Guarding Food. Guarding Resources.

“We must show the dog who’s boss”.

Rex guards his food.

Guarding food and resources can be a contentious issue where human response is concerned.

Many conscientious dog owners, doing what they believe is best, follow dangerous, outdated notions.

These techniques can involve, right from the start as routine training, interfering with a puppy’s food while he’s eating and forcing objects out of his mouth. An easy-going puppy may simply tolerate it. Another may not. Instead of making the puppy back away from something he values, it can teach him to run off with the item and then, cornered, defend both the item and himself. I’ve seen this many times.

How might we ourselves react if someone tried to take bits of food off our plate or mugged us for something we had picked up?

There is that infamous clip of Cesar Millan ‘dominating’ a Labrador guarding food and his bowl. Guess what happened? Yes, the poor dog ultimately had no choice other than to bite after all his warning signals had been ignored. As a result of the uproar about this, he was interviewed by Alan Titchmarsh which is interesting to watch.

Guarding food when someone is closeSomehow this ‘being the Alpha’ with our dog thing had became popular culture, but it’s been totally debunked over recent years. Not only was it based on false assumptions regarding wolf packs (and domestic dogs aren’t wild wolves), but that using force is the only way to create an obedient dog.

Even this word ‘obedience’ suggests dominance and forced compliance.

Just one problem with this approach to resource guarding is that a strong-minded and confident dog is likely to stand up for himself – eventually. Some dogs genetically are more wired to guard.

If a ‘dominated’ dog backs off due to being overpowered by a particular human, what happens when someone else tries it?

“Why should I want your food anyway”?

How much better and simpler in every way it is to teach the dog that you’re no threat to his food; if nobody wants his food, what’s the point of guarding food after all?

Giant Schnauzer Rex is a very intelligent and energetic adolescent dog. He’s on the go most of the time when people are about, back and forth looking for trouble. This includes nicking anything he can that may be of value to his humans. It triggers a chain of reactions.

He’s probably under-stimulated where appropriate enrichment is concerned, so he orchestrates his own action.

It’s only natural for us to try to control over-excited and aroused behaviour by trying to stop it. Unfortunately scolding and warnings, Uh-Uh and NO, introduce conflict and confrontation. Even conflict can be rewarding and reinforcing in a way (else why do humans enjoy certain sports so much?).

Rex’ owners will now be on the lookout for every little good or desired behaviour to reinforce instead.

It’s proven beyond doubt that removing reinforcement from unwanted behaviours and adding reinforcement to behaviours we DO want leads to success.

Interfering with Rex’ food while he’s eating.

Using the ‘interfering with his food’ technique seemed to work when Rex was a young puppy. Unfortunately, guarding and growling re-appeared big time when he started to be fed something that was, to him, of much higher value.

Instead of leaving him to eat in peace, various suggestions had been given including hand-feeding him, touching him while he was eating and taking his bowl away. Instead of feeding him somewhere out of the way, the bowl is deliberately put where people regularly have to pass by him.

He freezes. He growls. They reprimand him. This can only go in one direction.

He simply needs to know that nobody is interested in his food anymore. He will be fed somewhere out of the way.

After some weeks of this they may from time to time walk past him at a distance, not looking at him, and just chuck in the direction of his bowl something particularly tasty – maybe a leftover from their own meat dinner. The food must be something of higher value to him than his own food. They shouldn’t hover or speak to him.

‘I happen to be passing anyway so here’s something nice’.

Over time they can get a little closer. If he growls, they have got too close or maybe stood still, and will need to leave it for a few days and do it from further away the next time. Any approaching person will deliver something better than what he has.

This really is in case of emergency should later someone, without thinking, get too close to him. They should only do this from time to time – a random and casual thing.

Back in the day people would have said, ‘Leave the dog alone while he’s eating’. We expect a lot from our dogs today.

We may need to do some serious, systematic work on general resource guarding.

‘Operation Calm’ is the first priority.

Rex’ high arousal levels and restlessness make work on his guarding food and other items more difficult.

This is a huge challenge because it’s hard for us humans, like old dogs, to learn new tricks. It also means that Rex will initially become very frustrated when his usual attention-seeking tactics no longer work. He will try harder. They will hold their nerve and add as much appropriate enrichment to his life as possible, activities that don’t depend upon their ‘fielding’ the behaviour he throws at them but instead are initiated by themselves.

