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  #1  
Old 03-19-2009, 11:37 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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Training a dog out of bone possessiveness

Captain is a sweet, gentle dog. Wouldn't hurt a flea. Wouldn't hurt a killer Rambo flea with a flamethrower and an addiction to eating babies. A genuinely good dog.

The evening we got him, he found a rawhide bone that had belonged to my former dog, now very former and a few feet under the backyard. When my boyfriend approached him while Captain had the bone in his mouth, Captain growled (which is a very scary sound the way he does it.) Considering the rest of his personality, this is extremely strange and unusual. We chalked it up to being in a new house and finding something that smelled so much like another dog, and said if it didn't happen again it probably was an aberration.

And in fact it didn't happen again... until tonight, when he was gnawing on one end of his giant knucklebone which he hasn't growled over for days. This time, though, Himself approached him and got a growl, which pissed Himself off to no end. Now, Captain was very happy to drop the bone when Aaron called him over to do tricks for treats, and I told him that was probably the best way to deal with it - tell him look, you can leave it for us and it will still be there when you come back. Reward him for peacefully and cheerfully leaving his bone behind. (He doesn't know "leave it" from what we can tell.) Aaron is upset with the dog and while he sees the value in positive reinforcement thinks it's effective, in this case, to punish the dog for growling. I halfway agree and halfway disagree. At any rate, we need to agree on something we can do, because obviously this can't happen again. This dog is hanging out by himself for most of the day alone with three cats who, if he were to bite them, would probably die. He just needs some training, but we're not sure how to approach it and I don't want anybody to lose a hand. Suggestions?
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  #2  
Old 03-20-2009, 12:27 AM
ZipperJJ ZipperJJ is offline
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My dog is a sweet and gentle creature who has been through 4 years of obedience training (no, she's not uber-stupid, we just went for fun)...and she reacts like this with bones. This is AFTER I'd done some training to at least make her not bite when she has a bone.

I wouldn't worry about it, truthfully. If he's willing to let it go and you are training him that he can have the bone back, that's pretty good.

However, if you're worried that someone might lose a hand, I can sympathize. Dolly tried to bite me when she was chewing on a bone - once. She got swatted (by my dad - I was too shocked) and tossed in her cage. This was when she was a baby yet.

The next week I went to our trainer with the problem. She had me hold Dolly on the leash while she gave her a bone. Then the trainer went to take the bone and Dolly growled with teeth. The trainer smacked Dolly on the nose...and Dolly was shocked. They went through this a few times - bone, growl, swat, take bone, give bone back, growl, swat, etc etc. The key was that the trainer both took the bone and gave it back. Giving the bone back wasn't a reward per se, it was a "check it out - this is my bone and I can take it whenever I want, and since I am nice I can give it back to you when I want." It only took that one training session to cure Dolly of her want to bite me when she had a bone.

Now, I suppose you think the swatting on the nose (quite hard, I might add) is cruel. The trainer I went to NEVER advocated hitting dogs. She trained us to handle the dogs in such a way that we never HAD to hit our dogs. She did teach some people who had very hyper dogs to do the "dominance roll" on the ground. But hitting was never a punishment option. Yelling, popping the leash, hissing, yes. Hitting no.

But with the bones the dogs go primal. They lose their minds, so to speak. And, with the threat of biting they go from naughty pal to dangerous beast. At that point they really need the point driven home that You. Will. Not. Bite. Alpha. Dog. EVER.

Also remember that dogs have strong noses. You're not going to break it by rapping it. And it'll come completely unexpected, because you never ever hit your dog.

Anyway, like I said, Dolly is still growly with bones but she has never threatened to bite me since. She does take some coaxing to get a bone away from her (it's my fault as I did not practice removing the bone as much as I should have). If you have kids around or don't feel safe around your dog with a bone, just keep practicing taking and removing (swatting the first few times until they get it).

Also, never leave a dog alone with a bone. It's not safe for them because they might choke. Your dog probably only has this possessiveness problem with bones if you haven't seen it with toys or "space." I wouldn't worry about the cats.
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  #3  
Old 03-20-2009, 05:33 AM
Ca3799 Ca3799 is offline
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Was he 'inviting' you to play? My dog will often prance around with a bone or a sock 'asking' us to take it away so we can 'fight' over it. She is clearly teasing us and asking for a few minutes of fake fighting. I've never heard her growl during the invitiation, but she growls during the 'fight'.
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Old 03-20-2009, 08:07 AM
Jack Batty Jack Batty is offline
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I would suggest you work out a ritual with the bone. As in, he only gets it when he does what you want. In this case, what you want, I suppose, would be for him to be calm-submissive. Polite.

