Helping a Newly Adopted Boxer Stop Acting Possessively Aggressive

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 18, 2017

Sophie is a four-year-old Boxer mix who welcomed 10-month-old Boxer Layla into her home through our friends at Muddy Paws. Their guardians set up a dog behavior training session with us concerned that she may have a resource guarding problem after showing some signs when in possession of a bone or near food.

After sitting down with the dogs and their guardians, I started to think this was more of a case of a new dog trying to assert itself in a new home combined with a more sensitive / slightly submissive dog in Sophie.

I have seen many cases where a submissive dog triggers a more aggressive response from a dog who is not normally dominant. I think some of that is going on here.

When you have dogs pushing the boundaries, its important the guardians are providing structure and leadership. By introducing rules and enforcing them consistently, the dogs start to develop more respect for the humans as authority figures.

I also pointed out that any time they pet Sophie when she is insecure or submissive they are actually enhancing that unbalanced state of mind. Anything your dog is doing when you pet it is what you are rewarding. Its ok to touch and keep your hand on the dog to lend some moral support as dogs identify touch as affection.

I shared a number of tips that will allow the humans to disagree with either dog for breaking the new rules. Because Sophie is a more sensitive dog, she will need a lighter tone than Layla. The timing and consistency will both be important as the dogs will be testing the human’s resolve for the next few weeks until they form new habits.

While I think this is more of a case of a dog trying to push and test boundaries, I shot a video on the technique we use when a dog is displaying resource guarding to another dog.

The key to stopping resource guarding is to teach the dog that no one / no dog is going to take their stuff when they approach. In fact, the arrival of another dog results in treats being offered or falling from the sky.

Provided that the other dog stays far enough away until the resource guarding dog no longer reacts, this positive dog training technique works wonders. This is our preferred way to stop resource guarding.

Many people think of resource guarding as dog aggression. They also often confuse a dog growling or grunting to communicate a dog or person is getting too close as a case of resource guarding. While it looks aggressive in the moment and the dog will bite if you push to far or try to take the item, resource guarding is technically not dog aggression. As soon as the item is removed, the dog completely changes its disposition and all aggressive looking behavior stops immediately.

If there are any future arguments or dog fights, I recommended that as soon as the dogs settle down, they take them out for a walk together. Dogs get over things by literally moving forward which is why walking dogs together is such a therapeutic activity after a fight or argument; provided both dogs have completely calmed down.

By the end of the session, the dogs were following the new rules on their own, were sitting to ask for attention, respecting each other’s space and the humans were leading and enforcing the rules with the new dog training tips and tricks I shared with them in the session.

We finished things up by shooting a roadmap to success video which you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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