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Resource Guarding Issues With Greyhound

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Hi all,

This is my first post on this site - and first of all, let me say I'm so grateful a site like this exists! Here is a brief (kinda) breakdown of our issues:


My husband and I rescued our greyhound, Ragnar, in August of 2017, at which time he had just turned 2. We both grew up with big dogs, but neither of us had ever owned a greyhound before. Let me start by saying Ragnar is the sweetest dog - everyone who meets him says the same thing. He will stand next to you getting pet for as long as you'll let him, give kisses, and is all around just playful and sweet with strangers and friendly with other dogs. He does get a little worked up over small kids, but more in a playful way, and doesn't realize how big and heavy he is compared to little children. So we avoid these situations and have kept him muzzled around kids just in case.


So shortly after we adopted Ragnar, he started exhibiting some aggression with food, toys, and furniture to the point where he has bitten me and my husband, and his father in law who was staying in our home and making commands toward Ragnar. If we gave him something highly prized, like a bone, for example, and went to try to take it away, he'd start growling and probably bite if we proceeded. If we went near his food bowl while he was eating, he would pause and start growling. The few times he's actually bitten has been mostly over furniture. He used to be allowed on the couch (we decided no more couch access and got him a big, comfy bed instead) and we'd tell him to get off so a human could sit down, and if tried to physically move him off, he'd bite. My husband said he bit him once just by telling him to get off- I don't know if he was approaching him or what triggered the dog at that point.


Anyway, we've tried a variety of things and had behavior specialists come over recently to give us some training tools. We've tried implementing the practice of approaching his food bowl with treats, trading toys for treats, etc. There has been some improvement. However, my husband is still very doubtful that the dog can improve and doesn't want a dog in our home that will bite people (however, it seems to only be with those very familiar with Ragnar and not really strangers). My husband thinks the dog is aggressive, and that we shouldn't have to accommodate the dog's behavior by keeping him away from kids, putting his muzzle on, or dog-proofing the house. He wants to get rid of the dog and ultimately get a "normal" dog who doesn't have these issues. I tell him other dogs are going to have other issues, or very possibly the same issues, but he doesn't believe me. Anyway, the point of my whole post is to ask if any of you have experienced similar issues and if you think these behaviors are normal or at least something we can and/or should work around? We do want to start a family within the next year or so, so obviously that factors in to all this. I'm just having a hard time imagining giving up this sweet dog, who I feel attached to now like a child. I understand some dogs, especially greyhounds, have their comfort zones, so sometimes you have to accommodate that (i.e., don't get in a sleeping greyhound's face), but I'm wondering if this is crossing the line into something dangerous, and I am too attached to the dog to see that? Please tell me what your thoughts on this!!


Sorry for the long post! I just wanted to give as much detail as I could to give you guys the full story. Thanks so much!

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First of all, it's *extremely* common for dogs to exhibit resource guarding activities. Not just greyhounds, but any dog. If you do a search here in the forum you will find hundreds of threads about resource guarding. Many times you can indeed train the behavior away with time, patience, and consistency. Many times, it will go away on it's own as the dog gains a level of trust in it's home situation.


Second, the dog is resource guarding, not being aggressive. Probably. It's difficult to diagnose over the internet. But true dog aggression is *very* rare. If you all are getting bit then you are not recognizing his signals of anxiety and pushing him too far. It also sounds like this is now a pattern since he's beginning to skip his warning signals, which may be non-existant now since they don't work for him, to go directly to the behavior that gets the result he wants - a bite.


You are right in saying that another dog, of any breed, will likely have their own issues, which could be better or worse than the one you have. Unless you get a well-bred purebred dog as a puppy, you don't know really what that dog has dealt with before it came to you. And even with a puppy you will need to do your work at socializing and exposing it to stimuli so it grows up well adjusted. There is no dog that is without work if you want a good housemate and companion.


