This morning I am hanging out with the dogs. Deuce comes over to me and wants my attention. I began by gently stroking his ears, which he enjoys. Rio, whom is close by, pushes her body onto Deuce hoping to stop my interaction with him and getting some of the affection. Deuce turns towards her and sort of chastises her by kind of pecking her on the nose as he emits a high-pitch whine – his way of telling Rio that he is not “happy” with her.
Initially I am not sure why Deuce is acting this way, but I piece together what has happened. Rio sometimes can get a bit pushy and wants attention at all cost. For the most part it’s not a problem either for Deuce or us, but this morning it was not so and Deuce let her know that he had enough of her antics.
It is not uncommon for dogs to compete for their owner’s attention in the form of petting or some other thing that the dog wants. In the case of my dogs we are lucky that it has never created any problems between them.
Other folks don’t have it that easy; their dogs can get into outright fights because of this.
Attention seeking from owners or guarding of the owner come hand in hand many a times. When a dog guards anything it thinks of it as a valuable possession and naturally does not want to share with others, sometimes another dog but it can also be around people.
The best antidote for owner resource guarding is for the person to completely ignore the dog by moving away from any interaction the second the dog begins to guard him/her.
The message we want deliver to the dog is that we are not “theirs” to guard so we will remove what the dog wants (affection, interaction, etc.) from the equation. The other good reason for doing this is that we can potentially diffuse a sticky situation that may well escalate into a fight.
Our next goal is to teach the guarding dog that the proximity of either another dog or another person to the person he is guarding will only mean one thing: More good stuff (in the form of treat, attention, etc.) will come his way!
I like to teach the guarding dog that he/she has nothing to be concerned about. Think about it: If the dog is guarding because he is afraid it will have to “share” with others the coveted possession we need to prove him wrong.
Some folks have been ill advised to teach the dog a lesson by forcefully removing the item – when it comes to an object being guarded – from the dog. The problem here is that we had confirmed the dog’s ultimate fear: someone else is competing for the resource! Ouch.
When instead we choose to diffuse – by removing ourselves from the interaction AND we pair the interaction with another dog (or person) with a high-value something our guarder learns that having someone (or dog) around what they consider their possession means excellent news for him.
In my professional view the more we can diffuse potential aggressive behavior the better. Once dogs learn that fighting for what they want pays off it is so much more difficult than to teach dogs to learn to “share” since not wanting to share is absolutely normal dog behavior!
It also behooves us to teach our dogs that polite manners and patience go a long way in getting what they want. Some dogs are naturals at being polite – that would be Deuce and some others – like Rio, must learn some very much needed impulse control. When it comes to us humans we must make sure that we are aware of these potential issues before they become a problem and that we exercise “fairness” by making sure no one is left out from our affection and whatever goodies we are dispensing.