People/food aggression

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Ridgebackrescuer
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People/food aggression

Post by Ridgebackrescuer » Mon Jul 20, 2009 6:22 am

I am a volunteer foster mom for a ridgeback rescue and currently have a sweet 1 year old foster ridgie who came to us with a ton of baggage. He has some people aggression when you ask him to do something he doesn't want to do (get off the porch to go potty in the yard, push him out of the kitchen) and will try to attack the crate when fed inside of it. Of course a simple solution is to not feed him in the crate but he needs to be reliable in not attacking people and I don't feel he is able to let everyone walk past him or pet him while eating. We will be startign Prozac this wek to take the edge off of him. He will need to be 100% reliable to be adopted out or he will be put to sleep as he is a liability to the rescue and the breed. He is nice and friendly, goofy and lovable - when no food or requests are present. Please help us to save yet one more.
Beth
Ridgeback Volunteer
Pennsylvania

mum24dog
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Re: People/food aggression

Post by mum24dog » Mon Jul 20, 2009 7:15 am

Ridgebackrescuer wrote:I don't feel he is able to let everyone walk past him or pet him while eating.
Remember that any advice you get on here is only on the basis of what you have told us. Do not rely on it's being 100% appropriate for your dog. Aggression is obviously a serious issue and only an experienced trainer or behaviourist who has seen the dog's behaviour will be in a real position to give constructive advice in individual cases.
However - some things to think about -
Why would you want to pet him while he's eating? That's a pretty good way of making a dog guard it's food, especially if it feels unsure of itself in a new environment. Leave the poor dog alone for the time being and wait until he has left his bowl and is doing something else before picking it up.
When he starts to realise that noone is going to steal his food, start tossing extra nice bits of food into his bowl or near him if your aim isn't good so he will associate the approach of people with good things.
As for being aggressive when asked to do something, what incentive do you give him to cooperate? Avoid physical confrontation like pushing him. He has bigger teeth than you do and you will lose in a fight. On the other hand, you have a bigger brain so it should be perfectly possibly to get him to do asd you want without force.
Don't approach him head on. Be calm in your movements and voice - never grab at his head or collar. Remember that he probably doesn't know what you want him to do if he hasn't been trained.
If he likes food, use that as a reward for doing as you want. If you want him to get off the porch or out of a room, toss a treat in the direction you want him to go.
Attach a short house line to his collar (ordinary flat collar no prongs, shocks or the like) so that you don't have to get too close if you need to steer or restrain him.
Why drug him? That won't solve anything - it will just mask the behaviour.
Drug therapy in behavioural cases should be reserved for those cases where a dog is so stressed that it cannot learn. All the drugs should do is give a window of opportunity to start the behavioural modification.
It doesn't sound from your description as if this dog is anywhere near that state. TBH he sounds pretty normal in his behaviour - just doing what he has learned works to get what he wants.
Above all, try to see the world from his point of view.

Pam

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Post by Noobs » Mon Jul 20, 2009 10:18 am

It seems like dogs being able to accept a certain amount of handling while eating is a standard test of temperament so unfortunately I think that's why OP needs to know how to curb the food guarding.

When he is resistant to being told to do stuff, I would say make sure he actually knows what you want first. You can't tell him to get off the couch, for example, if he doesn't know what "off" means. When I first brought my shelter dog home I trained him on basic obedience all over the apartment with a clicker and cheese. His name, eye contact (paying attention), sit, down, off, etc. Remember "down" (lying down) is different from "off" (getting off the furniture or people) so train him on each cue word. I don't know how much experience you have, so forgive me if I'm going too simple and telling you stuff you already know. But I have family who own dogs and say "get down" when they want their dog to get off the couch, so they really mean "off", etc., so I wanted to make sure you also know to differentiate. I think that once he has learned some basic commands, it'll be easier for him to accept being asked to go from here to there without any physical handling or pushing on your part. He also may not know that he has to potty in the yard, so do you have him go out there to potty, or do you put him on a leash and go with him until he potties?

Right now it seems like he just needs to be taught and rewarded for everything he does right so that he's willing to do as you ask when he's learned what you want from him.

