out of options at that point. Thank you for replying, I'll do some research into trust building exercises. But after that point, do you have any suggestions as to how we fix this possessive problem? I'm a little skeptical he will just be 100% okay if he learns to trust us.
All three of my adult dogs are resource guarders and when they growl at me for coming too close to their food/toys/treats, their resources simply get taken away. No yelling needed, I just calmly reach down and remove the possession in question. For instance, if it's their dinner, I remove it and put it on the counter, then return it to them about a minute later. I then stand next to them while they finish eating, and repeat the process if they growl again. Eventually, they realize that the only way to keep their resources is to NOT make a fuss about me standing right there.

That being said, none of my dogs have ever progressed to the point that they have bitten me, so I'm not sure if that method will work for you. A few other members of this forum may have better advice for dealing with your particular situation, as I think my methodology would currently get both you and your husband bitten.

Other forum members may have a different opinion, but I think resource guarding is something that you can't completely train out of a dog. It's a natural instinct and some dogs have it more so than others. However, making resource guarding manageable and correcting/minimizing the behavior is something you can do. I'll shoot a few messages around to see if I can get some more comments to try to help you out :)

The reason why this isn't the case is because you can't reward/punish an emotion. The dog is scared you're going to take away his item. You have to show him that there's nothing to be scared about, and instead change how he feels about you approaching him to a positive emotion. "Oh good, my person is approaching! They usually give me something yummy!" vs "Oh no! My person is coming! They're probably going to try and take this great thing I have I better get ready to protect it!"

You can suppress the behaviour, but you don't change the actual root of the problem.

For example, if I were afraid of spiders and screamed when I saw them, punishing me when I screamed wouldn't make me -not- afraid of spiders, it would just make me stop screaming.

Instead if when I saw a spider, you gave me a $100 bill, I might start to feel okay about them.
There are, of course, different ways to deal with resource guarding, but the thought of rewarding my 140 lb Shep/Mal mix for growling at me is... Concerning, to say the least.

Instead of rewarding that behavior, I prefer to remove the root of the problem, the "resource", then reward my dog for NOT growling at me when it's gone, and then return the resource while staying in close proximity. In my opinion, this creates a "growling at me = the removal of your resource", then "remaining calm = the return of your resource" and then "I'm near you and you have the thing you wanted and I'm not taking it away again as long as you're not growling" type of interaction.

With this method, two of my dogs have gone from absolutely vicious resource guarders to mostly not caring about when I'm close to them and they're eating. That being said, different methods work for different people, and like I said, I'm not sure mine would work with a dog that has already progressed to biting.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thank you. I've read mine (where we got the baby step/trading up idea from), but I will get the other 2 books. Can't ever have enough books.
 

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I wish I was as lucky as you to just be able to take the resource away because if I could get to that point he would be teachable and we could start correcting the behavior. He just takes it from 0 to 11 if you're anywhere near his food bowl (or whatever) and reach for it. He WILL bite and it will be bad.
I truly do appreciate your help though. I'm at the end of my rope.
 

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I don't think it would be even a bad thing at this point to reward the dog for growling at her. He's currently entirely skipping that step and going straight to the bite because he's realized growling is something he's gotten heck for in the past.

I think the trade up method would work here. You're not rewarding the dog for growling at you, you're rewarding the dog for allowing you to take his treat while showing him a new treat. Rewarding his ability to be positively distracted.

Hiraeth, if you think of it like a nervous/anxious dog whom you treat repeatedly to help them become more comfortable in situations that make them uncomfortable. You might see what we're saying here. You're not rewarding a nervous/anxious dog's body language, whining, or discomfort when you treat in this situation, you're rewarding their interest in the treat despite being around what makes them nervous. You're showing them good things come even when they're uncomfortable and to look to you when they're nervous. Eventually helping them relax around the stimuli entirely.

The trade up method should work in this instance. Whether he'll be 100% bomb proof around his treats in the future or not depends on the dog.
 

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Also, trading up is a training method, not a response to a growl and IMO should be practiced completely separately as a very deliberate exercise. In the moment that the dog is growling, just manage it - it's not a teaching moment. The dog is not in an emotional state to focus or learn anything, really. Work on training later.

Before even doing trading games, for this dog I would practice just walking by dropping very high value treats. When you can walk by and he stays relaxed, then start trading games. But set them up intentionally so you can give him something extremely low value he's unlikely to guard at first, don't respond to him growling by trying to play a trading game right then.

Mine! Is an excellent book. The good news is that resource guarding is generally very responsive to behavior modification if you stick with it and do it thoughtfully.
 

