If your Great Dane puppy is growling, snarling or snapping to protect food, a bed or a toy, you’ve come to the right place!
Today we are talking about how to stop a Great Dane puppy from resource guarding, AND how to prevent resource guarding (protecting valued items such as food, toys, treats, people and spaces) in the first place.
It’s important to note that resource guarding is a natural behavior, and one that can also be dangerous, especially as Great Danes grow to be so large.
WORST ADVICE EVER
Allow me to share with you the absolute WORST advice that you can give or receive, when it comes to preventing and treating resource guarding.
DO NOT DO THESE THINGS:
- Stick your hands in the bowl and mess with the food so the dog gets ‘used to it’
- Have children mess with the dog’s food
- Take bones and treats away from the dog and give them back, so the dog learns to give it up
- Have children take bones and treats from the dog for the same reason
- Hit, whap, alpha roll, scold, pinch, jab, intimidate, correct or punish a dog that is guarding an item.
There. We said it. That old advice is BAD.
We are seriously OVER IT with these outdated, misguided and dangerous old ideas.
Why is that?
Because every single one of those things can actually cause and increase resource guarding! If you want to get bit by your Great Dane, this is how you (or your children) get bit.
Read on for more scientific, up-to-date training information on resource guarding and Great Danes!
SUBTLE SIGNS OF RESOURCE GUARDING
Growls and snapping are rarely out of the blue. Watch for these cues, in escalating order:
- Stiffness, breath holding
- ‘Side-Eye’, lip licking
- Cowering, hunching over
- Averting the head away or using it to ‘hide’ the item, including running away with it
- Scarfing the food (bloat risk alert!)
- Lip lifting
- Growling (low rumble)
- Growling (snarl)
- Snapping and snarling
Dogs most often guard food and high value treats such as bones and chews. However, they can guard toys, bedding, furniture. and even people!
Many people believe that their dog is protecting them, when the reality is that dog may be resource guarding them. Keep this in mind if you see some of these behaviors popping up in your own dog.
Some dogs are more prone to resource guarding than others, especially dogs from poorly-tempered parents, unethical breeders, bad breeding situations and many rescue situations.
It is a natural instinct that according to science, has literally NOTHING to do with ‘dominance’.
PREVENT RESOURCE GUARDING
The first step to preventing a Great Dane puppy from resource guarding in the first place is to make sure that the behavior is not practiced.
- Give your dog a safe space to eat, get away from chaos, and enjoy high-value treats and bones.
- Don’t give your dog a reason to guard items in the first place. No pressure, no intimidation, no messing with it.
- Teach your dog that you approaching them when they have food or treats is a positive thing!
- Don’t use old techniques that prove to them, without a doubt, that their concerns about you taking things away are valid.
- Teach positive behavior skills (see below).
ALWAYS TRADE UP
If you approach your puppy that is eating, simply walk by and drop a high value treat, such as boiled chicken from your pocket. Walk off, no big deal.
The young dog quickly learns that you coming into their space while they eat is a positive thing. Watch the subtle body language and use your judgement. After a few repetitions, you can take your hand and place the chicken in the bowl while they eat, SAFELY, and your hand may actually be welcomed there!
That is, of course if you really think it’s *that* important to stick your hands in your dog’s food in the first place.
Hands in bowl = good things happen, not hands in bowl = bad things.
Contrary to popular belief, that bite of chicken is not rewarding the dog for guarding. It actually can’t, because that’s not how emotions and psychology works.
IT’S SO SIMPLE.
Studies show that confrontational training methods increase aggression.
It’s true. Many people may think they’ve been effective in shutting down a behavior problem by punishing a dog for growling, but what they’ve really done is taught the dog that growling is not an acceptable communication.
So the dog doesn’t growl. But what comes after growling? Oh that’s right…snarling, snapping and bites. The underlying behavior and emotion hasn’t been addressed, and the dog may become more unstable.
Confrontational, outdated training methods can make dogs less safe and less predictable, and that’s a scientifically proven fact.
TRAIN YOUR DOG. TEACH LEAVE IT AND DROP IT
Leave it and Drop it are effective communications to a dog that mean so much more than just shouting ‘NO’. All dogs should know these commands.
Leave it and Drop it are EASY to teach and will be especially important for dogs that seem to be more prone to resource guarding in the first place.
OFF is an important command for dogs that guard furniture and bedding.
OUT, BACK UP, PLACE or CRATE UP is a good command for dogs that guard people and spaces.
Manage your dog and teach them boundaries from a young age. Do not allow these behaviors to develop or to be practiced in the first place.
Need resources for teaching those commands? YOUTUBE has a wealth of information. We recommend Kikopup, Larry Krohn and Steve Mann.
A dog cannot resource guard if they’ve been given clear communication about what they SHOULD be doing instead. Training these commands is a key piece in establishing harmony and safety between dogs and humans.
THINK OF IT THIS WAY
You are starving and have a piece of pizza.
I walk up, take it from you, mess with it, and give it back. I jab you in the side and tell you to shut up when you yell at me for it.
How do you feel about me? How do you feel about me approaching you the next time you have food?
Let’s try this again. You have pizza and are concerned I may take it.
I walk by and give you $5. FREE. Dropped on the floor at your feet. A few hours later, I do it again.
Did I just reward you for your concerns, or are you starting to believe that me coming by when you have pizza is quite alright?
DOGS ARE NOT DUMB AND MODERN BEHAVIOR SCIENCE IS REALLY, REALLY COOL.
If you have a dog that is already resource guarding and showing signs of being unsafe around humans, children or other dogs we highly recommend doing the following things:
a. Contact your breeder, if your dog was purchased. They should know that resource guarding may be happening in their lines, and may have (hopefully modern) advice to give.
b. QUICKLY contact a trainer and get professional help.
c. Prevent the behavior by limiting access to guarded items and providing a safe space for dogs to eat and relax. This may mean no more bones, no access to the couch, etc.
d. Train and install other behaviors: off, leave it, drop it, crate, wait, etc.
e. Stop fussing with the dog and trying to ‘correct’ or fix the behavior.
The truth is that sometimes, we actually cause this behavior to increase by putting too much pressure onto them.
Now, of course you don’t want an aggressive dog! This is exactly why preventing the behavior and lowering the stress surrounding the emotions that cause it is the most important step. Don’t increase aggression by being confrontational.
DON’T CREATE A GUARDING PROBLEM.
Here is a wonderful video from balanced dog trainer Larry Krohn on resource guarding that addresses EVERYTHING we mentioned in this post today.