Cesar Millan deals with toy aggression
Cesar Millan's Leader of the Pack
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Cesar Millan's Leader of the Pack

Cesar Millan Helps An Unadoptable Staffy Overcome Her Toy Aggression And Other Behavioral Problems

Dog Trainer Cesar Millan transforms an unadoptable, toy aggressive staffy into a loving companion who is ready to find her forever home.

Like all dogs, Rosie has a lot of love to give. But because Rosie is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier with problematic behavior, finding her a forever home with an adoptive family will be quite the challenge. This breed has a bad reputation, and when this reputation is paired with Rosie’s unmanageable behavior, she’s lucky she hasn’t been deemed unadoptable and euthanized. Most notably, Rosie is toy aggressive, meaning she will go to great lengths to protect her toys from humans she deems to be a threat. This can manifest itself as lunging, biting, and growling, which is particularly dangerous when it comes from a dog as large and as powerful as Rosie. 

Rosie has already been returned to the shelter 3 times due to failed adoptions, and her rescuers hope that Dog Training Expert Cesar Millan can work through Rosie’s multitude of behavioral problems and help prepare her for success in her next and hopefully final home. On this episode of “Cesar Millan’s Leader of the Pack”, Cesar starts to work through Rosie’s many behavioral issues and provides the necessary corrections to rehabilitate this out-of-control dog into the perfect companion. 

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When we say Rosie has a multitude of problems, we really mean it! She pulls hard on the leash, and shuts down when she doesn’t get her way. She shows aggression toward other dogs, and has extreme kennel anxiety and separation anxiety after bouncing around so many homes and rescues. While the above clip only hints at this, we were particularly taken aback that Rosie shows signs of toy aggression or resource guarding. 

Resource guarding occurs when a dog becomes overly possessive of his food, treats, or toys, causing him to exhibit unwanted behaviors like growling, barking, and biting. This behavior can occur in any type of dog, and is estimated to affect at least 15% of the canine population in the United States every year, meaning it is a prevalent problem many pet parents have to deal with. It’s particularly dangerous when large, powerful dogs like Rosie are resource guarders, as they can do much more damage than a smaller, weaker dog. When not corrected promptly, resource guarding can result in dog bite injuries to people and guests in the home. Pet parents with young children should also be extra cautious with this type of behavior, as kids may not be able to read the dog’s body language and know when to back away, leading to a nasty bite. 

Fortunately, toy and resource guarding behavior can and should be corrected immediately. The easiest way to deal with resource guarding is to prevent it entirely through thorough puppy training. That said, resource guarding can develop in every age and type of dog, and is best addressed early on so it doesn’t become a habit. While severe cases of resource guarding usually involve obvious signs like growling, lunging, and biting, you will also want to look out for warning signs that your dog is starting to develop resource guarding behaviors before it worsens. These could include freezing and stiffening, rushing to devour food or high value treats, side-eyeing approaching humans, taking items and moving them away from perceived threats or people, and raising lips and barring teeth. Since the above clip only briefly touched on toy guarding, we wanted to give you some tools to help solve your own dog’s resource guarding problem if you are experiencing this issue in your household. While these tips should certainly help improve your dog’s protective and possessive behavior, always make sure to consult a certified pet trainer or a veterinarian who can give you advice specific to your pet’s needs. 

Be clear that you are the source of the resources.

Make it extremely clear to your dog that you are the source of his resources. Doing this shows that you are in charge and that your dog doesn’t need to protect his prized possessions from you. One way to do this is to change your dog’s feeding routine. If you have been free-feeding, switch to only allowing him access to his food two or three times a day. Each time you set the bowl down, make him wait or perform a command until you allow him to eat. Do not allow him to eat until he listens to you and you’ve said it’s okay. Similarly, you can free-feed your dog some of his meals to show that having humans around during meal time is a good thing because the food is coming directly from you. 

Control the environment. 

Do your best to control the environment to limit your dog’s resource guarding abilities. Don’t leave out toys or high value treats that your dog may want to guard. Giving your dog access to too many resources at once could become overwhelming, as well as make your pup question if you’re really in charge. Similarly, avoid giving your dog toys or treats you know he has a tendency to become possessive over. Some dogs only exhibit resource guarding over a few choice items, so avoiding these toys or treats will solve your problem. Other dogs will be less predictable. Regardless, eliminating opportunities for resource guarding and making your environment as predictable as possible will only help make your training more efficient. 

Give your dog a safe space. 

If your dog is resource guarding, it may mean he simply needs a safe space to enjoy his food or a beloved toy and treat. For example, feed your dog in a blocked off area where he can eat in peace without being interrupted by children or elderly relatives that live in your house. This will prevent your dog from feeling threatened and exhibiting resource guarding behaviors, as well as help you avoid dog bite injuries in your household. 

Similarly, consider only giving your dog high value chews or treats in an area where he feels safe. A good choice for this is a crate, as it feels like a secure den for dogs and limits his access to you and your family’s access to him while he’s busy with his snack. In addition, if your dog only ever gets his favorite, high-value treats inside his crate it could help positively reinforce his crate training. 

Start counter conditioning.

Depending on the severity of your dog’s resource guarding, you will need to start counter conditioning him in order to eliminate the behavior. It’s always best to work with a certified trainer who can help make a plan that will be safe and effective for you and your dog to follow. That said, counter conditioning is a repetitive process that requires a lot of patience. It will likely involve some sort of process where you slowly get closer and closer to whatever it is your dog is guarding by providing positive reinforcements with treats, games, or praise. 

Teaching and reinforcing basic commands will also help combat resource guarding behaviors. For example, teach your dog to “drop it” or “leave it.” Whenever your dog listens, reward him with a treat of higher value to positively reinforce the behavior. Then if your dog does start to guard something, you can prevent the situation from escalating by simply telling your dog to drop the item in question. In addition, make sure your dog will come when called. During a resource guarding situation, it will be much better for your dog to leave whatever he’s guarding and come to you than have you approach and become a perceived threat. 

Don’t make it worse. 

While pet owners love their dogs, they are not usually certified dog trainers. While pet owners may think they are doing the right thing, instead of correcting unwanted behavior they are sometimes only making the situation worse. This is why it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian or animal trainer who knows how to read and interpret canine body language. 

That said, one common mistake pet parents make is correcting their pet from growling. Dogs growl to express discomfort, and it’s a valuable warning sign that a bite may be coming. By punishing your dog for growling, he may instead decide to go straight for the bite instead of warning you first in the future. 

Another training error new pet parents make is taking away their dog’s chew or putting their hands in the dog’s food while they are eating. While they think they are teaching their dog to be okay with people messing with him while he eats or plays, it actually just annoys dogs and can be quite dangerous when your pup runs out of patience. Eventually, your dog could just lose it when you try to reach for something of his. Instead, let your dog eat, chew, or play in peace and focus on being proactive in your pet’s training by providing proper socialization. 

Put your safety first. 

A dog with resource guarding is not a lost cause, and the behavior can and should be corrected. That said, there may be some trial and error, especially at the beginning of the counter conditioning training process. When in doubt, it’s always advised to put your own safety first and seek professional help if needed. If your dog is extremely agitated and you suspect he is about to bite, it may be best to just back away. Similarly, take measures to protect vulnerable members of your household who may not know how to interact with a toy aggressive or food guarding dog properly. For example, you may want to keep children out of the room while a dog with known food aggression is eating dinner.

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