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Also, trading up is a training method, not a response to a growl and IMO should be practiced completely separately as a very deliberate exercise. In the moment that the dog is growling, just manage it - it's not a teaching moment. The dog is not in an emotional state to focus or learn anything, really. Work on training later.

Before even doing trading games, for this dog I would practice just walking by dropping very high value treats. When you can walk by and he stays relaxed, then start trading games. But set them up intentionally so you can give him something extremely low value he's unlikely to guard at first, don't respond to him growling by trying to play a trading game right then.

Mine! Is an excellent book. The good news is that resource guarding is generally very responsive to behavior modification if you stick with it and do it thoughtfully.
Agree with this as well. Start with the treat dropping and then graduate to trading as he becomes comfortable. In the mean time if you have to give him something high value just let him have it in peace.

It is definitely possible to fix but it will take time and commitment from everyone in the household.
 

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Also, trading up is a training method, not a response to a growl and IMO should be practiced completely separately as a very deliberate exercise. In the moment that the dog is growling, just manage it - it's not a teaching moment. The dog is not in an emotional state to focus or learn anything, really. Work on training later.

Before even doing trading games, for this dog I would practice just walking by dropping very high value treats. When you can walk by and he stays relaxed, then start trading games. But set them up intentionally so you can give him something extremely low value he's unlikely to guard at first, don't respond to him growling by trying to play a trading game right then.

Mine! Is an excellent book. The good news is that resource guarding is generally very responsive to behavior modification if you stick with it and do it thoughtfully.
Agree with this. Raymond would growl when on the sofa and a human rear end came at him. Scary and he was there first. Not okay of course. We didn't sit and risk a bite or pull him off the sofa by the collar and risk a bite but trained him in a very few minutes to get on and off the sofa/bed/chair. Instead of sitting near an already growling dog we told him to get off, we sat and invited him back on the sofa. If we heard him growl we backed off then evaluated why he had to growl and how to make him more comfortable about what was making him growl. Sometimes training a new cue like off works, sometimes using the basics works. This was a dog like yours with no bite inhibition. If he bit you got hurt. I was amazed at how grateful he was that we understood about the sofa too.

Same with Sassy. All the books warn about food and dogs. Sassy was a mild resource guarder, got stiff around her bowl. She was so happy we understood and dropped food into her bowl and never took food away without a trade she never growled at people as far as I can remember. Plenty of scuffles with dogs about food though!

I want dogs to growl if there is a serious problem. Much better than getting bit.
 

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I'm just going to come by and tell you a story about a very nice dog and resource guarding.

Kabota, my avatar, is a super nice dog, just a sweet, mellow little guy, nicest dog you've ever met. People tell me every single day how nice he is, how sweet he is, what a good boy he is. I'm not bragging, I'm trying to tell you that a very nice dog can resource guard. It's a normal dog behavior, not a sign of poor temperament.

Anyway, I had Kabota a few months and I gave him a marrow bone. I then walked past him, about 10' away, and he snarled at me. Full on, teeth bared, snarled. I wasn't even looking at him, let alone making a move towards the bone. So I continued to the kitchen and grabbed some deli ham. I then walked back and forth, tossing ham at Kabota. I threw a whole piece of ham across the room to get the bone back.

The next day, I gave him back the bone. Crazy, right? No, I needed to train him. The second day, he growled, but he didn't bare his teeth. The third day, he hunched over the bone, but didn't growl. The next day, he was happily watching me, waiting for his awesome treat. Now, he won't chew on things unless he's right next to me, because how else would he get his treat? Heck, my 6 year old niece stepped over him while he was chewing a bone and he was fine. (Not that I encouraged that.)

Resource guarding is not a problem. It's an opportunity, to work on your training and to gain trust. You want your dog to growl at you. After growl is bite, you want growl. A dog growls at you, back off! You reward that growl every time.

Oh, and here's what comes before a growl. If you back off when you see this stuff, you don't have to worry about the growl.

 

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What I did when my dog was a pup was hand-feed him for the first three months until my hands were seen as the giver of food. I'd remove the dog bowl and hand feed him everything. You might have to start off slowly and toss the treats/food a short distance if he's distrustful.
 

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I wish I was as lucky as you to just be able to take the resource away because if I could get to that point he would be teachable and we could start correcting the behavior. He just takes it from 0 to 11 if you're anywhere near his food bowl (or whatever) and reach for it. He WILL bite and it will be bad.
I truly do appreciate your help though. I'm at the end of my rope.
Sounds like trading up would perhaps be the best way to go, with your particular situation.

My personal training philosophy is that I don't reward unwanted behavior. I don't "punish" for it, either, except to remove the stimulus. However, because your puppy is escalating straight to biting, you need a way to train around that, so dropping tasty treats and working up to removing the resource and giving another sounds like it's the most beneficial way to approach the situation.

