Resource Guarding – Part 2

Hi everyone!

I will write about some alternate forms of resource guarding today, focusing on food. Resource guarding is a normal behavior for a dog, especially if they grew up in a situation where they had to fight for their possessions. This behavior can range from relatively tame behavior, like running away with a coveted item or growling at an approaching person, to full-blown aggression, such as biting or chasing a person away. Some dogs will only direct their guarding at certain people while others will do it with everyone. They also can have a number of different items that they guard such as, food, kennel or dog bed, toys, bones, socks, etc.

Many times, if a dog only guards their food, owners will not try to alter their behavior, they will just “leave him alone” at meal time. This is a fine solution while the dog is at home during a typical evening, but what happens if you go on a holiday and leave the dog with your friends who have a young child, or when you have guests over that don’t know your dog’s feeding habits? During this process you dog’s body language is very important. If he is very stiff, staring, panting, yawning, growling intensely, and you think he may bite, please consult a professional in your area to come over and do an in home assessment. To better understand your dog’s body language, make note of their body movements, tail, eyes, and ears, while you know they are comfortable, then when something changes you will be better equipped to notice.

Boogie DOGGIE LANGUAGE - Imgur

The method used for resource guarding is desensitizing and counterconditioning, which are quite complex so this exercise will take a bit of time and dedication but will be well worth it in the end.

Changing Your Dog’s Behavior:

  • To begin, you will stand a few feet away from your dog while their dry kibble is on the floor. Use a cue like “That looks good” or whatever you want, and at the same time toss a piece of chicken, or other high value treat to them (use a treat that he only gets during this exercise). Continue to do this every few seconds until your dog is finished. Repeat this step for a few days. REMEMBER, if your dog moves close to you to get a treat, just ignore them until they go back to eating.
  • Now, take a step forward, use your verbal cue, toss a treat, and step back. Do this for a few days until the dog is getting more comfortable and move onto step 3.
  • Take a step to be standing right beside your dog, use the verbal cue, drop the treat directly into their bowl, and step away. Again, do this for few days until he is visually comfortable and move on!
  • Repeat the above step, but bend down closer to your dog’s bowl to drop in the treat. Continue to do this and as the dog gets more comfortable, keep inching down until you are placing the treat into the bowl.
  • Now, continue to bend down, touch his bowl, and give him the treat from the other hand. Do this for a few meals and then you can move onto picking the bowl off the ground while treating with your other hand and placing it back down.

If your dog is getting the steps very quickly then you can adjust as you feel the need to, however make sure not to rush through this, you do not want your dog to feel threatened at any point in time. You may even need to have everyone in your family go through the steps individually for the dog to get comfortable with each person.

You can apply this exercise to anything that the dog is guarding, the steps remain the same but the area will change. Is your dog a resource guarder? What did you do to adjust their behavior? Let me know in the comments below!

Resource Guarding – Ginny

Today, my good friend asked me for some advice on resource guarding. There are many different types of resource guarding so I thought I would make this into a two part series.

Meet Ginny, an adorable 6 year old Lhasa Apso, Poodle mix. who her mom describes as “sensitive, competitive, vocal and very bossy, but sweet and snuggly when she’s not feeling pressured.” Ginny lives in a unique situation with 4 other doggy siblings, big and small, a cat, and 3 horses. It is very common for a dog to guard food, toys, and bones, but in this case Ginny is guarding her mom’s attention. When the other dogs come into the room to jump on the bed, Ginny growls and let’s them know that she DOES NOT want them up there. We decided on a technique called Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) to try with Ginny.

BAT, developed by Grisha Stewart, MA, CPDT-KA, “rehabilitates dog reactivity by looking at why the dog is reactive and helping them meet their needs in other ways. This method is a dog-friendly application of ‘functional analysis’ that gives the dogs a chance to learn to control their own comfort level through peaceful means. It is very empowering to your dog, in a good way.” If you are interested in doing some reading about dog training, I highly recommend anything by Grisha Stewart.

We often use BAT for dogs who are aggressive with other dogs or people, and train while on leash, in this circumstance we will be using it for Ginny’s behavior while on Mom’s bed.

  • First, they began with another dog (on leash) slowly walking into the room.
  • Once Mom sees Ginny begin to get agitated (body signals), she distracts her with a “YES” verbal marker and gives her some love while Dad removes the other dog – Remember that if you miss this warning stage and your dog reacts, remove the dog from the situation immediately and start over. The reward in this situation is removing the other dog.
  • As this goes on, Dad brings the other dog closer and closer to the bed until Ginny starts looking to Mom for confirmation on how to react.