I suggest very regular short bursts of activity including mental enrichment, hunting, foraging and sniffing, particularly in the evenings when they sit down and he’s the most trouble. He then won’t need to be pestering for attention.

Guarding food becomes unnecessary.

If he feels it’s not under threat, Rex won’t need to be guarding food. If he has plenty of attention offered, he won’t need so desperately to indulge in the attention-seeking ploys that he knows get the most reaction.

Getting Rex calmer involves most aspects of his life and will be a gradual thing.

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. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Rex because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do much more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where any aggression is concerned. 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).

Food Guarding, Resource Guarding. Biting Works.

Food guarding dogTelyn, the Sprolly, is a friendly and polite dog. She is a lucky dog also – living in a lovely family with three teenage girls who all play an active part in her life.

However, Telyn has bitten several times. The biting has included family members and other people.

It happens around one thing only – something that, to her, is edible.

When very young she had genetic meningitis (she’s now had it twice) and, when on steroids, was constantly ravenous. This is probably where the food guarding started.

Each time she bites, fear is involved – that of losing something. Food items she’s bitten for have ranged from a complete Christmas ham joint, to a treat a man was giving his own dog, to something on the floor nobody even saw.

She may also attack another dog over a food item. 

Biting works.

The result for Telyn most times has been the same.

The person backs off and she gets to keep the item. Success.

Very unfortunately, recent advice they were given will have escalated her fear issues badly. It can only have added to her existing terror of machinery noises – anything from vacuum cleaner to power tools to traffic. It will also have affected her trust and relationship with her humans.

They were advised to deal with her barking due to the noise of several months’ building work being done on their house, by waving a power tool at her each time she barked!

In Telyn’s case it’s the very worst thing anyone could do.

How can making her terrified help in any way?

Things have come to a head. Telyn’s first full panic attack was triggered a couple of weeks after the work had finished – by the vacuum cleaner.

Telyn managed to leap the high fence in her panic.

They eventually managed to catch her. They raised the fence. She then found another place to jump out a couple of days later.

Interestingly, Telyn has just spent the past couple of weeks in kennels. She has come back much calmer. What has been the difference? Less arousal in terms of exciting play, no encountering traffic on walks and no machine-type noises perhaps?

Their house itself may now be ‘contaminated’ with fear from building noises or even that power tool. At the kennels Telyn has had a break. Hopefully as they follow my plan they will be able to build on her calmer state.

A more relaxed dog is less likely to guard resources. Using a power tool to deal with barking or guarding has to be the very worst thing they could have been told to do. Fortunately they weren’t happy with it and stopped.

Her family now will constantly reinforce their role as ‘givers’ and not potential ‘takers’. From now on, in addition to never taking anything off her, when she has anything at all in her mouth and if they are nearby, they should drop food as they walk past her.

Food guarding. How can they make biting not work?

It’s pointless guarding something that nobody wants!

So, from now on anything Telyn picks up in her mouth they should ignore. If nobody wants it she can’t guard it. Even better, if they’re walking past they can drop her something tasty (‘have this too!’) without going too close.

They should avoid forcibly taking things off her even in play. Being chased and cornered even with a ball then having it forcibly removed from her mouth, is teaching her the wrong things. Tug of war is a great game for teaching exchange and ‘give’ if done properly.

There is a very good book called ‘Mine’ by Jean Donaldson, worth reading.

Practical measures need to be taken also, to make it as impossible as they can for Telyn to bite again. She will be introduced gradually to a muzzle, vital if young children are about who may unthinkingly bend to pick up a dropped food item, for instance.

When out and about, they will either muzzle her or put her or on a long line, just in case. She could even wear a florescent yellow vest with appropriate wording for a food guarding dog – along the lines of ‘Keep Food Away’. People might think she has a medical condition but it could achieve the desired result!

They may never be able to trust Telyn 100% or let their guard down altogether, but with work they can make the likelihood of her food guarding and biting much reduced.

 

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. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Telyn 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, particularly where fear or aggression issues of any kind are concerned. As can advice advocating punishment, as seen here. 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)

Snapping, But Only at Family Members

I met Theo today!

Theo is a ten-month-old Cockerpoo who lives with another Cockerpoo, Otto, who is six years and much more sensible!

snapping at family members

Theo with a new haircut

Theo is a live wire, friendly, affectionate and funny.

