The large dog lay resting comfortably on his bed in the family room. The kid approached quickly to grab a toy soldier figurine that accidentally flew then slid across the room landing near the head of the German Shepherd. As the boy came closer to the toy and to the dog’s bed a low rumble began. The family dog was growling at the child. The German Shepherd tensed – frozen in energetic anticipation of the explosive action that would invariably be coming next in the dog’s primal ritual. Would be coming next if the boy continued on his toy-retrieving trajectory unabridged. Fur stood up on the Shepherd’s back. The animal was stiffened and ready to strike!
Sound familiar? I hope not but dog aggression is currently and has been on the rise in the USofA. As the world turns and people grow less connected to nature and more connected to comfort, convenience, consumerism, instant gratification, and all the digital insanity…basically, as we grow more unhinged in our own lives, our dogs will reflect these growing issues back to us and sometimes even on to us or on to the unwary child, family member, friend, or neighbor by way of outright aggression!
Have you ever been bit, snapped at, or purposefully threatened by a large animal equipped with a tremendous amount of bite force and long sharp canines? For most dog owners it can be pretty intimidating. For me it’s just another day at work.
In my daily work (averaging five or six private 1 hour training and behavior mod. sessions a day) I am now seeing an increase in resource guarding and/or possession aggression from the dogs. Resource guarding is exactly like it sounds – the dog claims whatever it deems a resource! This is highly problematic and can be and often is downright dangerous. Possessive dogs bully people (or other dogs) into submission in that they cause them to back away from “their” stuff, or “their” bed, or “their” food, or “their” person or “their” body.
Friends, those “theirs” I just mentioned – they need to go. They need to go and go quickly from the mind of your dog, otherwise you are just biding your time, waiting for the ticking time bomb to go off. So many well-meaning dog owners are blissfully unaware of the dangerous creature they keep in their home amongst their children and spouse! Because so few people know the dog language they cannot identify the INITIAL stages of resource guarding and/or if and when they eventually do identify it, they take a poor course of action in reversing and preventing it!
At this point we must, if we are being honest (and I’ve heard that’s the best policy) also add that many a dog owner’s philosophy of dog ownership is weak, non existent, or in the least, not beneficial. Some dog owners’ philosophy of ownership, care, and handling amounts to wishy-washy fluff and not much more – they take the jelly fish approach to dog ownership and care. They may even expect the dog living in their home currently to act like a prior dog they had, or like a childhood dog that they knew, or like a friend’s dog. Dear Reader, if this resonates with you please understand this sort of relationship is not living, acting, or working with your dog to your full potential or to the dog’s. Success always requires intentionality.
Step 1. Think about your dog and about what kind of leadership (if any) you are providing.
Step 2. Develop a philosophy of ownership or examine and possibly alter your existing, most probably, sub-par philosophy to include the main theme that NOTHING IS THE DOG’S! Yes, let’s repeat that. NOTHING.IS.THE.DOG’S.
Step 3. Contemplate WHY your dog, your loving, furry family member, should definitively understand that NOTHING in his/her wonderful life with you is really his/her’s.
Step 4. You must begin right away, today, to claim your dog and not the other way round. Guys, all older dogs know this stuff (why are we as humans so slow on the uptake?). All we have to do is watch the mother dog and observe grooming rituals, greeting rituals, and other common interactions among dogs in order to easily identify and learn Who claims Who in order to then apply these techniques and movements by adopting them into our own lives with our dogs. Begin with your dog’s body because every dog on the planet with behavioral issues (no matter what the issue is btw) is somehow manipulating the owner using their body and using yours! (This does NOT mean rolling them, or hurting a dog in any way) We must claim them and we must occasionally deny them free and unhampered touching on OUR body even and sometimes especially if it appears “happy” or “friendly” to you. (Also, in the case of the skittish dog, your human body should NOT become a comforting pacifier if you desire a healthy relationship and if you desire genuine maturity with and for your dog).
Imagine if your body was transformed suddenly into a dog’s body (like we see in the werewolf movies) and you were able to enter your home as an older dog…How would your dog greet you? Rudely? Politely? Aggressively? Fearfully? How would your dog interact with you and touch your dog body and the space surrounding it when you sat down near or on the couch to relax? Another question to ask yourself is…Would your dog’s biological birth mother (or any older dog for that matter) put up with your dog’s behavior as it applies to their bodies?
If you desire less possessive behavior from your dog – less resource guarding – Then you’ve got to control who is touching who, and how the touch is applied, and when it is applied! Please reread that last sentence like 50 times in a row. It will help you. It will help anyone who is open-minded enough to consider it. Then you can begin all the other steps to continue treating resource guarding.
As you know, I could go on and on but I’ll end here. For more info please read my books on dog and human behavior, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You!, and So Long Separation Anxiety available wherever books are sold!