If he's got free reign to go gnaw on his bone whenever he wants, then he will, and he'll be possessive of it, and why not. On the other hand, if you claim the bone and he's only allowed near it on your terms, then he'll get the picture.

It's a common problem -- food/bone possessiveness. It's a leader thing. Claim the bone. Give it as a treat for positive behaviour. I wouldn't suggest making him do tricks for it, but lay down and stay is a reasonable enough request.
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  #5  
Old 03-20-2009, 08:08 AM
shiftless shiftless is offline
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I endorse ZipperJJ's advice. An owner must be able to interact with a dog in any way needed without the dog making threats. There may be times when you need to take that bone or some other food and that isn't the time to try to decide what to do about the problem. And the problem can become worse as the dog decides it can get away with more.

I may be at the strict end of this (I've got a big, mean looking dog) but I believe a dog must learn to submit in all things, no matter what, if we are going to live together. An owner then owes it to the dog to be fair and consistent. A dog making threats toward or stealing from his owner is the ultimate doggy sin.

My dog likes to eat cigarette butts off the street and once even ate a packet of rat poison. I have to be able to jam my hand into his mouth on a moments notice and he has to put up with me taking whatever I want out of his mouth - no discussion. He used to have a little bone issue - no threats, he just hid them and tried to physically block people from going near them - I just kept taking them and giving them back. Now he shows his affection for family members by giving them half chewed rawhide bones which they pretend to taste and then hand back.
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  #6  
Old 03-20-2009, 09:51 AM
Sailboat Sailboat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Batty View Post
I would suggest you work out a ritual with the bone. As in, he only gets it when he does what you want.
That's the ticket. "Nothing in life is free."

NILIF

Longer explanation

However, do make an effort to distinguish between play-growling and warning growling. Our Sadie wouldn't dream of threatening us for a toy, but she loves to pin a toy between her front paws and teeth and growl furiously when we grab it and pull on it. Scared the beejeebers out of us at first until she started pushing the toy over to us apologetically and we came to understand the game.

Last edited by Sailboat; 03-20-2009 at 09:52 AM..
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  #7  
Old 03-20-2009, 02:18 PM
maladroit maladroit is offline
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I saw a dog trainer on Bonnie Hunt's show, and she suggested trading up to train dogs out of bone guarding. Give him something tasty to swap for the bone, and he'll get the idea that giving up his bone is a good thing. I haven't tried this myself but it sounded like a good idea.
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  #8  
Old 03-20-2009, 02:28 PM
Foxy40 Foxy40 is offline
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Disclaimer: I know nothing about dog training only personal experience.

The way I trained all my dogs not to be food possessive is I take it away. In other words, Rover is chewing happily on his bone..I reach down and take it away. A few seconds later I give it back...repeat....the same with bowls of food.

You may want to start making it a habit of taking the bone away from him when you walk by. Give it right back. A few minutes later, walk by, take it away, give it back. Have everyone in the home do the same thing.

When they know if you come close and take away their treat they will get it back, they seem to be less possessive.
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  #9  
Old 03-20-2009, 02:37 PM
Jodi Jodi is offline
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Originally Posted by Foxy40 View Post
You may want to start making it a habit of taking the bone away from him when you walk by. Give it right back. A few minutes later, walk by, take it away, give it back. Have everyone in the home do the same thing.
But if the dog is sincerely growling at you (or anyone else) for reaching down towards the treat or the bone, trying to actually take it away is an invitation to get bitten. The dog thinks you're trying to take it away; thaty's why it growls in the first place.

Mind you: I do what you suggested with my dog, too. But he's a 20 pound cocker spaniel I've had since he was six weeks old, who believes the world would come to an end in a rain of fire if he ever bit me -- a belief I encourage. It sounds like the OP'er is concerned she doesn't have that kind of control over this (I assume relatively new) dog: that's the problem.
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  #10  
Old 11-10-2010, 04:03 PM
fiestychic33 fiestychic33 is offline
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wow

Quote:
Originally Posted by shiftless View Post
I endorse ZipperJJ's advice. An owner must be able to interact with a dog in any way needed without the dog making threats. There may be times when you need to take that bone or some other food and that isn't the time to try to decide what to do about the problem. And the problem can become worse as the dog decides it can get away with more.

I may be at the strict end of this (I've got a big, mean looking dog) but I believe a dog must learn to submit in all things, no matter what, if we are going to live together. An owner then owes it to the dog to be fair and consistent. A dog making threats toward or stealing from his owner is the ultimate doggy sin.

