May issue

May issue
May issue

Friday, 9 March 2012

On guard


I'm pretty desperate for some help with my 20 month Golden Retriever.

He is a friendly dog who is very loving.... 99% of the time

However, he has a problem with resource guarding that is getting worse.

He is fine with his food bowl (I've worked with him on this, adding treats etc to it, so he loves it when I approach him!). We've never had a problem with beds, toys etc

He does display very strong guarding behaviour towards "food based" items such as Kongs. As a result I avoid giving him anything like that, which on reflection I realise may not have been the best way to deal with things.

Where the behaviour is really worrying is where I can't predict it - I've known him to guard pebbles, holes he has dug in the garden etc. These are things that I can't understand why he sees them as "high value". It's almost as though he gets fixated on an item or activity and is determined no one is going to spoil his fun.

We consulted a APBC behaviourist in the past, who recommend that we work on the "drop" and "leave it" command. He knows these and will perform the behaviour fine in a "no pressure" situation, but not when there is something better on offer!

We have got used to managing his behaviour within the family, but he has been staying with a dog sitter (who was made aware of the problem beforehand) and there have been a couple of problems there.

I clearly need to stop sticking my head in the sand and deal with this. I'm petrified that something really bad is going to happen.

Can anyone recommend a good behaviourist / trainer who has had success with this problem in the past? Does anyone else have a dog with the same problem who has been successfully treated?

I urgently need help from someone who can work with us on an ongoing basis. I feel really desperate at the moment, so any help would be much appreciated

Thanks in advance

Nicky, south Northants


  1. Gosh, are you describing my Goldie 10 years ago?! I learnt to deal with it, but never really cured it though he is 15 now and the vet told me at age 1 that (a) he was pleased I had taken the dog on as most people would have been unable to cope with him, and (b) he would be happy to put him down with no questions if I couldn't cope. He is now 15, I am pleased to say.
    I used a combination of things, firstly.......
    Learn to read the dog. Mine goes still and stiff with possibly a gently wagging tail; that means he is about to take me on.There always was a reason for his threatening behaviour, but unfortunately it wasn't always obvious until later. Basically it was whenever I asked him to do something he didn't want to, like give me whatever, go to bed, be handled etc. I always muzzled him at the vets, and still do, just in case.
    Two ways of dealing with it, (1) always have a squeaky toy to hand. With mine this was ALWAYS better than whatever he was thinking about, luckily.
    (2) which will be frowned upon in these PC days, when he challenged me, I got in first, yelled, shook his scruff then let go quickly before he turned. So I won. But only just.
    I know if I had ever become frightened of the dog I would have had it and he would have had to go, it nearly came to that point but luckily never quite.
    Good luck.

  2. My initial thoughts would be to agree with your behaviour advisor, however whilst teaching the 'drop' or 'leave' command, offer a swap at the same time - and make it more appealing than the thing your dog's guarding. For this you'd have to work out exactly what he values and how they rank in his mind. From this I'd hope that an association with the word 'drop' and something super fantastic coming his way would form, which you can phase out later. However, in terms of a recommended behaviour specialist, check out to find your nearest Coape behavioural advisor. Hope it helps and good luck :)