For some reason, though, there are times when he snaps. They feel that he’s unpredictable, but on looking more closely, the snapping can actually be predicted – at least, the triggers can.

The snapping began immediately after he was castrated.

It was the second day after he’d been castrated a couple of months ago. They had taken his ‘lampshade’ off because he couldn’t eat with it on. It was when they went to put it back on that he went for them.

Things went downhill after this with Theo’s snapping.

Looking back one can understand at the time he may still have been suffering from the anaesthetic and the collar must have been a great annoyance. He simply didn’t want to by pulled about anymore. He snapped.

It took them totally by surprise.

One thing he will have quickly learnt is that snapping makes people recoil and back off. Now, whenever he doesn’t want to be touched or pulled about, he air snaps. Snapping works. They stop.

Very fortunately he’s not yet drawn blood but the direction things are going it’s only a matter of time before the snapping becomes real biting if something isn’t done.

It’s a shame because he is such a friendly little dog. He loves self-initiated cuddles. When out in crowds he seems to revel in lots of attention and being touched. The snapping has only happened to family members so far.

The incidents can be grouped into snapping when he’s been touched whilst resting or sleeping and most particularly if it’s come as a surprise; snapping when they try to take something off him; snapping when he’s pulled about in some way and simply doesn’t want it – like having his back legs toweled.

Like other people I have been to recently, Theo’s family is another that doesn’t regularly use food for reinforcement so they, too, are missing their trump card.

If the dog sees hands as the transporters of food, hands will be a lot more welcome!

One good thing is that he is fed on Bakers! Yes – this is good! It’s good because immediately they should be able to improve Theo’s mood by feeding him on something with healthier ingredients and without all those additives – better brain food.

Otto

Otto

They need to prevent any further rehearsal of the snapping. They now know his flash points and must avoid them.

No touching him when he’s resting because sometimes he snaps. No touching him when he’s sitting beside them on the sofa – because sometimes he snaps.

He sleeps on their bed. Inadvertently the other night, the lady put her hand on him and he flew at them in their own bed. He was wild, snapping repeatedly as they held up the duvet to protect themselves.

They will now shut him out of their bedroom.

They will no longer try to take anything off him. If something is dropped on the floor and he looks like he wants it, they will no longer simply bend over and pick it up – just in case he snaps at their hand!  

This is all well and good for now

It’s not a way to live into the future and it’s not realistic to expect people to be on high alert all the time, so work needs to be done.

I concocted some exercise and set-ups for the family to work through Theo’s issues with him. In brief these include:

Getting him to touch their hands when they ask him to with some clicker training.

When he’s lying on the sofa, sitting down away from him and calling him over. If he comes to them he gets a reward and a brief fuss. If he doesn’t they leave him be.

They will swap an item he’s holding for food, admire it, making a game of it, giving it back.

They will then swap items for food and sometimes keep them.

Because they are afraid to pick up dropped items without Theo snapping, they will deliberately drop things he might find interesting – little bits of rubbish and point it out to him – ‘Look!’. Having thanked him and exchanged for something better, if it’s something he would like they can give it to him.

Snapping is rarely totally unpredictable unless the dog is asleep and taken by surprise, which is predictable in a way with a dog like Theo. He will give some subtle warning. Maybe little signs in quick succession which with more knowledge they will pick up on. They can check when he does come over to him that touching is what he wants. Does your dog want to be petted – consent test

It’s a bit strange that Theo’s change in behaviour came on so suddenly. I’m told that in the past he has twitched or sort of hiccuped at times, and I noticed he made a few twitches like little spasms when he was on his back. If things don’t greatly improve with the snapping, he will go back to the vet for more extensive tests.

Being Theo myself, going to a Theo was funny!

I called him “Theo, Come! and gave him a treat. Reinforcement is vital.

If someone called me “Theo, come!” and when I got there the person simply shrugged and said ‘”nothing”, I would probably ignore them another time!

I would like Cadbury’s Wholenut Chocolate please.