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This training method can be used in any situation where your dog gets agitated or anxious, ideally you want your dog to look to you for guidance when they get nervous. For example, if they see a rabbit, you want them to look to you to see if they should chase it or not, or confirmation that they will be ok while that kid zips past on his bike.

Do you own a resource guarder? What methods did you use to change this behavior? Let me know in the comments below!

MUR Adoptable – Josie

Hi friends!

I wanted to share about another beautiful adoptable from Manitoba Underdogs Rescue who has a soft spot in my heart, Josie. If it were up to me, I’d be adding Josie to my pack. Unfortunately my partner is at his dog limit (for now) so I have to settle for co-fostering Josie and helping with her training.

Josie before - note her body is very stiff, her head is down, and her ears are back

Josie before – note her body is very stiff, her head is down, and her ears are back

Before coming into care, Josie was living as a stray in a remote Manitoban community. She was terrified of people and we couldn’t get anywhere near her to catch her, so we had to use a humane trap. Upon arriving to the “big city”, Josie stayed at my house for a few days. I had a “safe place” set up for her including a crate, blanket, food, and water. Crating a dog has a bad rap for being “cruel”, but in reality, dogs need a safe place that is always available for them if they are feeling anxious, nervous, have a special bone to chew, or need to take a nap, most dogs love having a crate.

After an initial behavioral assessment, I determined that there wasn’t a mean bone in Josie’s body, she was just extremely afraid; understandably, as it was her first time in a car, crate and house. You never want to force a fearful dog to do anything, either lure them with treats or wait them out. With Josie, I wanted to take her outside, so I started with offering her food and water, then experimented with some other snacks. During this process I did not give any eye contact, I sat a fair distance away where she didn’t have to walk right to me to leave the room, and I had my side facing her. Body language, both yours and the dog’s, are very important when working with dogs like Josie. Turned out, Josie was a big fan of hot dog buns so I left a little trail of crumbs and eventually she came out of the kennel and off we went into the backyard.

At this point, Josie was a flight risk so even though I have a fully fenced yard, I kept her on leash at all times, even inside the house. Once outside, it was a bit of a challenge to get her back inside. I left a trail of treats going inside the door and turned my back as to not intimidate her, eventually we made it back in, and she bee lined straight for her kennel. That was what we did for the next few days, going out and back in, which got increasingly quicker each time. By the second day, she would even stop to check out the house before heading back to her crate!

It turns out that Josie LOVES other dogs, and her foster sisters have been great influences on her! Dogs can be the best teachers, or the worst, depending on their habits. Josie now walks right inside with my girls because she learned from them that it is safe to walk past me when I open the door. They also taught her to walk on the leash and that it is a fun activity rather than an intimidating, scary one.

Josie fitting right in with my girls at their favorite lookout spot!

Josie fitting right in with my girls at their favorite lookout spot!

Josie has now been in care for just over three months. I continue to work with Josie, getting her used to different items and experiences, like the collar and leash, and checking out new environments. Josie now walks right into my yard with confidence and molds right in with my pack. We even have her coming on our walks and greeting people at the door. Needless to say, when Josie finds that perfect family, she will also come with a couple of humans who will need some visitation rights!

Josie after - note her body language, ears perked, loose body, head and tail up

Josie after – note her body language, ears perked, loose body, head and tail up

Interested in adopting this sweet girl? Check out www.manitobaunderdogs.org/ for more information!

Hope this blog is helpful for those who ever need to work with timid/semi-feral animals. If you’ve had your fair share working with timid/semi-feral animals, I’d love to hear what steps you took to help them transition to life as a pet!

MUR Adoptable – Abby – Separation Anxiety

Hi Friends!

Today I am going to introduce another dog, Abby, that I worked with from Manitoba Underdogs Rescue. Abby suffers from separation anxiety, which is fairly common and can often result in some destruction or escaping from the home. We want the bond between us and our pets to be strong, but sometimes the dog can become too dependant on their human, which causes them stress when they are left alone.

Abby has been adopted and is fitting in great in her new home with a family willing to work through her issues!

Abby has been adopted and is fitting in great in her new home with a family willing to work through her issues!

Some common causes of separation anxiety are:

  1. Straight after a change in routine, you may be working different hours, a family member may of moved out, or you might be on vacation or off work spending more time with your dog and then return to them being home for longer periods of time.
  2. When you bring your new dog home, being in a new environment will create some anxiety until they get used to your routine and realize that it is a permanent home. It can take up to a year for your new dog to fully settle in.
  3. If your dog experiences a traumatic event while on their own, a break in, something large falling, a thunderstorm, etc.
  4. If you move to a new house or neighborhood.