My dog likes to eat cigarette butts off the street and once even ate a packet of rat poison. I have to be able to jam my hand into his mouth on a moments notice and he has to put up with me taking whatever I want out of his mouth - no discussion. He used to have a little bone issue - no threats, he just hid them and tried to physically block people from going near them - I just kept taking them and giving them back. Now he shows his affection for family members by giving them half chewed rawhide bones which they pretend to taste and then hand back.
I just wanted to say your story is sooooo cute! I'm sure your dog is very sweet!
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  #11  
Old 11-10-2010, 09:14 PM
DesertDog DesertDog is offline
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We don't train our dogs much, but taking something from them -- out of their mouth if necessary -- and dropit! as a command are on the list. As a vet tech DesertRoomie has seen too many dogs in serious trouble because of something they have ingested.
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  #12  
Old 11-10-2010, 10:39 PM
Shirley Ujest Shirley Ujest is offline
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Zipper is very correct about consistentcy. I don't advocate beatings of animals in training, but a tap/rap like Zip describes works very well.

Be calm and be in command. Keep the training sessions short.
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  #13  
Old 11-10-2010, 11:35 PM
Hilarity N. Suze Hilarity N. Suze is offline
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"Drop it" and "give" when they were puppies. Important because we knew they would grow into BIG dogs.

Once one dog swiped the roast and raced out the open door into the back yard with it. He really did not want to give that back, but he had to. I washed it off and cooked it anyway, with tooth marks.

"Give" works well if they know you will throw the ball again after they "give" it. Of course you don't always do that.
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  #14  
Old 11-11-2010, 04:12 AM
Neeps Neeps is offline
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Originally Posted by maladroit View Post
I saw a dog trainer on Bonnie Hunt's show, and she suggested trading up to train dogs out of bone guarding. Give him something tasty to swap for the bone, and he'll get the idea that giving up his bone is a good thing. I haven't tried this myself but it sounded like a good idea.
I would go for this approach. Swatting on the nose when your dog is growling at you is, in my opinion, setting yourself up for a potentially dangerous situation. The dog is giving you a very clear signal, and if you were another dog, you would respect this. Because we are human, there are a variety of reasons why we need to be able to safely get something out of a dogs mouth, but I think a positive approach is a better one that the dog will understand.

Keep a stash of high value toys/treats, and make a point of trading these for what your dog has on a regular basis, using your command of choice (drop it/leave it). Teach the dog that giving up a treat will get him a better one. Once this has been learnt, then you can stop swapping an item and continue using the command.

This has been the approach I've seen work most often (although I admit I am no expert). It just seems a far less confrontational approach than a swift swat to the snout. Surely in the canine world, that response would only be given after a warning (like a growl) had been ignored. Since we can't easily communicate with a dog on their terms, a reward based approach seems the better (and safer) option. Less confusing for the dog.
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Old 11-11-2010, 06:49 AM
Acid Lamp Acid Lamp is offline
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You simply have to take it from him. Now that you KNOW he might growl at you start taking his toys from him randomly. All of them, not just the favored one. If the growl comes, snatch it anyway. . There is a trick to this and it is acting as if he isn't even there. simply go and pick it up as if you were cleaning up. Just snatch it up and walk off ignoring the now shocked, and probably whining dog following you. YOU MAY GET NIPPED If this happens you must react properly by swatting him and using a "No" followed by some sort of command for him to adjust his behaviour. We use "No bite!" Followed by a very melodramatic "BAD dog!". The toy goes away and sits in your lap, and the dog is ignored for a significant period of time. For most animals this only takes once to cure the biting, and only a few consistent times to cure the possessiveness.

The growl means: "This is MY toy and I don't want to give it up." Your response needs to convey a very direct: "Tough titty. I'm the boss and ALL toys are mine, I just let you play with them." You might also want to try some other more passive dominance techniques, like making him get out of your way for no reason (use your knees to move him with a rough shuffle), claiming his spot on the sofa instead of sitting next to him, making him sit to go out or get fed. Etc... It may sound like bullying, but dogs are jerks, you have to let them know that you are in charge. I do this occasionally even with our two sweet, perfectly well behaved dogs. They always give me a hurt look, but it DOES keep their behaviour in good order.

Last edited by Acid Lamp; 11-11-2010 at 06:51 AM..
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  #16  
Old 11-11-2010, 05:37 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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Y'all - zombie! Captain's been pretty good about it for ages - we didn't actually give him bones again for a long time, but once we did a can with pennies proved pretty effective.
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Old 11-11-2010, 06:29 PM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
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This must be something new in dog technology.