I'm not sure what your trainer told you so some of what I say may be doubling up. You don't say what kind of "trainer" you consulted, but I hope it was a certified animal behaviorist who recommended only positive reinforcement training. Any other kind of non-positive-based training is unlikely to work to solve your issues, and will likely make them worse.


Furniture: If he's resource guarding furniture, don't let him have furniture priviledges. If he does get up, don't try and physically move him. Use a yummy treat to lure him off the couch and to his bed. At the same time, give him a command like "off" or "bed" or whatever you choose, so he learns at the same time. Never try and grab his collar or you will get snapped at.


High value treats and toys: Either don't give them to him, or learn to "trade up." This is where you use a higher value treat (the yummiest thing ever) to get his mouth far enough away from the original object so you or someone else can pick it up and remove it from the dog. How far away that is depends on the dog and the high value object. What you're trading has to have at least a high a value as what he has, so don't try trading a dry milkbone for a bully stick or toy.


Food bowl: Hand feed him every meal. Take turns with your husband feeding his meals dropped by handsfulls into his bowl. You want him to associate people around his bowl as a really good thing, not something to be anxious about. You need to start farther away - put a handful of food in his bowl and immediately back away. As he becomes more comfortable you can - slowly! - leave your hand closer to the bowl. Don't try and take the bowl away from him until he's very comfortable having a person inside his personal "bowl space."


Kids: Not much you can do about a big dog and small kids. He *may* be absoutely fine and just wanting to play, but his size makes that hard. What you are doing - limiting his exposure around them, muzzling - are all things I would recommend. It's just common sense, not punative for the dog or the kids.


It does take every person in the house being on board with the training regimen and doing it every single time you approach the dog or deal with the dog around it's triggers. For as long as it takes. And it does not sound like this is the case in your household. Your husband has no trust with this dog, and only he can say if it's possible for that trust to be rebuilt. It's hard to think about it, but Ragnar (great name!) might be better served by being returned to find a new home that is more able to deal with his guarding issues. Particularly if you both are firm about starting a family soon.

Chris - Mom to: Felicity (DeLand), and Andi (Braska Pandora)

52592535884_69debcd9b4.jpgsiggy by Chris Harper, on Flickr

Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby), Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Atom, Lilly

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We got our grey in Oct 2017 and he still has many of these same issues. The food and toys are exactly as you described. He never had interest in the couch or bed and has a bed of his own in our room, the family room and in his crate.


These issues are improving, but far from gone. What is changing is our reaction to them. We have learned to treat them as moments in time and when they are over, they are over. Now, granted, he has never actually connected with a bite. He still growls quite a bit and will occasionally snap. I initially viewed this as aggression but have come to realize that if he was truly aggressive, only one of us would be walking away.


For meals, I generally stand there and give him a few pieces of kibble by hand from his bowl before I set it down. We've hit the point where i can pet his head as he starts to eat, but I don't linger there.


Toys we started grabbing when he had no interest and getting him interested. Sometimes now he will play tug of war with me.


We can usually approach him on his bed now. But last night he growled at me and when I didn't move away fast enough he snapped. Again, he didn't make contact but it's hard to get used to the snap.


Initially we were trying to "correct" his growl, but as I've read here as well as elsewhere, the growl is good because it's a warning.


Agree with all greysmom said above. Hopefully time and consistency will pay off for you. Just wanted to chime in so that you didn't feel like you were the only one this was happening to.

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Thanks all for the feedback. Greysmom - my husband definitely does not trust the dog as of right now, so that's something we will have to either work on or make that decision to move on altogether. I agree that I don't think it's aggressive behavior although there are times when it happens without warning signs - but perhaps because of what you said, that he skips the warning signals now and just goes straight to the bite. If we had a generally aggressive dog, this would actually much easier, but it's confusing when he can be so sweet and lovable but then capable of biting us in particular scenarios.


