Picture of a brown dog curling its lip to illustrate resource guarding.

A different take on dog resource guarding

Resource guarding is a big deal. But most people’s first instinct on what to do about it is exactly the opposite of the answer. If you take away the resource the dog is guarding, the dog’s fears come true. It doesn’t solve the problem. It convinces the dog it was right.

This week we saw some advice on a dog training social media group that made us cringe. Somebody was asking what to do about their little Shih Tzu who was suddenly “guarding” her from other people in the family. Even growling when their family’s toddler child ran into their bedroom and approached the bed. The dog apparently even snapped and lunged at the child. The woman was asking what to do.

That’s not  the bad part. The bad part is the advice some old-school people were giving. Comment after comment saying “Don’t let the dog on the bed until it learns better.”

That’s absolutely the worst way to address the situation. And luckily, someone else pointed it out before we had the opportunity. If you take away the “resource” the dog is guarding, the dog’s worst fears come true. They have even more reason to protect what they think is theirs!

Times have changed

People used to use the adage “let sleeping dogs lie.” It’s no longer used, because society seems to have decided that dogs can’t object to harassment. Apparently dogs can’t object to anything being taken away from them, or done to them.

We don’t think that’s right. And it’s certainly not fair. But it’s all over, including supposedly “cute” videos showing toddlers climbing on dogs, getting in dogs’ faces, even playing with their flews. The dogs in many videos are giving clear signs they’re not comfortable, and yet people are shocked when dogs finally react.

Picture of a brown dog curling its lip to illustrate resource guarding.

Most dogs give signals when they’re not happy in a situation. They’ll look sideways, or their eyes will get large (whale eye). Licking their lips is also a sign of discomfort, as is turning their head away. Pushed further, most dogs may curl a lip, or emit a warning growl.

If you see any of these dog signals, it’s time to stop whatever it is that’s happening. When people persist despite the dog’s indicators, that’s when bad things can happen. And good dogs can be labeled aggressive, or reactive.

What’s the answer?

For resource guarding, the person’s first instinct is to take away whatever it is that triggers the dog’s possessiveness. Which convinces the dog they were right – that precious object/person/food is under threat. 

A teaching approach changes the dynamic. Instead of taking away the food bowl, drop more food in it as you go by. Rather than ban the dog from the person’s lap, give the dog incredibly yummy treats as you approach. Instead of removing the dog from the bed, designate a special place (blanket/mat) on the bed where they’re always safe. 

Children should be taught to respect dogs, including their best friend, the family dog. Everybody, including the dog, should be allowed to have limits. Watching and learning to read a dog’s body language can go a long way to solving many dog issues.

Enjoyed this post? Click here to sign up for the weekly newsletter and never miss another!

Picture of a fawn French Bulldog with a person's hand on its shoulder to illustrate easier without dogs.

Life’s easier without dogs

There’s no doubt about it. Life would be easier without dogs. The thought occurred when I went into the office to do something, deliberately not letting the dogs in. I excluded them the other day, too. The dogs always eat their meals in crates. I just left them there while I got the vacuuming done. Because it’s easier without dogs.

As dog owners, we all know the beasties aren’t convenient. Not tidy, either. Their timing often stinks, and, on occasion, they do, too. Especially when they’ve rolled in something we-don’t-want-to-know-what-it-was. 

Easier without dogs

Life would be easier if we didn’t have to time our absences from home. If we could grab a “go bag” and enjoy a spur-of-the-moment overnight trip. If we didn’t have to scour reservation sites for “pet friendly” lodgings. And we could disregard those “pet fees.”

Picture of a fawn French Bulldog with a person's hand on its shoulder to illustrate easier without dogs.

We wouldn’t have to care if it’s too hot in the car. Or if we have enough poop bags. And taking an entire day to shop, prep, mix, bake, portion, and freeze meals for a month would mean we’re the ones who eat well. 

Instead of the homey, gentle sounds of snoring in the office there would only be the hum of electronics. We could answer the phone and talk without fending off a persistent paw asking for attention. The office wouldn’t be an obstacle course of dog beds, toys, and chews. The entire house might be easy to maneuver. Because now it’s not.

So many changes

Without dogs, the doorbell ringing wouldn’t spark an emergency response. The door could open wide, without even thinking about narrowest gap possible. On days with lousy weather, we could go out when we needed to run errands, instead of an old-dog every-three-hours timetable. 

We could even pick up our feet and walk around like people, instead of shuffling to not step on paws. Or even back up without glancing behind to see if it was safe. It’s not now. There’s a little-old-man dog who’s always standing behind.

It would be really nice to spontaneously agree to meet a friend for drinks or dinner. When you have dogs, spontaneity is something that just doesn’t happen. You can still make the date, you just have to do some prep work. I can’t meet you in 15 minutes – it’s going to take 45.

