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Sudden Resource Guarding, Considering Returning


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We got our first greyhound almost 4 weeks ago and he’s been pretty good up until now. A couple of days ago, out of the blue, he has three resource guarding incidents (two with toys, one with a treat) and growled at me when I tried to touch his front leg to get him untangled from his leash.

These are all things he’s never had issues with before. We’ve been training drop it, leave it & trading up since day 1, have played fetch multiple times with him happily dropping the toys on command and have similarly been positively reinforcing touch on various parts of his body, all of which he has done incredibly well with (even let me trim his nails with no issue!). 
 

I’ve had dogs before but never a greyhound and never a resource guarder. My boyfriend has never had a dog before and both of us are very rattled by these incidents. We’ve found ourselves extremely anxious, scared and uncomfortable around our grey and have him muzzled currently because we just aren’t sure why he’s being set off by things that are not new. I contacted the adoption group and felt very unsupported as the only thing we were told is to do the training we’ve already been doing. They did mention contacting Barkbusters but the trainer in our area isn’t credentialed or certified, which has given me pause.

We’ve talked about possibly returning him because I’m so scared that it will escalate and result in a bite since my boyfriend is still learning about dogs and dog body language and doesn’t always see the signs he needs to yet. I also know that I want kids at some point and have young nieces & nephews and I feel nervous about the possibility of having children around a potentially unpredictable resource guarder. I worry we might not be the right home for him to help him work through these things.

This was long but I guess I just don’t know what to do and am looking for advice and support.

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Resource guarding isn't just a greyhound issue.  Any adult dog you adopt, from whatever source, can be a resource guarder, so it's highly likely you will encounter one at some point if you continue having canine companions.

It's always good to remember though that racing greyhounds have some additional challenges in this regard.  Throughout most of their lives they have never had to deal with anyone coming into their space to take away *anything* from them.  What's in their crate is theirs, and they can get very protective about food and other special items. 

It's also good to remember that you've only had him for 4 weeks.  That's really a very short time.  IMO, it sounds like he settling in and *beginning* to feel comfortable letting you know how he feels about things - the beginning of the bonding process between you.  This may be a phase you will work through or it may be part of his behavioral set up, but it is, actually, progress for him.

And resource guarding is manageable to live with if you follow some very simple rules.  Number one being don't ever try and take any high value item from him without paying for it.  We call that "trading up."  Use a higher value treat than the one you're trying to take from him.  Lure him away from the item, or toss the higher value treat far enough away that he has to leave the item, and pick the item up and put it away.  Easy Peasy.

In our house, we also severely limit the number of high value items we give our resource guarder - no treats that take longer than a minute or so to eat, no high value toys.  She will growl and snap at humans and other dogs, so we just don't give her the opportunity to get started.  When we first adopted her she was *very* difficult in this regard, but during the four years we've had her she's gotten much less "guardy" about certain things.  

It's also a very hard and fast rule in our house that all our guests *must* follow to not give her any treats or toys.  Period.  They can pet and love and hug and do other things with her, but nothing that will trigger her resource guarding.  Again, as long as this rule is followed, there are no problems.  And even small kids can learn this rule.  If you have kids, or visitors that can't seem to understand the limitations, just make sure your dog is in a safe spot when they visit you. 

As far as kids of your own, no child should ever be left unsupervised with *any* dog until they can reliably understand and follow the rules of how pets are supposed to be treated.  

Good call on not calling Barkbusters.  They are a punishment based "training" organization and shouldn't be used for greyhounds (or any dogs in my opinion).  Ask your vet if they have a recommendation for a certified animal behaviorist in your area, and make sure they only use positive reinforcement techniques before letting them near your greyhound.

Growling and even snapping shouldn't be viewed as bad or aggressive dog behavior.  They are just ways dogs have to communicate with humans.  Never punish a growl, but review the incident closely to see what your dog is trying to tell you.  If you try to extinguish a growl the dog will just learn to skip it and escalate his comminucation to something more forceful, like actual biting.