When I was a kid, if I tried to take the raw hide from my dog he'd growl and my mum would yell, "Would you stop bothering that dog."

My dog would growl when we played, "shake the rag." He wasn't mean or agressive to anyone, I just figued that's what dogs do.
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Old 11-12-2010, 09:03 AM
DesertDog DesertDog is offline
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Originally Posted by Markxxx View Post
My dog would growl when we played, "shake the rag." He wasn't mean or agressive to anyone, I just figued that's what dogs do.
Everybody knows they're just playing in that case. It's no more a warning sign than puppies' growls when they're tussling with each other. Some trainers advocate not playing with a tug toy or your dog might grow too aggressive, but I'm doubtful. Judging by the number and variety of tug toys in the stores, we'd have a whole world filled with aggressive dogs.

We don't have tug toys with the Salukis we have but it's because they're not too interested in such play (or fetch, either); it might have been bred out of them. The traditional way to hunt with a Saluki was on horseback with a falcon on your wrist and the dog on a pavillion on the horse's back. When you got to the area, the falcon would be released to find the prey, usually gazelle or hare. When it found one, it would signal by circling above it and the dog would be brought into play (One source mentioned shoving it off of the pavillion). If it is a gazelle, the chase could be for miles so it could take a while to catch up. The dog doesn't kill the prey; that would not be halal. Instead it subdues it, waiting for you ride up and dispatch it with a knife. Everybody then gets their reward.

Most of the time with the dropit command, whatever it is gets instantly dropped with an, "Oh, sorry" look. If it's particularly tasty or interesting it takes a second or two for it to be released and you get this sad look. Either way, they get praised and if appropriate, a smidgen of the desired object. Once, like Hilarity I had to change the miscreant into the back yard and pull it from him. He got no reward but a rib thump instead.
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  #19  
Old 12-06-2012, 09:14 PM
sm2442 sm2442 is offline
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My 2 cents

Listen to acid lamp. I couldn't of said it better myself.
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  #20  
Old 12-06-2012, 09:16 PM
sm2442 sm2442 is offline
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and the drop it command is a must for all dogs, up there with stay
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  #21  
Old 12-06-2012, 09:40 PM
johnpost johnpost is online now
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zombie or no

be the alpha dog. get down on all fours, bark loud. go for the bone with your mouth. be like Belker.

Last edited by johnpost; 12-06-2012 at 09:42 PM.. Reason: make that double zombie or no
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  #22  
Old 12-07-2012, 02:22 PM
araminty araminty is offline
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I know this is an old thread, but I want to point out that dominance theories in animal (especially dog) training are considered outdated by modern behaviorists.

I agree that "drop it" is a very useful cue to teach, starting with something of lower value (i.e., that the animal doesn't particularly want or even like holding in their mouth) and moving toward something awesome/delicious.
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  #23  
Old 12-08-2012, 10:49 AM
HoneyBadgerDC HoneyBadgerDC is online now
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I raised and trained bird dogs for many years. It is very important for a competing bird dog to maintain a high tail and head and not show any signs of cowering. They still have to be trained and obedient. I have always used a minimum of force when training and like to keep training as a positive fun thing for the dog. The exception is when they show any sign of aggression toward me or other dogs. I find big differences between breeds and big differences between individual animals within the same breed. I always fed my dogs out of the same bowl or food dish and if one of them growled he got rapped with a belt across the shoulders. Most of the time once was enough. I had a brittany spaniel that was fine around me but could not be trusted with the wife or kids when I was not around. I couldn't correct him because I never witnessed him misbehave. I felt he was dangerous so had him put down. I don't buy some of these modern tecniques, I feel the dog has to know we are the masters at all times. I really do like Ceaser the dof whisperer, I feel he is about the best behaviorist I have ever seen, I think a lot of his competitors are jealous of him. To me he doesn't use any tecnique, he just understands how dogs think and responds accordingly.
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  #24  
Old 12-09-2012, 12:33 AM
araminty araminty is offline
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Did you read any of my links? The dominance theories espoused by Cesar Millan, "The Dog Whisperer," have been pretty widely discredited.

Basically, if you have an aggressive dog, showing him aggression back just escalates his behavior. Dogs can't read human body language effectively, so trying to use it to communicate with your dog is futile at best, and dangerous at worst.

An animal trainer's best tool is trust. Attempting to physically dominate an animal breaks down that trust. Another social carnivore is a lion. Would you try and train a lion using dominance methods? The reason animal trainers in zoos use positive reinforcement is because it works, across different species, and for different individual animals. Aversive stimuli, like physical dominance, is just unnecessary.
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