TheoIt’s two-and-a-half months now: We are so pleased with Theo.  He is such a different dog to the one you met.  The best thing is that, with your help and guidance, it has all come about through kindness and understanding, which is how we have always wanted it to be.The more affection he gets, the more he wants.  He will often come and sit at my feet, asking for his tummy to be tickled, or will just come and rest his chin on my lap.  He walks around the house wagging his tail.  Theo is such a bright dog; we just love being with him each day. We seem to have reached a very happy understanding of one another and we have a routine that works for all of us. Thank you so much for all your help.  We are so grateful.
Three weeks after my visit: We have had another super week with Theo. No flashpoints, just a lovely happy dog. This morning I walked the dogs with a friend and her sensible Labrador. We let them all of the leads as we were on a track surrounded by fields. Theo was brilliant; he stayed on the footpath and came straight back whenever I called him, no matter how far ahead or behind he was.
Two weeks have gone by and I have received email feedback ending: “We are really pleased with progress far.  Your guidance has been invaluable.  Within the first week, we were all just feeling relieved at the improvement in his behaviour (and probably ours!) and we felt we could at least live with him.  Now, at the end of two weeks, I can honestly say it is a pleasure to be with him.  He is having fun, he is affectionate and more relaxed. We realise that we need to be aware of our actions and his possible reactions, but it is so rewarding to work with him”.
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 Theo 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, particularly where aggression of ny kind is concerned. 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)

Guarding Food and Bowl

English Bull Terrier guards his food bowlI wonder what started Reggie’s guarding behaviour as it’s hard to see how it fits in with the rest of his personality.

The 4-year-old English Bull Terrier is only guarding food related items. He doesn’t guard toys or anything else.

He is an interesting character. Apart from guarding food he is affectionate and gentle. He can also be very demanding, especially in the evenings when he occupies himself with anything that he knows will get a reaction, whether it’s knocking over a flower vase, pushing over a full mug of tea, or fiddling around in a corner where there are cables.

It took a while for Reggie to stop trying to jump onto me, and he just checked again several times during the evening. Mostly he settled beside me – something very unusual with visitors. There was no reprimanding. I simply showed him by my response what I didn’t want and, more importantly, what I did want. He understood.

Strangely, although Reggie is happy to set off on a walk, he’s not gone far before he wants to come home again. He is a heavy dog, and if he goes on strike he’s very difficult to move.

He normally takes little notice of other dogs, though what prompted them to get in touch with me was the other day he attacked a smaller dog – something unprecedented and seemingly for no reason. The dog was on lead, Reggie wasn’t. Reggie refuses to go for walks

Reggie is a dog whose day revolves around his own wishes and much of that is food driven! I know his humans won’t mind my saying that he carries too much weight. He is given treats simply for looking at the cupboard and asking. They all share their food with him while they eat. He may even lunge to snatch something out of their hands like a bag of crisps.

I have created a ‘recipe’ for them to follow to resolve his obsessive behaviour around his food.

They have been tipping his food on the floor so there is no bowl to guard. He goes at it before it’s even hit the floor – like he’s afraid he will lose it. He wolfs it down but freezes and shows the whites of his eyes if anybody goes anywhere near.

The key is to convince Reggie that his humans are ‘givers’, not ‘takers’. We will first get him used to receiving food a bit at a time in an empty bowl.

To stop possible guarding of any one location, they will put the bowl in a different place each time. To avoid possible guarding of a particular vessel, they will use a variety of bowls and pans.

We also considered whether the marble floor which resulted in his bowl sliding around may have encouraged the pushing and guarding of the bowl itself, so bowls will now be placed on a mat.

After several weeks probably, they will move on to placing all the food into the empty bowl.  Next they will fill the bowl before they put it down and gradually teach him some impulse control so he doesn’t dive in too fast. They will walk about and they will stand still – regularly dropping good stuff in. Instead of taking the bowl away from him, they will call him away and out of the room before lifting it. Ultimately they will be able to take up the bowl in return for something else – chicken maybe.

When Reggie knows that people near his food mean better stuff is always added and when access to all food will be under the control of his humans and not himself, he will stop all this I’m sure.

I believe that all dogs should be left to eat in peace, and that a lot of guarding behaviours have been triggered by humans ‘training’ their dogs to have their food taken away from them by interrupting the meal. It somewhat predictably often has the opposite effect.

Our ‘slowly slowly’ strategy is much the same with Reggie’s walks. He will start with many short sessions near home where he is happy, and only very gradually, a few yards at a time, will they take him further afield – always coming home before he’s had enough.