Abby’s fosters/adopters had tried putting her in a kennel, but she would not settle down, so they tried containing her in a room. While in this room she broke through the screened in window and when confined again, chewed and scratched through the door. After all of this, they decided to just leave her out in the house and see what happens. She was doing much better but still scratching at the doors and windows.

After meeting with the family and observing Abby, we made an action plan. Unfortunately, depending on the severity of the anxiety, this isn’t an easy fix, it takes a lot of time and patience. We decided to kennel train her, even if not for her to stay in all day but just a safe option for her to retreat to if ever feeling uncomfortable. Sometimes confinement can make separation anxiety worse so I definitely recommend consulting a professional before making any decisions on your course of action.

Training Steps:

REMEMBER: Separation anxiety can be quite serious depending on what level your dog is at. If you are worried about the safety of your dog, or your house, please contact a Force-Free trainer in your area! During this training time, you shouldn’t leave your dog at home for long periods of time. Most people have full time jobs and can’t stay home during the day, so consider taking your dog to daycare until their anxiety starts to get better. These length of time that you dedicate to each step will vary depending on the dog. If ever your dog starts to get anxious, back up a step or two.

  • If your dog becomes nervous while you are getting ready to go out, start putting on your jacket and just staying in the house, or picking up your keys and carry them around with you inside. Go through the actions that make your dog nervous and don’t leave the house.
  • Once your dog is more comfortable with you getting ready to leave, start leaving the room (close yourself off in another) for a few seconds at a time, showing your dog that you will be coming back. REPEAT this step as much as necessary.
  • Once your dog is comfortable with the few seconds, start adding more time closed off in the room. Make sure to switch up the times as well. 2 seconds, 10 seconds, 5 seconds, 8 seconds, 30 seconds, 15 seconds, etc…. Continue to increase the time until you can make it a few minutes.
  • Once that step is complete, start doing the same exercise but out the front and back door. Try to work your way up to 15 or 30 minutes.
  • Now it is time to actually leave! Go run a quick errand, and return. Start small with 15-30 minutes and work your way up to a couple hours. Eventually start with half a day at work and stop in at lunch to let your dog out and have a short play.

Once you are starting to leave your dog home alone for periods of time, distract them with treat games and lots of toys to occupy their time. Separation anxiety happens for the first hour or two that you are gone, so if your dog has something to distract them during that time, they should settle down and go about normal behavior until you return. I would recommend “hiding” food around for them to go and find, if they are too nervous to take regular kibble, try putting some low sodium chicken broth on top or mixing in some mashed sweet potato. Then scatter a whole bunch of bones and toys for them to chew, make sure to leave a mix of stuffed toys, food bones (not too many of these because you want them gaining any weight), plastic bones (nylabones work great), rope toys, anything your dog enjoys.

Through this whole process, make sure your dog is getting a lot of exercise, mental and physical, before you leave the house. Take your dog for a long walk before you leave and when you get home, also do some obedience training for 15 minutes before leaving, teach him some tricks! You can do the basics, sit, down, sit and stay, down and stay, and then move into others like shake a paw, rollover, crawl, bow, whatever you want! The less energy your dog has when you leave, the less likely they are to experience any level of anxiety.

Does your dog suffer from separation anxiety? What techniques worked for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Getting Involved in Animal Rescue

Interested in getting involved in the animal rescue world but not quite sure how?

As most of you already know, I am very involved in the Manitoba dog rescue world. When I started out, I knew that I wanted to do something to help but lived in an animal free apartment so I couldn’t foster or adopt. I began by helping the foster families walk the dogs, or let them out and feed them if they weren’t going to be home, things like that. Later on I became more involved with helping create the print outs for the adoptables album for the adoption fairs, and once I moved into a house I began fostering and adopted two of my own. Once I realized my true passion for animal rescue I became more involved with DREAM and am currently their Spay/Neuter Program Coordinator and Operations Director. I am also helping the foster dogs and families, from Manitoba Underdogs Rescue, with any training questions or issues.

The DREAM Team

The DREAM Team

Here are some of the many ways to get involved with rescue (not in any order of importance):