Your boyfriend may benefit from reading some good books about dog behavior - anything by Patricia McConnell is a good intro, and she always has excellent step-by-step lists of how to work through issues.  She's also good at explaining general dog behaviors.

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

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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

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1 hour ago, greysmom said:

And resource guarding is manageable to live with if you follow some very simple rules.  Number one being don't ever try and take any high value item from him without paying for it.  We call that "trading up."  Use a higher value treat than the one you're trying to take from him.  Lure him away from the item, or toss the higher value treat far enough away that he has to leave the item, and pick the item up and put it away.  Easy Peasy.

In our house, we also severely limit the number of high value items we give our resource guarder - no treats that take longer than a minute or so to eat, no high value toys.  She will growl and snap at humans and other dogs, so we just don't give her the opportunity to get started.  When we first adopted her she was *very* difficult in this regard, but during the four years we've had her she's gotten much less "guardy" about certain things.  

I guess a concern that I have is that I don't know what's high value for him. The things he guarded were not newly introduced things. We'd played fetch multiple times this week with the toys he guarded and he'd happily dropped them when asked. The treat (a dentastix) is something he's been getting since almost day one, again never with any sort of guarding behavior prior to Thursday. I think that's where some of our anxiety comes in because we just don't know what he's going to react to or when he will react to it. The unpredictability of the entire thing is honestly scary and one of the big concerns I have with having people or children over. What if he decided to guard something he's never guarded before, just like these items. We have been practicing drop it, leave it and trading up since since he came home a month ago, yet still this is happening and seems like it might be extending into other things. Today when I gave him a piece of kibble for coming over to me in the house when called (kibble is his low value reinforcer treat), instead of eating it there like he usually does, he took it and then walked back across the room to his bed to eat it, which I know is a lower grade show of resource guarding.

 

2 hours ago, greysmom said:

Good call on not calling Barkbusters.  They are a punishment based "training" organization and shouldn't be used for greyhounds (or any dogs in my opinion).  Ask your vet if they have a recommendation for a certified animal behaviorist in your area, and make sure they only use positive reinforcement techniques before letting them near your greyhound.

My vet is the president of the adoption group we went through and his wife, the adoption coordinator, is the one who gave the Barkbusters recommendation, so I doubt he'd have anything different to give me. I've been doing some research of my own into trainers in our area, but honestly I just feel so overwhelmed and upset by this whole situation and there's just this constant voice in the back of my head that just keeps saying "What if we're not the right home for him?"

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Hi silverstream,

I can totally understand that you are concerned. When we adopted our greyhound a year ago he showed strong resource guarding tendencies. To me it felt super random what he guarded. Sometimes he would come over with his treats and sit next to me eating it, other times we were not even close to him and he growled and barked at us for being in the same room when he ate something. It was scary! He was so gentle most of the time but suddenly he was like a different dog and I was worried he would bite me. 

Reading in this forum about resource guarding helped me a lot. The things I took away from it were: 1. It is normal dog behaviour 2. it's understandable that my feelings are a bit hurt by his behaviour (it's just not nice if your dog growls at you!) but it doesn't mean he doesn't like me, it's his way of communicating because he can't talk to me. 3. training is important and helps but it maybe never goes away entirely but there are ways to manage it.

My partner didn't know anything about greyhounds and he was really concerned and sad I guess. I shared a lot of what I read here with him to reassure him that our dog is not 'bad' and nothing is wrong with him it's just a case of learning to manage the situation. 

How greysmom handles the situation at home is very similar to how we do it. I know him well enough now that I know what items he would guard! In the first few months it happened once a week that he would growl at us, now we haven't had a 'guarding incident' for a while! we just know what we can give him now. And he is also only allowed to eat in a certain area, this is because we can make sure he is undisturbed there.  In our case it is very manageable. At the beginning I felt he is unpredictable but after a few months I didn't feel that way anymore. 