Totally worth it

That easy life without dogs would be less expensive, more flexible, and something we want no part of. An “easy” life isn’t our aspiration. Our dogs bring so much to life, daily. There’s nothing better than, at the end of the day, sitting with that warm fuzzy body snuggled up to you. The silence would be horrible – no toenails letting us know who’s on the move. The snorting, sneezing, scratching that means there’s life in the house. The joy they share when they figure out a training puzzle. The chomping, slurping, munching sounds that mean they love the food we made.

We know that non-pet people won’t get it. They also don’t get the unconditional love we have. The comfort of soft fur on a really crappy day. Easy isn’t necessarily better. 

Enjoyed this post? Click here to sign up for the weekly newsletter and never miss another!

Picture of a woman's hand holding a mobile phone to illustrate text your dog friends

Text your dog friends

Is there anything that creates more chaos and mayhem than doorbell rings? Especially if you have more than one dog! Let’s start a trend. Do away with doorbell-ringing. Text your dog friends!

We’ve started doing it ourselves. Whenever we go to a friend’s house, especially if they have dogs, we text “I’m here!” rather than marching up and ringing the bell. Even if our friends live in restricted-access buildings, we avoid the intercom/doorbell system and just text when we’re at the door. They can buzz us in without their dogs being the wiser. 

Calm is so nice

Eliminating the excitement of an arrival leads to much calmer, better greetings and visits. If everyone can behave casually, there’s no reason for the dogs to get wound up. Just this week we had a great demonstration of the principle. We brought some homemade cookies to a dog training friend who’s laid up with a badly-sprained ankle. She also has three dogs who, putting it mildly, greet visitors with enthusiasm. 

Picture of a woman's hand holding a mobile phone to illustrate text your dog friends

Instead, just by taking a moment to text rather than ring the doorbell, we gave her more peace. She was able to take her time to get to the door safely, without her pack dancing around her feet and possibly tripping her. Since she already knew who was at the door (we were!) she didn’t have to say anything or call out. She also knew that, as fellow dog people, we’d secured her fence gate when we came in. Worries alleviated.

Small sample, good results

It worked. The dogs were curious about who was there, but they were pretty calm. They gave us a sniff and a wiggle. We gave each a treat and then the dogs just went about their business. We had a nice visit and then left as peacefully as we arrived.

It sparked this idea for a national, or possibly international campaign to “Text, Don”t Ring!” The biggest issue we can see is identifying the residences with dogs versus those without dogs. One solution would be for us to hang a sign on our door saying “Text, Don’t Ring.” We saw one like that with a second line something like “what the dogs don’t know won’t hurt you.” 

If the person at the door doesn’t have your number to text, chances are you didn’t want to see them anyway. Ages ago our neighborhood doors almost all sported “No Solicitors” signs. It may be time for a door sign revival.

Enjoyed this post? Click here to sign up for the weekly newsletter and never miss another!

Picture of a one-eyed French Bulldog to illustrate don't let your dog know

Don’t let your dog know

Dogs don’t ever host pity parties. Don’t ever let your dog know you feel sorry for them. They won’t understand and they’ll think there’s something wrong.

We’ve been fighting the urge to pity Torque. Every time we look at him, it’s a bit of a gut punch, just a beautifully-healed scar and fur where his eye should be. But he doesn’t know he’s different. So it’s up to us to make sure he doesn’t think he’s broken.

Dogs accept

Picture of a one-eyed French Bulldog to illustrate don't let your dog know

One of the vast strengths of dogs is their ability to live in the moment. Torque doesn’t think about how much pain he was in when his eye ruptured. Or how scared he was. 

He only knows that he’s fine. Life goes on. He plays with his toys, his cousins, and his mother. He eats, enjoys treats, he goes for walks. He even goes to Rally class. Life goes on. 

Take a lesson

So we act like everything’s okay and normal. And because we’re living it, it’s becoming true. We consciously put aside whatever pity we have for him and appreciate what we have.

We’re not the only ones who should make a point of living in the now. Lots of people with dogs adopted from shelters or rescues feel sorry for their dogs. They’ll even expect less from these dogs because of their background.

That’s not fair to the dog. When those adoption papers got signed, that dog became one of the luckiest dogs ever. 

Stretch their potential

It does take a while for adopted dogs to realize they’re home for good and shed their “best guest behaviors.” After about three months, dogs know they’re home and safe. So they may start being naughty.

We’re actually surprised by how many people give their dogs leeway because of their background. The best security you can give your dog is to set rules and schedules and expect them to abide by them. Dogs love routine. They thrive on regularity. The best thing you can do for any dog is to establish consistent rules you all llive by.

Habit is everything

We start every morning’s activities with short training game sessions with each dog. The day after surgery, Hope was playing training games with Torque. 

Was he particularly sharp? Not really. But he was reassured that everything was okay because we stuck to routine. 

So don’t feel sorry for your dog. Or at least don’t act like it. You know the old saying: Fake it ‘til you make it. 

Enjoyed this post? Click here to sign up for the weekly newsletter and never miss another!