  1. Foster – fostering will cost you nothing, and you are directly helping save a life! Fostering is also great for those who are not sure if they are ready to make the full commitment to adopt, or aren’t sure what kind of dog will fit into their lifestyle.
  2. Adopt – Looking to add a pet to your life? Check out your local rescue and adopt! You will be directly contributing to helping the animal community and ending overpopulation and abuse. Adopting a pet is also MUCH cheaper than purchasing one off of the internet, through a breeder, or in a pet store because all of the shots, immunizations, and spay/neuter is included. These can add up to $500 on top of the purchasing fee or more versus the $250 – $300 to adopt a pet. “But what if I want a pure bred or a small breed?” Rescues very often have pure bred animals AND small breeds! You just need to make sure to check out all of the rescues and shelters in your community!
  3. Support a foster family! Help out with walking, feeding, snuggling, and whatever they need a hand with!
  4. Looking to do something from the comfort of your own home? Why not be a reference checker! Phone potential adopters references or phone adopters for a follow up on how their lives are with their newest furry family member.
  5. Donate money, or items such as food, collars and leashes, blankets, newspaper, kennels, etc….
  6. Have a fundraiser – instead of wedding favors make donations in your guest’s names, instead of birthday presents have people donate to your favorite rescue, have a garage sale – get creative!
  7. Help out at adoption fairs! Man the BBQ or take care of the pups, speak to potential adopters, or sell merchandise!
  8. Easiest way to help out? Post and share about dogs and/or rescues in need on your social media platforms and encourage your friends to do the same!
  9. Want to be more involved? Check out what inside positions are available! A rescue is just like a business, but run by volunteers, there are marketing teams, community outreach teams, productions (event planning etc) teams, data entry teams, finance and admin teams, operations (dog intake, foster support etc) teams, and so much more!

Send an e-mail to a local rescue today and find out how you can help! Here are just a few of the many rescues here in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada:

  1. DREAM – Dog Rescue Education and Advocacy of Manitoba
  2. Manitoba Underdogs Rescue
  3. Earthdog Terrier Rescue of Manitoba
  4. Manitoba Small Dog Rescue
  5. Hull’s Haven Border Collie Rescue
  6. Happy Tails Adoption Center
  7. Winnipeg Animal Services
  8. Winnipeg Humane Society
  9. Before the Bridge Senior K9 Rescue
  10. Manitoba German Shepherd Rescue
  11. Manitoba Mutts Dog Rescue

Have any questions on how to get involved? Are you currently involved in rescue? What do you do to help? Let me know in the comments below!

Puppy Nipping

Everyone loves a puppy right? Well, what do you do when that puppy goes through the nipping stage? I have been getting that question a lot lately so I thought I would write about it this week.

This is 4 week old Azzy, him and his siblings will be available for adoption through Manitoba German Shepherd Rescue at 7 weeks!

This is 4 week old Azzy, him and his siblings will be available for adoption through Manitoba German Shepherd Rescue at 7 weeks!

Nipping is a normal stage for your puppy to go through. Puppies explore with their mouths, so it is up to you to let them know what is okay to chew on and what is not. Nipping can also be brought on by teething pains, similar to a human child. To alleviate this pain, you can freeze a wet towel or some teething toys for them to chew.

To help with your puppy’s nipping habit, you are first going to teach them bite inhibition. They start learning this with their littermates at a young age. When a pup bites their brother or sister too hard they yelp and often the play stops momentarily. You are going to be imitating this behaviour so the dog can learn the pain limitations of human skin. This will also help in the future if your dog ever bites someone outside of play, because of fear or pain, they are less likely to bite hard or break the skin. When you are playing with your puppy, let him mouth your hands and as soon as he bites too hard, imitate a yelp or other sound, pull your hand away and let let it go limp. Praise the puppy for stopping or for licking you. You can repeat these steps for about a 15 minute period before moving onto something else. If he will not stop trying to bite you too hard, use a “timeout” method of completely ignoring the puppy until he leaves you alone. Then praise him and keep playing or give him a toy.

When a pup or adult is excited they do not know the difference between a happy human and a mad human. Saying “no” or pushing away still feels like play to them, so do not give any eye contact and keep turning your back to the puppy until they stop. Once your pup starts to decrease his pressure, you can continue to do this process until your pup is putting no pressure on your skin at all.

The next step is to teach the pup that skin isn’t for chewing! You need to have TONS of toys and bones for your pup to chew on around the house. This will be frustrating as you walk around and keep tripping over and stepping on toys, but it will be worth it in the end. Make sure there is always something to pick up and give to your dog when they start to nip at you. This will teach them what is appropriate for chewing and what is not. Start playing no-contact games such as fetch or tug of war, when they start nipping, to redirect their focus onto the tug toy or ball. Eventually your puppy will begin to look for these toys when wanting something to chew on.

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If your pup is chasing you around the house nipping at your legs, go into a room and close your pup out of it. You may have to stay in the room for 30 seconds to 2 minutes or may have to do this a few times before they stop nipping and calm down, but once they do make sure to give them lots of attention and a toy. Reward for the good behavior! Once they begin stopping almost immediately, make sure to have a toy to redirect and reward them.

Are you having issues with puppy nipping? What methods have worked for you? Let me know in the comments below!