Stopping a Vizsla From Resource Guarding Her Kennel or Food

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 16, 2016

Daisy (Vizsla)

Daisy is a five-year-old Vizsla who jumps up on people, pulls on the leash and does some counter surfing. But the main issue her guardian wanted to work on was her new habit of resource guarding her kennel and food bowl.

Daisy saw me walking up to the house and started to get excited before I made it inside her home.

While it is natural for us to try to hold back or restrain our dogs when they are over excited and guests arrive, this tactic actually increases the intensity of the dog’s reaction.

Later in the session I would offer the guardian some tips and suggestions and how she can better control the greeting which will enable Daisy to start better controlling herself without the need of her guardian holding her back.

But before we were able to get to fixing Daisy’s door behavior, I sat down with her guardian to discuss the situation and get a little bit more information on her lifestyle and how I can help.

Because Daisy did not have a lot of rules or structure to live by, she had never really developed much self-control. She also likely saw herself as equal in authority to the humans she lives with. But when a dog consider’s you its equal, than listening to you becomes optional.

To help start redefining the leader follower dynamic between Daisy and her family, I suggested a couple of rules that the guardians can incorporate. I also showed them how they could add a little bit of structure to petting her.

These may seem like minor changes, but when a dog starts to restrain itself or feels like it is earning it’s praise, it starts to shift into more of a follower’s mindset. This mindset will be an important part of Daisy’s rehabilitation.

During Daisy’s initial evaluation, I learned that the family had gotten into a habit of using her name to try to distract her, call her away from something she wasn’t supposed to be in or reprimand her. The problem with this is it sometimes can condition a dog to stop responding to the sound of its name or develop a unhealthy association to it (My name equals something bad).

To make sure that Daisy associates her name with good and happy things, I went over a simple exercise that her family can practice with her. The upside to this one is its almost a game.

While this game / exercise is extremely simple, because of the positive reinforcement, it helps the dog to remember that hearing it’s name is a good and positive thing. When you use positive dog training, the dog WANTS to do what you want. That’s what is so beautiful about using this type of training rather than correcting or punishing your dog for doing something you don’t want.

Now that we had covered rules, positive reinforcement and structure, I was ready to see how bad Daisy’s resource guarding was.

I was quite happy to see that Daisy’s resource guarding was very minimal and had only just begun. The intensity of her reactions was so low that many people may not even recognize it. However with any activity that a dog does repetitively, they get better at it.

Daisy’s guardian should give herself a pat on the back for recognizing the tension and reaching out for help so quickly. Usually people don’t bother to ask for help until the dog is extremely aggressive which makes the problem much more difficult to solve. Dogs with a bad case of resource guarding absolutely can and often do bite. Its an ugly behavior you really want to avoid.

I gave the Guardian a very elaborate step-by-step procedure to deprogram Daisy from her initial stages of resource guarding. Because we caught things so early, the guardian will be able to skip many of the steps. However, it will be important for the guardian to keep practicing any steps that Daisy does not pass with flying colors.

The key to eliminating resource guarding is to break down the interaction into small individual steps and associate them with something good (When a human approaches the dog with a resource, the human makes it better – never just takes it away). You need to keep practicing each step over and over until the dog no longer shows any stress or tension.

Most of my clients need to be reminded that they are not sufficiently exercising their dog. Not Daisy’s guardian. She was running the dog frequently but admitted that the activity was a little frustrating for her due to Daisy’s behavior when on the leash.

We headed outside so that I could show the guardian how she could train Daisy to walk at a heel using positive reinforcement.

Training a dog to heel isn’t usually all that difficult. It simply requires patience, determination, repetition and a lot of positive reinforcement.

You may also notice the lack of a leash in the above video. The goal of leash training should be to have your dog walk at a heel next to you without needing the leash. We have the leash in place in case the dog gets spooked and because its usually the law.

If you have hired a dog trainer and his or her solution to your dog pulling on the leash is to use a prong collar, choke collar or shock collar, Id recommend looking for a new trainer. As you see in the above video it only took a minute or two for Daisy to start coming over and walking with me due to the positive reinforcement I was using. Not because i was dragging or correcting her on the leash. With a little more practice, Daisy will be able to repeat this behavior when out on walks with her guardians.

By the end of the session, Daisy was starting to show respect for people’s personal space, seemed to be listening and responding to commands and corrections better and had adopted a calmer overall energy.

By breaking down the triggers that Daisy is responding to when she is guarding her food bowl or kennel, and adding a positive reinforcer to them, her guardian should be able to put a stop to her resource guarding. Combined with consistent and timely enforcement of the new rules and boundaries and practice at the new heel technique, Daisy should give up her unwanted behaviors and adopt desired ones in no time flat.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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