As for the food aggression, my dog didn't have issues with his food bowl, but he did with his chewy bone so what I did was approach and making sure he wasn't reacting (growling, etc.), threw chicken or cheese his way. I did this when he had his chewy bone and also at his food bowl for good measure. After a few days I would come closer and put the chicken or cheese right in his bowl or right next to his bone. Eventually I was able to walk nearby and he would raise his head in anticipation of what I was bringing him. I do not take his bone or food dish from him EVER - I ask him to walk away from them instead before I do anything to the items. Basically just see it from his POV, make sure when you approach that you are giving him something better than what he has so that he doesn't react to you approaching. It took several weeks for my dog to relax when I walked by, but it eventually happened. I don't know how severe your case is, so I would use caution and consult a behaviorist (and one that doesn't talk about dominance or encourages you to take things from your dog "because you're claiming it" or any of that bunk).

Also I would try to look at it not so much as him not wanting to do something, but rather as him not understanding what you want. It will make it a lot easier to approach the basic training.

Fundog
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Post by Fundog » Mon Jul 20, 2009 10:54 am

I realise your position, and the liability issues you face, but I wonder... how feasible would it be to educate prospective adopters about the problems created in expecting to be able to pet a dog while it is eating? I mean, how hard would that be? Not trying to sound harsh or judgmental; this isn't intended to be a tirade against the original poster, but rather targeted toward all those people who want to adopt dogs and expect to do stuff that gets them bitten.

But since we are also talking about possible solutions here: When I adopted Dottie from rescue, her history stated she had been starved. When we brought her home, there was some aggression on her part toward our first dog, whenever food or affection was involved. Through 100% eyeball supervision, and physical referee by humans, we were able to assure Dottie that no one, even the other dog, was going to take her food away from her. Now we no longer have to stand between them when they eat. Annie can walk right past Dottie, even brushing up against her, and Dottie does not react. She can be petted while she is eating, too. And a couple of times I picked up her bowl to add some more yummies to it, then set it back down, and she is okay with that. So she has come along way, but it has all been the result of trust-building exercises.

Ridgebackrescuer
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Post by Ridgebackrescuer » Mon Jul 20, 2009 12:36 pm

Thanx for all the advice so far. I have been using behavior modification so far and he is fine with me approaching the food bowl while he is eating and even sits as I come up to it. But this was through four weeks of systemative desensitization. I don't trust him to do this reliably with anyone else - but I also understand that this will take time, maybe 3-6 months of reliable behavior. As to the person who said "who wants to pet a dog while they are eating", as a rescue volunteer, it is my job to ensure that no one will ever be at risk with a dog (as far as I can tell). So it is pretty realistic to think that somewhere, somehow, Joba might be at his eventual home and someone comes into the house and reaches down to pet the cute doggie while he is eating. I have to make him as close to non-reactive as possible. Of course I will be letting his potential adopters know all the ins and outs of him. But I wouldn't bet on them to do everything that I do exactly how I do it. How can you expect someone to feed him in a seperate room from all other people/animals, do not give him anything like rawhides/greenies ever, do not reach down for a toy that he has, do not pull on his collar ever, don't have children around him while he is sniffing the ground or drinking water. Yes, all this will need to be okay before he can be adopted. And if it's not, he gets put down. We don't have children so I manage his behaviors fine. Do I trust him? No, but he can learn and so I am looking for assistance here while we wait to have our appointment at the University of Pennsylvania, where I am paying for beh. modification out of my own pocket. I really appreciate everyone who has reinforced what I am already doing - it helps to know that I am doing what others out have seen to produce results.
Beth
Ridgeback Volunteer
Pennsylvania

katowaggytail
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Post by katowaggytail » Mon Jul 20, 2009 1:00 pm

Hi, I also hava a resue ridgie and found the advice on this forum invaluable, but have you also looked at....
www.ridgebackchat.com
It is purely for ridgies and their owners and the peciluar little habits they have that are particular to the breed, some well respected breeders and trainers also go on there. Give it a go and good luck.
Fi

mum24dog
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Post by mum24dog » Mon Jul 20, 2009 2:44 pm