Honestly, take it easy. 4 weeks is not a long time at all. It is great that you started training already, it sounds like you do what you can to form a relationship with him. He needs time to adjust though. He is still trying to figure out the new routine and what is expected from him. Take it slow. Don't expect too much too soon. He sounds like a fast learner, that's awesome. I said it before, Johnny needed 6 months to learn any kind of basic commands. The only thing he did in the first 2 months was laying on the sofa, looking depressed and ignoring us :)  he is not like that anymore at all. We know his quirks and I guess he also knows what he can expect living with us. 

But, of course, if you feel resource guarding is an absolute no go and you don't want to deal with it, then you probably need to return him. Just because others are managing it doesn't mean you have to live with a dog that shows that behaviour. Sometimes it's just not the right match and it's ok to feel that way! You have to live with the dog for the next years so of course you want a dog that fits your lifestyle. But like greysmom said, resource guarding is not only a greyhound behaviour, it could happen with any dog, especially if you adopt an adult dog. 

 

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Sounds like he's starting to settle in and pushing the boundaries. Dogs pick up on their owners attitude and if you and your partner are acting wearily around him he'll act accordingly. Be confident but ready to react when he tries to tell you he's had enough.

You don't say where you are as someone on this forum might know of a good trainer/behaviourist in your area.

Greyhounds are like humans in that no two are alike and just because this one doesn't suit you doesn't mean all greyhounds won't. There is no shame in taking him back and trying another, perhaps fostering with a view to adoption.

Grace (Ardera Coleen) born 18 June 2014
Raced at Monmore Green, Wolverhampton UK - 68 Races, 9 wins, 5 second places
Gotcha Day 10 June 2018 

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My dog is not particularly a resource guarder (except for Terry’s chocolate orange) but if I tried to take something from him, or if he thought I was trying to take something from him that he has every day I would expect him to let me know that he’s not happy about it.
As I understand it, you were trying to take his lead off him when he was eating a treat? I think I would interpret this as a learning point, that you either delay giving him the treat/toy until you have finished touching him, or leave him with his lead on and avoid touching him or pulling him around until he is ready. I don’t think that it is an unreasonable expectation from the dog to left in peace while enjoying his toy/treat, particularly not a dog who has only been in his environment for a few weeks and who is still learning who he can and can’t trust (I’ve noticed that greyhounds do not play like other dogs, which was a surprise when I got mine. He is happier if I watch him play, but doesn’t necessarily need me to interact with him during play).

I don’t know if anyone else has this issue but my dog is particularly sensitive about having his legs touched, and even after over two years, he flinches if we touch his legs or paws, much more so if he can’t see where our hands are going. Like you, I’m still working on getting him used to it but I think this might just be how my dog is.

Otherwise it sounds like you are doing really really well with his training (much better than I am after 2 1/2 years!), and are bonding and building boundaries with him. I think sometimes it’s not just about training the dog to behave how we expect, but also about adjusting our mindset and giving way a little to accommodate what they need from us, if that makes sense? I personally think I would give it another four weeks and see how he is then, but really only you can make that judgement. 

Living with Buddy Molly b. 5 November 2010. Welcomed home 16/6/2018 ❤️

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11 hours ago, HeyRunDog said:You don't say where you are as someone on this forum might know of a good trainer/behaviourist in your area.

 

You don't say where you are as someone on this forum might know of a good trainer/behaviourist in your area.

We’re in Minnesota, the Twin Cities area!

10 hours ago, MerseyGrey said:

As I understand it, you were trying to take his lead off him when he was eating a treat?

No, his lead stays on him at all times since he’s not yet potty trained or trusted to not try to get into anything he’s not supposed to. That way if we need to lead him away from something or rush him outside, we have a safe way to do so instead of grabbing his collar which a lot of dogs don’t like.

All I did was sit down next to him, which I do every night when he gets that particular treat. Didn’t reach out towards him or move to take it or anything like that.

 

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