My dog won't stop guarding me! Help?

pssh

Avid Member
Well, he isn't technically my dog, but I see him almost every day and give him more attention than anyone else so he likes me the best :) he has, however, developed a guarding habit with me. Most dogs guard food or toys, but my little boy guards me! I've been trying for a while now to get him to stop, but I can't seem to break this behavior of his. He isn't really food motivated, nor is he toy motivated, so it's hard to reward him for the behavior I want except for petting and praise (but he's not very bright, so I have no idea if he is even registering what's going on...)

He is perfectly sociable with all animals and people when he has his feet on the ground and isn't touching/very close to me. He doesn't even pull to greet people, dogs, cats, or any other kind of critter (though he does like cuddling my guinea pigs when they allow it.) He growls and attempts to nip at people and dogs when they approach me and he is near me/touching/on me. He hasn't actually broken skin yet, but he has made contact before. I don't want him to end up biting anybody! I'm afraid he's going to go crazy on a child if they try to touch him when he is near me. He's a sweetheart otherwise.

Any tips? I won't use harsh or physical punishment, so please don't offer that sort of advice.
 

ponders

Chameleon Enthusiast
The Dog Whisperer had an episode about this. He said the dog thinks he owns you and the dog is the pack leader not you. I'm not sure which episode but you could search on Nat Geo and maybe find it to get some help. The behavoir stopped when Ceasar Milan worked with the owner. Good luck!
 

pssh

Avid Member
That's doesn't make sense to me. He doesn't do it when he is a few feet away. If he was resource guarding (if that's what you mean) then he should be guarding me all the time he's around me from others. He doesn't do that. I am also the only person that he listens to so even if I was 'part of the pack' that indicates that he is below me. He's very submissive to me, and has no problem showing his belly to me when I am stern with him.
 

Olimpia

Biologist & Ecologist
That's weird then... hmm. I'm having a hard time figuring out what his motivation is if he doesn't guard you all the time.

Cesar Milan did an episode where there was a little dog that would guard his woman owner whenever he was on her lap (apparently he thought she was his female) so what they did was that everytime Cesar touched the woman or sat next to her and the dog growled, she picked him up and put him on the ground in one fell swoop. The message is "you can be with me as long as you remain calm and submissive, but you lose me with that behaviour." I would take that message and run with it - try something like that when indoors, and then when outside, be a little creative. Perhaps when he growls at someone, cross your arms, look up, and walk way from him. Dogs understand that as a complete "cold shoulder."

See if something like that helps? Otherwise, maybe have people throw reeeally tasty treats at his feet when they come up to you. Something like bits of sausage or chicken, and they throw it at the floor so he's distracted eating it, have them come up to you for a few seconds and then walk way. And keep doing that longer and longer periods of time, until the person is able to stand in front of you (or hug you or whatever) and he doesn't care any more. Perhaps while you chat with the person, have them keep throwing little treats down every little while, to keep the possitive distractions coming. The treats make the act of someone aproaching you a really possitive thing.

Hopefully one of those two ideas is of some use! I actually sat here and thought about this long and hard! lol
 

pssh

Avid Member
That's what I have been doing for weeks. He just walks off to get attention from someone else when I put him on the ground, or sniffs around until I let him next to/on me again, but as soon as someone reaches for him he growls/snaps at them again.

Again, he's not really food motivated and would rather be with me than eat a nice warm piece of sausage or chicken. Sometimes he will eat it if I give it to him, but he generally just leaves people food alone and doesn't beg for it.

Does it help knowing that he is a small chihuahua mix thing and he's not neutered? (he will be neutered very soon though!)

DSC_1161.jpg
 

Olimpia

Biologist & Ecologist
Oh right, I forgot you mentioned he wasn't food motivated. Hmm then, don't know what else to suggest! Try to stop by a petsmart and get a hold of one of their trainers. All the ones I've ever met are very willing to give you help for issues, even if you aren't in their classes. A professional trainer obviously knows more about this kind of stuff than I or most normal people know.

I was actually going to give you the email of our ex-Petsmart trainer, who has worked at zoos with all sorts of animals and is an absolutely fantastic trainer, but I'm looking through his business cards and he doesn't include an email. He now works at a fantastic pet hotel and my roommates all take their dogs to him still. One has class with him tomorrow and I've asked him to get his email address, so I'll give that to you tomorrow so you have that as an option if you want it :)
 

dodolah

Retired Moderator
The Dominance theory (ranking in a dog's pack) is very flawed. Forget everything about Cesar Millan. One of the controversial things that Millan do, among other things, is the poke around the neck and pinning the dog on the floor to simulate dominance over the dog. Doing that might work in short term. But, essentially, it is suppressing the aggression..not solving the behavior problem. In the long run, by keep suppressing them, you can create a highly insecure and mentally unstable dog. More often that not, dogs will redirect his aggressions to someone else in the house.
Read about why here:
http://www.nonlineardogs.com/socialorganisation.html

and watch the clip here of Millan's method being confronted by animal behaviorists.
http://www.veoh.com/search/videos/q/cesar+millan#watch=v17338179Ka9fFDfQ

Here is a quote by AVSAB (American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior):
The AVSAB recommends that veterinarians not refer clients to trainers or behavior consultants who coach and advocate dominance hierarchy theory and the subsequent confrontational training that follows from it.
• Instead, the AVSAB emphasizes that animal training, behavior prevention strategies, and behavior modification programs should follow the scientifically based guidelines of positive reinforcement, operant conditioning, classical conditioning, desensitization, and counter conditioning

from Association of Pet Behavior Counselors:

To be at the top of the pack with total dominance would make you the “alpha”, with all the esteem that entails, therefore dogs will strive for dominance unless you beat them to it. It’s a neat explanation.