Ridgebackrescuer wrote: How can you expect someone to feed him in a seperate room from all other people/animals, do not give him anything like rawhides/greenies ever, do not reach down for a toy that he has, do not pull on his collar ever, don't have children around him while he is sniffing the ground or drinking water.
Actually if I had a dog such as you describe that is exactly what I would expect. Dogs like that aren't put down as a matter of course in the UK - they are found homes with people who will know how to deal with him.
I have 5 dogs - the 2 smallest can be fed together, the BC and the hound eat quickly and will pester my oldie for his food or squabble between themselves so they are fed apart and my slow eating oldie is left in peace.
I have trained them to give things up to me so I can do it when necessary, but I don't do it without reason. Last night's live hedgehog was an example.
They don't have bones as some of them would fight over them.
I never grab at my BC's head because he might bite. Hasn't done for a long time but that's because I can read him well and have other ways of getting his obedience.
And I'd only trust one of mine off lead near children. One I wouldn't because he likes them too much but is boisterous, another because he's scared of them and might bark, yet another is just plain worried by them. Children are never allowed to approach my BC. He used to live with 4 of them and heaven knows what they did to him.
They sound like a nightmare but they're not. I choose not to put them under stress so that they feel the need to react.
I understand the Sue Sternberg approach to temperament testing (even been to a seminar of hers) and appreciate why it is necessary in the US with the culture of litigation and number of dogs that need homes, but a lot of us here in the UK think it is over the top and that expecting perfect behaviour from any animal is unrealistic.
I agree with Fundog that adopters ought to be educated but you can't change the system single handed, I know.

Pam

Ridgebackrescuer
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Post by Ridgebackrescuer » Mon Jul 20, 2009 3:29 pm

I agree with you, Pam. There is probably a perfect home for him with knowledgeable owners who are strict obedience people (where are you - please call?!) but with the "quick to sue" people of the good ole USA, the rescue cannot risk legal action for them or negative press for the breed. I know that I could handle him for the rest of his life as I know exactly what to do and I have a feeling I might end up keeping this dog just so that he doesn't get put down and just continually work with him to reduce the risk he poses. When kids finally arrive in our lives, we may have to rework the plan - but who knows, maybe he will be a perfect angel by then!

Beth
Beth
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Pennsylvania

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Mattie
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Re: People/food aggression

Post by Mattie » Wed Jul 22, 2009 11:00 am

Ridgebackrescuer wrote:I am a volunteer foster mom for a ridgeback rescue and currently have a sweet 1 year old foster ridgie who came to us with a ton of baggage. He has some people aggression when you ask him to do something he doesn't want to do (get off the porch to go potty in the yard, push him out of the kitchen)
Do you know any of his history? Why use to what looks to him as force when we can get what we want by other means. To this dog pushing him out of the kitchen, trying to enforce something he doesn't want to do could mean you are being aggressive to him, think outside the box and get him to do these by other means. I had to with my greyhound so it can be done.

Try having a short lead on him when you are in the house, you can then lead him to where you want him to go instead of pushing etc. Far safer for you and him.

and will try to attack the crate when fed inside of it. Of course a simple solution is to not feed him in the crate but he needs to be reliable in not attacking people and I don't feel he is able to let everyone walk past him or pet him while eating. We will be startign Prozac this wek to take the edge off of him.
Again think outside the box, how I did it with Merlin was to just put a small handful of kibble in his dish, when he had eaten it I walked past and dropped a little more in, continued like this until all his food had gone. It took Merlin 24 hours to let me walk past his food bowl without threatening to attack me. This is far kinder and easier as well as safer for you and the dog.
He will need to be 100% reliable to be adopted out or he will be put to sleep as he is a liability to the rescue and the breed. He is nice and friendly, goofy and lovable - when no food or requests are present. Please help us to save yet one more.
Merlin is so reliable now that I am thinking of trying to get him accepted as a PAT dog, in the UK PAT dogs are Pets as Therapy dogs who go into hospitals, nursing homes etc to mix with the patients. I should have done it several years ago but didn't have the time.
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Post by Noobs » Wed Jul 22, 2009 11:30 am

Check out puppyluvv's post in this thread - puppyluvv is also a foster and helped a dog overcome food guarding issues and got the dog adopted.

http://www.victoriastilwell.com/phpBB2/ ... hp?p=26937

Best of luck and please come back with updates and ask as many questions as you need!

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