I don't think it would be even a bad thing at this point to reward the dog for growling at her. He's currently entirely skipping that step and going straight to the bite because he's realized growling is something he's gotten heck for in the past.

I think the trade up method would work here. You're not rewarding the dog for growling at you, you're rewarding the dog for allowing you to take his treat while showing him a new treat. Rewarding his ability to be positively distracted.

Hiraeth, if you think of it like a nervous/anxious dog whom you treat repeatedly to help them become more comfortable in situations that make them uncomfortable. You might see what we're saying here. You're not rewarding a nervous/anxious dog's body language, whining, or discomfort when you treat in this situation, you're rewarding their interest in the treat despite being around what makes them nervous. You're showing them good things come even when they're uncomfortable and to look to you when they're nervous. Eventually helping them relax around the stimuli entirely.

The trade up method should work in this instance. Whether he'll be 100% bomb proof around his treats in the future or not depends on the dog.
Bolded - I've seen this method backfire, with my dad's Rott mix. Little Dog fear growls - especially when someone leans over him or he feels anxious or when he resource guards. My dad's response to this behavior was to feed him treats, to pet him and say "it's okay" to attempt to remove his anxiety. Instead of removing the anxiety, however, it has simply worsened the situation - I am of the opinion that Little Dog now thinks that this 'fear growl' is the way we WANT him to behave because he receives rewards when he is doing it, and he has started growling more frequently for unknown reasons as a result. He literally sits there and growls at me, then looks at me and wags the tip of his tail as if expecting attention or a reward.

And this is why I don't reward unwanted behaviors - I work to modify the unwanted behavior and I reward when my dogs perform a behavior I do want.

It's just different training methodologies and OP, I encourage you to become as educated as possible and do what you think works the best for your situation :)
 

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Sounds like trading up would perhaps be the best way to go, with your particular situation.

My personal training philosophy is that I don't reward unwanted behavior. I don't "punish" for it, either, except to remove the stimulus.
I just have to point out for posterity that just because it's a -P and not a +P (although arguable too depending on what second you're talking about) doesn't make it an R instead of a P :p
 

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I just have to point out for posterity that just because it's a -P and not a +P (although arguable too depending on what second you're talking about) doesn't make it an R instead of a P :p
I was never arguing that it was an R. In the statement you quoted, I put "punish" in quotes to emphasize that while removing a resource is technically a "punishment", there is no yelling or striking of the dogs, just a calm removal and reintroduction. I feel like this emphasis needs to be made because while we can throw around Ps and Rs and +'s and -'s all day, that kind of language won't make sense to many dog forum readers who are here for help. Also, the word "punishment" tends to have a very negative connotation, and is generally used to mean either yelling or physically striking dogs when used by non-trainers.

Therefore, like I said, I don't "punish" for guarding behaviors in the sense that the word implies to most people (yelling, smacking), the only "punishment" I use is to remove the stimulus.

In my personal experience, treating resource guarding or anxiety behaviors with a P+ can easily turn into an unintended R+, which would increase the likelihood of the guarding behavior versus increasing the likelihood of the dog giving up the resource. I'd much rather treat resource guarding *in dogs that have not bitten their owners* with a soft P- (calm removal of the resource) followed up by a strong R+ (excited and positive giving back of the resource to reward non-guarding).

I seem to be in the minority here, however, I just know what works and hasn't worked for me personally and for my particular dogs. On top of that, treating with P- isn't even an option for OP, so she is left with R+, which I am very hopeful works for her :)
 

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Also, trading up is a training method, not a response to a growl and IMO should be practiced completely separately as a very deliberate exercise. In the moment that the dog is growling, just manage it - it's not a teaching moment. The dog is not in an emotional state to focus or learn anything, really. Work on training later.

Before even doing trading games, for this dog I would practice just walking by dropping very high value treats. When you can walk by and he stays relaxed, then start trading games. But set them up intentionally so you can give him something extremely low value he's unlikely to guard at first, don't respond to him growling by trying to play a trading game right then.

Mine! Is an excellent book. The good news is that resource guarding is generally very responsive to behavior modification if you stick with it and do it thoughtfully.
100% agree with this.

The step being missed in some other posts here is that you need to work under threshold. Start dropping treats at a distance that doesn't trigger a response from your dog and then slowly work your way closer. Use the same steps for trading. Start with lower value items and work your way up to high value items. There shouldn't be any growling during these trading sessions.

If you moved too fast and your dog begins growling or snapping, you just need to manage the situation, like Sass said. It's not a trainable moment. Calmly take a step back and try again later with lower criteria. In the meantime, until the situation is under control, access to high value items should be very limited.

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