Resource Guarding Puppy. Puppy Love. Puppy Parenting.

puppy loveI walked in through the door to be met by the most adorable 13-week-old Sprocker puppy in the man’s arms. Instant puppy love!


Oscar does all the typical puppy things which we discussed how to address one at a time.

He was jumping up as soon as I sat down. They would prefer him not to jump up so immediately I got my clicker out.

In no time at all he had caught on. ‘So feet on the floor is what you want, is it? Why didn’t you say!’ Randomly telling the puppy to get down is just more human spam to his ears.

Clicker is quite considerable brain work for a young puppy and soon Oscar had fallen asleep on the floor beside us. He stretched out. He lay on his back with his little bare tummy showing. Puppy love!

Evening mischief

At this time in the evening he would usually be pestering for attention and looking for forbidden things to chew.

Just after I arrived he had a session of puppy zoomies, tearing through the house and down the garden, back and forth! I wonder why puppies usually do this in the evening. Possibly energy rush after their tea. Possibly accumulated arousal from the day. Very likely it coincides with owners wanting a bit of peace and quiet and the puppy has different ideas!

Evening mischief can easily be solved with a bit of effort. The humans should at regular intervals initiate a short activity. It can be standing outside watching the world go by. They could have a game of tuggy. Some food could be sprinkled over the grass. They could have a short clicker training session. Best of all to my mind is a cardboard carton food of recycle rubbish with some kibble dropped and hidden in things. This is so much more exciting than chewing wires and what a glorious mess he can make!

Resource guarding

The concerning thing is Oscar is showing signs of ‘aggression’.

This is when he picks up an item that they don’t want him to have. I gave Oscar a present of a piece of Yak chew (a wonderful thing for puppies). When someone walked past him he acted like he thought they might take it from him.

Removing things from a puppy in the wrong way actually creates resource guarding behaviour.

So, whenever Oscar has anything he values like the Yak chew, if they walk past they should drop something small and tasty as they go – without stopping. They ADD; they don’t take away. Givers, not takers.

Firstly and fairly obviously, they need to keep checking the environment. This isn’t so easy when they take him to someone else’s house and where some of the incidents have happened.

Once he has something there are questions. The first thing is, how valuable is it to you? If a sock or tissue, then it’s your fault for leaving it accessible! Neither will kill him, so ignore it. Make sure there are plenty of chew-able and allowed things left about.

If it’s something that will harm him or something of value, it’s a problem. For puppy love sake this could be an emergency. At present all they can do is scatter lots of very tasty bits all around the place so he’s unable to grab all the food and get back to the resource at the same time. It could well be that nothing will lure him away from a particularly valuable prize.

Chasing and cornering

This is when the trouble starts. He is chased and cornered. He becomes intimidated whilst at the same time determined to hang onto his treasure. The large human will then grab him and force the item out of his mouth.

It’s little wonder that the puppy has now learned to growl when approached while he has one of his ‘finds’ in his mouth.

Before things can get any worse, Oscar needs to be given some intensive fun sessions of give and take. This must always be an exchange session. Each time he gives, he gets something in return that is of higher value (to him) than what he had. He can also get the original item back.

With my puppies and some older dogs, when they have something in their mouths, anything, I say Give. I do an exchange for perhaps a bit of food. I then admire, sniff and talk to the item, increasing its desirability, before returning it to the dog!

Tug of war can also be a very good lesson in give and take.

Once the puppy is inadvertently taught to be on the defensive by us humans, it makes other things difficult. Oscar had a bit of stick painfully trapped in his mouth and really fought against having it removed by the man.

Here is a famous example of a dog being virtually forced into resource guarding aggression.

More puppy love

I am so looking forward to my next dose of puppy love with Oscar. We will see how the give and take is going, work a bit more on walks and do some more clicker training.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. Listening to ‘other people’ or finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. Early and comprehensive puppy parenting advice which is much more extensive than puppy classes is invaluable. Click here for help.

Start Off Right With New Puppy

I have just been to a divine ten-week-old Sprocker puppy. The picture doesn’t show how little Digby is.Ten week old new puppy, a Sprocker

They have had him for five days now and have signed up for my Puppy Parenting plan, wanting to get things right from the start with their new puppy, pre-empting as far as is possible any future problems and starting on basic training.

This was my first visit, to set things up.

Already he is nearly house trained with just the occasional accident. They are carrying him outside each time having read somewhere that that’s what they should do. This seems strange to me. If the puppy walks then he will learn the route and routine a lot more quickly and to stand at that door if it’s shut and he wants to go out.

We went through each area of his life to make sure things go off to the best start.

They have chosen to crate train him and he is quite happy to be left alone for short periods, so separation issues later on are unlikely.

Having spoken to me on the phone, they are now upping their socialisation of Digby and acclimatisation to things such as traffic, noises, people of all sorts and ages, other dogs, the car and so on – within the restrictions of being unable to put him down until his injections are finished. He seems a stable and fearless pup.

One thing people do find hard is not to over-excite a puppy when they come home or when friends first meet him.  Another thing that can seem unnatural to people is to constantly be carrying food around with them! Teaching a puppy the behaviours we want using food is so much more effective that trying to teach a puppy what we don’t want using ‘No’ – and a lot kinder too.

Environmental adjustments need to be made for a while – chewable or eatable things removed and maybe people wearing shoes rather than just socks – there is nothing more fun to chase and chew than a socked foot attached to a human who gets excited or shouts ‘No’ when they feel his little teeth!

Most puppies have a ‘bonkers half hour’ and Digby’s seems to be in the morning. I find evening more usual. A puppy may suddenly start to race around like a little tornado, and as he or she gets bigger things can go flying and people may be nipped! The bottled up energy or maybe stress needs to vent somehow and I suggest a carton containing rubbish that he can wreck and things he can chew along with bits of food to forage for.

We looked at the best way to teach Digby ‘Sit’ for starters, more things when he’s fully settled. I don’t like the word ‘command’. I prefer ‘cue’. I showed the lady how to do a little walking around the house with Digby beside her, off lead to start with.

Amongst other things we can pre-empt are any resource guarding behaviours by always doing an exchange and teaching Give from the start. Then the rewarding fun doesn’t come from the chase and eventual scariness of being cornered as the item is forced from the puppy’s mouth.

The gentleman, like many people, may find it a challenge to avoid telling the puppy ‘No’. How else will he learn what’s wrong? There is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to a puppy of course. There are things that make him feel good, things that are boring, and things that make him feel bad. Digby will be exploring his new environment, licking this, chewing that, running about, and then suddenly a loud male human loudly says NO. He may stop in his tracks but I doubt he will know what he’s done that has made his human bark at him.

Some things he can chew, some things he can’t?

It’s so much better to call him away and give him something that he is allowed to chew instead.

Too much ‘No’ can result in a new puppy becoming confused or defiant – or maybe frightened. Digby seems a well-rounded little character and his family are determined to do everything right for him, so thankfully that won’t happen in his case.


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 – general puppy parenting in this case. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may well be different to the approach I have worked out for Digby. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can cause confusion. 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 puppy (see myGet Help page).