Except that none of it actually bears scientific scrutiny. Prof Richard Dawkins described self replicating ideas as “memes”(1) that live in our minds and pass from one to another through no reason other than their popularity, or catchiness. Some are harmless, like that annoying song you keep humming long after you’ve decided you hate it, but others can be positively harmful, like the idea that combined MMR jabs cause autism, which continues to prevent many children benefiting from the protection they provide.

The “pack” and “dominance” theory of domestic dogs is a harmful meme. It prevents many owners understanding their dogs, causes untold misery for both and is perpetuated by well-meaning but uninformed dog trainers around the world. It is proving extremely resistant to extinction.

If you love watching those dog's trainer videos, then I would suggest Victoria Stilwell over Cesar Millan anytime for a better understanding on how to train your dog and train a healthy stable dog.
this video clip might help:
http://www.veoh.com/search/videos/q/victoria+stillwell#watch=v1090245qEpfrdbG

putting him on the ground works well, but you need to keep doing it and the other people needs to cooperate as well by not giving him the attention he wants.
repetition and the consistency are the keys.

Assuming that the dog is physically healthy (no gastritis, diarrhea, etc), in General non-food motivated dog is an over fed dog. How often and how much does he get feed?
Another culprit could be stress.
http://www.natural-pet-care.com/natural-pet-health-blog/signs-of-stress-in-dogs/
http://aquafind.com/articles/dog7.php
 
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pssh

Avid Member
He's not over weight. He gets fed about 1/4-1/3 of a cup of orijen food twice a day. He is very healthy. It's not so much that he isn't food motivated, it's that he would rather have my attention than eat people food. He will eat certain meats, but if it means taking his attention off me/leaving me when I am near by, he won't go for it. I don't really feed meats to him either because I'm vegitarian and I don't have meat in the house. He eats fish occationally when I get him some.
 

lisa h

New Member
The Dominance theory (ranking in a dog's pack) is very flawed. Forget everything about Cesar Millan. One of the controversial things that Millan do, among other things, is the poke around the neck and pinning the dog on the floor to simulate dominance over the dog. Doing that might work in short term. But, essentially, it is suppressing the aggression..not solving the behavior problem. In the long run, by keep suppressing them, you can create a highly insecure and mentally unstable dog. More often that not, dogs will redirect his aggressions to someone else in the house.
Read about why here:
http://www.nonlineardogs.com/socialorganisation.html

and watch the clip here of Millan's method being confronted by animal behaviorists.
http://www.veoh.com/search/videos/q/cesar+millan#watch=v17338179Ka9fFDfQ

Here is a quote by AVSAB (American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior):


from Association of Pet Behavior Counselors:



If you love watching those dog's trainer videos, then I would suggest Victoria Stilwell over Cesar Millan anytime for a better understanding on how to train your dog and train a healthy stable dog.
this video clip might help:
http://www.veoh.com/search/videos/q/victoria+stillwell#watch=v1090245qEpfrdbG

putting him on the ground works well, but you need to keep doing it and the other people needs to cooperate as well by not giving him the attention he wants.
repetition and the consistency are the keys.

Assuming that the dog is physically healthy (no gastritis, diarrhea, etc), in General non-food motivated dog is an over fed dog. How often and how much does he get feed?
Another culprit could be stress.
http://www.natural-pet-care.com/natural-pet-health-blog/signs-of-stress-in-dogs/
http://aquafind.com/articles/dog7.php

Thank you for posting this. I really think this issue needs to be taken up with a dog trainer who uses positive methods. Pssh, try looking for a clicker training list on Yahoo. There are some excellent ones for reactive dogs, and experienced people that can help you. Not a problem that can't be helped with some guidance. Good luck.
 

dodolah

Retired Moderator
He's not over weight. He gets fed about 1/4-1/3 of a cup of orijen food twice a day. He is very healthy. It's not so much that he isn't food motivated, it's that he would rather have my attention than eat people food. He will eat certain meats, but if it means taking his attention off me/leaving me when I am near by, he won't go for it. I don't really feed meats to him either because I'm vegitarian and I don't have meat in the house. He eats fish occationally when I get him some.

what kind of people food that the family feed him as a treat?
Perhaps, the treat or the food itself is not that appetizing?
 

pssh

Avid Member
They generally only feed him dog food, but he does get cooked chicken, beef, and fish sometimes. I tried giving him cheese and peanut butter (separately) which he did not like.