He has a life of too much fussing, too much food, and too little to occupy himself in terms of healthy stimulation. Change this, and most other things will fall into place.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Reggie, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good – most particularly where any aggressive behaviour is concerned. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Anxious Terrier Faces Huge Adjustments

Jayden had been in rescue kennels for two yearsJayden is a complicated little chap who is trying to adjust to huge changes in his life. He had been in rescue in Terrier Jayden is often motionless and inscrutableAustralia for two years and was brought over here by a young couple just a week or so ago. After a long flight he is becoming used to living in a house.

A year ago the lady worked in those kennels. She made friends with the anxious terried by sitting with him in her lunch breaks and has undoubtedly made considerable headway already, by simply giving him love.

She is now a vet nurse and this is from her original message to me: “…he has been previously abused or terribly socialised. I have worked with many rescue dogs and he is the most anxious I have ever met. He has some aggression problems. He chair guards so he is no longer allowed on the sofa, he has food aggression which we are working on, but the problem I have is the time he unexpectedly snaps at us. He will come on my lap for a cuddle, and when I stroke him sometimes he goes for me. It is very disheartening as I cannot see what has triggers it….. he is too scared to go for a proper walk and will only go to the end of the road and back at the moment, although this is an improvement”.

What wonderful people this little dog now lives with. The time has come, however, for them to have an objective view. They are giving him far too much attention, to the extent that every time he moves he’s asked ‘are you okay?’ It shouldn’t be assumed that just because he jumps on them that he’s come for a cuddle. He may just like the comfy closeness and cuddles will be a novelty to him. He is often motionless and inscrutable, but every now and then his inner state may manifest itself with lip-licking, shaking off, paw lifting and yawning. He may simply stare at them from a door way, motionless and anxious. He drags a blanket to his food bowl to bury it under.  When they come home he crawls towards them on his tummy, and in his excitement this is the only time he allows petting. He takes out his stress on his blanket – ripping or humping it.

Jayden is a little dog of contradictions. He is unnaturally quiet – the only thing he has barked at (so far) is vapour trails from planes in the sky. Perhaps the sound the aircraft reminds him of his long journey? When I entered, surprisingly he just sniffed me and settled down in his bed until later, when the pressure of human attention was focussed on him.

We isolated some of the issues – snapping when touched, snapping around food, growling and snapping when approached and on a sofa or chair, fear of the car and hoover, and cowering when approached with his harness or lead.

Each of these things can be broken down into tiny increments and worked on – just as they are already doing on the walks. For instance, they can start touching parts of his body he’s okay with, using treats, and keeping it at no more than just one touch with the back of the hand whilst watching very carefully for any signals – freezing or looking away for instance – that show he’s unhappy and would mean they have gone too far, so should immediately backtrack. He can eventually be taught, as a food-rewarded ‘touch’ game, to approach hands himself.

They will do everything they possibly can to lower his stress levels and take pressure off him.

Just imagine, being in kennels for two years after a past life we can’t even guess at, having at five years of age to adjust to the sort of normal loving home life he has probably never known. The couple desparately want to compensate for his past, and I think they now see that they may be overdoing it a bit. Hand feeding and leaving his food about, waiting on him, being on his case all the time and so wanting to cuddle him, are all notions that need to be abandoned for the forseeable future.

He is one little Australian pound dog who has belatedly fallen on his feet.

Growling and Snarling When His Food Goes Down

In most respects Alfie is a friendly and biddable dogThree year old Black Labrador Alfie is in nearly every respect a good natured and biddable dog. However, in one respect, his behaviour has been worsening over the past year or so. They can’t pinpoint when it started.

He behaves aggressively around his food and they are no longer able to give him bones or chews.

All the time he’s eating he is growling and snarling, and he’s gulping like he’s expecting his bowl to be removed at any moment. This has never happened, and I’m assured his food has never been interfered with while he’s eating. They certainly wouldn’t dare go near now!

The very first time he did it his humans’ response will have, unintentionally, made it worse. If they had known how to react back then, the behaviour would never have developed, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

In response to the growling, instead of feeding him by himself in the utility room as they used to, they have moved his bowl into the kitchen, near to where they may be moving about. Before the bowl is put down, Alfie is sent the other side of the room and told to sit and wait. The bowl goes down. He still must sit and wait until the man walks away from the bowl and says he can GO. Alfie will then charge to his bowl, growling ferociously and gobble up his food, snarling all the time. It seemed to me that he feels he’s waiting on a starting block, and there may be a race as to who gets the food first once the starter pistol goes off.