NewGrey2017 - thanks for the commiseration. It's definitely not easy to deal with. We have stopped letting Ragnar on furniture (which reduces opportunities for biting incidents), started lingering around his bowl during feeding time (throwing treats in) for longer periods of time and in closer range (worked up in small increments), and we've tried the "trade up" technique, which seems to work, but he also gets VERY distracted by the treats I'm trying to trade up for, so it's seems way too easy and kindof defeats the purpose of the training I'm trying to do. He's shown improvement with all of these things, but every now and then he will growl when we play tug of war, or when you try to move him over or scoot his dog bed, and he air snapped at my husband the other day for trying to take his water bowl away (our behaviorists said the fact he ONLY air snapped is an improvement). My husband is just worried that behavior will always exist and he could snap and bite someone at any time, despite the progress he's been showing.


Our trainers were certified animal behaviorists with PHDs and almost 20 years of experience. Their tools and information was ALL positive-based, and they made the focus on "gentle" training to accommodate the gentle greyhound breed. We were not aware before that greyhounds can't really be trained the same way as other dogs. My husband's father is a trainer, but he works with military and police dogs (German Shepards, etc.) and these breeds do NOT respond to the same type of training, which our behaviorists informed us of. After the latest incident with the air snapping over the water bowl, our behaviorists mentioned Ragnar and my husband probably still have some damage to their relationship. My husband is the "discipliner" and when we first started seeing this behavior, we naturally responded with negative punishment - we know NOW that this was not the right way to respond, but it has left tension in their relationship, which is probably why the dog only snaps at my husband now and looks to me for protection - there are some trust issues I think.

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  • 2 years later...

My husband and I are new greyhound owners. We have a 6-year old daughter. We’ve never owned big dogs before, but we did have 15+ years with our former dogs. 
We adopted Max two months ago. He has not displayed sleep startle.

From the beginning, we allowed Max up on furniture. The first week, he slipped on our wood floor. Then my husband sat on the couch (but away from Max), and he lunged at his face. Though he was hurt, he did not require medical attention. My husband felt betrayed and confused. We called the rescue center. They suspected that Max responded like this due to pain. We reached out to our vet and gave medication.

We assumed it was an anomaly. A week later, he snarled at my husband when he reached to grab one of my daughter’s toys from his mouth. We sought counsel from a certified behaviorist who suggested “trading up.” We did this, and Max even started to enjoy fetch.

Two weeks later, we were all on the couch. Max rested his head on my daughter’s lap. Then I got up. He was fully awake. His head was up, and he looked at me. Suddenly I heard a loud snarl, and my daughter began crying. He did not bite her, but he scratched her face and head so forcefully that she bled. I cried from guilt. I should not have left her for a second alone with him. He had been attached to her prior, and I was ignorant.

Last week, we gave Max a new toy. He took it to a different room to play. Then he jumped with it on the couch (nothing new). When my husband sat down, he lunged at him. Then a week later, my mom sat on the couch, and he growled.

our vet recognized this as resource guarding (like the behaviorist). He suggests that because we have a child, we should return him to the rescue. I’m torn. I love him (we all do). He’s generally so affectionate. For the past two days, he’s not been allowed on furniture, but is this enough? I don’t know if I’m putting our daughter in a too risky situation. What should I do? We’ve always been so attached to our animals, and I had never until now considered returning a dog. But, if we need this for safety, and if he needs a more experienced and childless home, could this be the best response?

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5 hours ago, NewGreytOwner said:

But, if we need this for safety, and if he needs a more experienced and childless home, could this be the best response?

I think you have answered your own question. You have not failed it's just for some reason he's not right for you and your family.

Your family's safety comes first and you would never forgive yourself if he went further and seriously hurt someone and then had to be put to sleep.

Grace (Ardera Coleen) b. 18 June 2014 - Gotcha Day 10 June 2018 - Going grey gracefully
Guinness (Antigua Rum) b. 3 September 2017 - Gotcha Day 18 March 2022 - A gentleman most of the time


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