I guess he is food motivated with his actual family, but if I'm within sight/reach he wants me and pretty much only me. That makes it difficult because he only guards me, so aside from praising him I have no other reward system to reward him when he is good. That doesn't seem to be working out too well.
 

dodolah

Retired Moderator
They generally only feed him dog food, but he does get cooked chicken, beef, and fish sometimes. I tried giving him cheese and peanut butter (separately) which he did not like.

I guess he is food motivated with his actual family, but if I'm within sight/reach he wants me and pretty much only me. That makes it difficult because he only guards me, so aside from praising him I have no other reward system to reward him when he is good. That doesn't seem to be working out too well.

I am assuming you are familiar with the NILF method (Nothing In Life is Free). Basically, it means that for every praises or rewards no matter big or small, you have to make the dog work. Even if it just a light pat on his head, make him sit/ do some sort of work. Never give him free praise, free pat, free treat. The dog has to do something first.

So, the next time you come and sit down, ask him to do some sort of chore (sit, down, or whatever), only then he is allowed to be on your lap.
When one of the family member come to the couch, I am guessing from your description, he will start barking or nipping at the family member.
So, after sitting down, have a family member approach. But, none of you should be tense or afraid. Just relax. If you or he family member is tensed, you are sending him a different signal. The training won't work.

Once he bark or being aggressive, immediately stand up, leave the room , and close the door so he can't follow you. come back after 3- 5 minutes and go back playing with him. Repeat the process.. Please do not give him any reward such as praising, petting him, feeding him, talking to him in a sweet way, etc. Just simply stand up, cross your arm, no eye contact, and walk away.
by couple tries, it might start to look silly and you might be tempted to give up halfway.

but, please keep repeating (consistency is the key, and this might take a while before the dog gets the idea). You want to give him an idea that if he is guarding you by being aggressive toward other people, he will lose you completely.

If he stay calm when the family member is around you, then you (not the family member) should give him a food treat and pet him. then you can both praise him lavishly -speak in a high pitch like coddling a baby-.

Nipping at other people is inexcusable and if his behavior is not fixed, you are right.. he might some day hurt other people.
 
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pssh

Avid Member
I don't normally leave the room, but I will try that. I only reward him when he does allow others to get close/reach for me (which is generally rare, except for his actual family. He won't growl at them.)

I always make sure to get him off me and ignore him for several minutes when he growls at others, but sometimes other people pet him before I can tell them not to. It's very frustrating. He made some progress today (for the first time in a very long time) and allowed some of my family to pet him while he was on my lap.
 

dodolah

Retired Moderator
I don't normally leave the room, but I will try that. I only reward him when he does allow others to get close/reach for me (which is generally rare, except for his actual family. He won't growl at them.)

I always make sure to get him off me and ignore him for several minutes when he growls at others, but sometimes other people pet him before I can tell them not to. It's very frustrating. He made some progress today (for the first time in a very long time) and allowed some of my family to pet him while he was on my lap.

yes. try leaving the room completely. if he cry and whimper, don't pay any attention. Also, it is imperative for the other person not to pet or reward him during his 3 - 5 minutes time out. Just tell them ahead of time :)
 

pssh

Avid Member
I tell them when it's controlled, but sometimes children run up when we are outside, and I can't quite leave the room then...
 

dodolah

Retired Moderator
I tell them when it's controlled, but sometimes children run up when we are outside, and I can't quite leave the room then...

since you are the one that the dog seems to focus on, it is you who needs to leave the room. Not both of you. He/ she should stay in the room keeping an eye of the children and completely ignoring the dog.
You can practice this in the bedroom or any small room, and simply get out to the living room and close the door. you don't exactly have to go outside of the house :).

In case you are alone in the house, with only children, then don't create a situation where he feels the need to protect you and growl at the kids. Perhaps, ignoring him is the best course.

I am assuming, of course, there would be another adult beside you in the house when you are doing this training. If you cannot give him a proper correction by limiting the dog's access to you or rewarding him when he is doing a good job, then I don't see this problem can resolve on its own, other than taking yourself completely from the equation. Even then, chances are the dog will simply redirect this behavior to someone else.
 
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pssh

Avid Member
I mean when I take him on outings with me to parks and what not. I can't leave the room while we are in a park because there are no rooms to leave. If a child comes up to me and he growls, I put him down and tell the child not to pet him, but sometimes a different child will come up and try to pet him before I have the chance to tell them not to. Then he just gets all excited about playing with the kids...
 

dodolah

Retired Moderator
I mean when I take him on outings with me to parks and what not. I can't leave the room while we are in a park because there are no rooms to leave. If a child comes up to me and he growls, I put him down and tell the child not to pet him, but sometimes a different child will come up and try to pet him before I have the chance to tell them not to. Then he just gets all excited about playing with the kids...

If you are holding the dog, then you have to do the best you can to warn kids not to pet him.

When you are outside walking, there is a way to practice.
check out this video (fast forward to 13:40 time mark)
http://www.veoh.com/search/videos/q/victoria+stillwell#watch=v1063994GFzJQEFN
 
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