Where is the logic, in a dog’s mind, to being told to sit, wait, and so on before being allowed to eat his food once it’s been put down? Humans do it as a sort of ritual. I prefer to do things in such a way that they have some meaning to the dog. I prefer for the dog to be calm before the food goes down, and to work it out for himself without commands.

While I was there it was Alfie’s dinner time, and we tried something different. The bowl was put down in the large kitchen, but well away from us all. Alfie was ignored – there was no telling him to go away, to sit or to wait. I suggested the man stood and held the bowl for a few seconds before putting it down. Alfie was standing quietly and politely beside him. I wanted Alfie to realise that the food, before it was down, belonged to the man – but once down it was all his. I wanted him to use his brains.

The food went down, Alfie moved straight in, the man came away and sat down with us and we ignored Alfie. There was one initial very short growl, out of habit, but that was all! He didn’t even bolt his food.

The food itself needs to be changed to something better. We will be following up with further strategies until Alfie is relaxed while people are moving around near him while he eats.

A couple of weeks later,The thing we are most pleased about is that he no longer barks and growls at feeding time….He’s also a lot calmer and in the evenings just sits peacefully on his mat. We’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made in a very short time since you visited us”.

Giant Schnauzer Aggressive Around Food

Handsome Giant Schnauzer Ollie lying on the rugOllie the Giant Schnauzer is a wonderful dog to look at. He is also a wonderful dog temperamentally, friendly and confident – whilst being an adolescent who has been gradually becoming a bit big for his hairy boots!

They did choose the breed to be guard dog, but they want a family pet also, and the two don’t go well together.

Ollie’s big problem is extreme guarding around his food. He is now 19 months old, and about nine month ago he started to growl when anyone approached him while he was eating. Initially the gentleman (who does most of Ollie’s feeding) found that Ollie was OK so long as he held his food bowl for him while he ate (like his private butler!). Over the months they have tried scolding, punishment, encouraging him, spraying him with a pet ‘Corrector’, taking his food away, not taking his food away – basically everything that well-meaning friends and family, the dog trainer they go to or the Internet tells them to do. Dominance techniques are dangerous. Ollie is merely getting worse.

The growling has now developed to barking and snarling and they fear he would bite if they got too close. So they wisely leave him alone while he is eating, but now he comes looking for trouble! He will stand over his bowl and bark and then run in to them and bark before running back out to defend his food again!

It seems like he wants to goad the gentleman into a contest over who owns his food. It seems clear to me that they must not play his game which involves confrontation, whilst at the same time working from a psychological approach covering all aspects of their relationship with Ollie. Just shutting Ollie away to get on with his meal may be playing safe, but doesn’t resolve anything. The strategy involves working a bit at a time, probably over several weeks at least, showing that they are in control of all food (and everything else in Ollie’s life also), and that they are the providers and ‘givers’. Never ‘takers’. Oh why do some people advocate taking food away or interfering with a dog’s food while he is eating! Anyway, now he will get his food when, where and how the gentleman chooses, and a humans presence will be accompanied by good stuff – adding to his bowl.

He has another problem that needs ironing out, and that is pulling on lead. He has been going to dog training classes for many months, and if these particular training methods taught were working for Ollie, by now he would be walking nicely without constant correction and being commanded to heel! It amazes me that people are willing to put up with week after week of no progress outside of their training class, but they keep going (and then it’s quite common for people to expect my ‘be a joy to walk with so you have a cooperative and willing dog’ approach to be instant)! Everything takes a certain amount of time and work, but how much better for everyone to appeal to the dog’s psychology than to use force and correction. Especially with a dog of this size, loose lead walking is a must.

Ollie is very ready to be defiant, and the methods used have been mostly to do with ‘training’ and commands mixed with indulgence, rather than allowing him to work out for himself how to make good things happen by rewards for the right behaviours. I also found he was very willing to be cooperative if treated a certain way. The family have a very good sense of humour and can see the humorous side to Ollie, and I am sure will find intuitive and inventive ways of gaining the upper hand by earning his respect and sometimes even outwitting him, whilst actually finding it quite fun!

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.