Ollin is a Xoloitzcuintli. I have never even heard of a Xoloitzcuintli before let alone visited one.
Where did the possessive behaviour come from?
Ollin has been perfectly happy with her humans touching something she’s eating should they need to. She lets them take her toys.
She’s having none of it however with Toto, the eleven week old Xolo puppy they picked up from the breeder a few days ago.
This possessive, guarding behaviour seems to have come out of nowhere. It’s aimed solely at Toto.
The two dogs play continuously – perhaps a bit too much – and it’s Ollin who intitiates it. They sleep curled up together. With the toys all been put away they get on famously – until food appears.
I watched as the gentleman prepared the two dogs’ meals in the utility room behind a baby gate – puppy Toto in there with him. Ollin was in the kitchen with us, watching through the gate.
Ollin’s demeanor had completely changed.
Looking at Toto through the gate while the food was being prepared, the gentle, delicate and friendly little dog was growling and getting increasingly agitated. She became even more fierce when she saw Toto’s bowl put down.
Then the door was shut on Toto. Ollin’s own food was put down on the kitchen floor. She walked back and forth from the utility room door and her food bowl in an agitated manner a few times. She then took a few bits of food out of her bowl and took it around the corner out of sight of the utility room. Jumping on the sofa, she ate them there.
A very happy dog usually, she wasn’t happy now.
It was useful to watch. A different routine should over time stop Ollin being possessive over Toto’s food – food that she’s unable to get to. This is roughly how it will go:
Because they are feeding Toto four times a day, they will divide Ollin’s food into four also. She will then get as many meals as he does.
Because she gets so agitated while the food is prepared and when Toto’s bowl is put down, I had an idea. For now they will prepare the following meal as soon as the dogs have finished the previous one. The dishes will then be ready to put down straight away next mealtime without causing Ollin the build-up of possessive panic.
Ollin’s food will go down first and then they will put Toto’s over the gate. They will shut the door.
She will be hearing him eating the dry food from his metal bowl the other side of the door. All the time they will drop tiny bits of chicken into Ollin’s bowl while she is eating. She needs to associate Toto eating food with herself receiving something.
She must not think that he is getting something that she is not.
As time goes by they can open the door and move the bowls closer – still one each side of the gate. Hopefully they can eventually be fed together in the same room.
Ollin was with the breeder until she was several months old and all the puppies were fed out of one large dish. This encourages competition, guarding and can make dogs become possessive.
On the phone I had advised them to lift all toys until I came. They are now issuing them two or three at a time and supervising both dogs. Sitting on the sofa yesterday, one each side of the lady, both dogs chewed the toys. They swapped.
All will be well.
Feedback nine days later: ……we have had such a great improvement and seen fantastic results from what we have implemented. I cannot thank you enough for making us aware of our mistakes and amazed how such small changes to our approach has reflected so positively on Ollin.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Ollin and Toto and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)