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Old 02-08-2010, 04:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I posted before about my german shepherd - I had found him as a stray and taken him in, after 3-4 months he bit my cat while eating (protecting his food.) I had found him a new home - a good one, I thought - we met the owners, visited the house, they had had GSDs before. Now, a month later, they want to give him back. Too high energy and needy - true - he is a 2 y/o GSD. He has unlimited energy but we exercised him every day (at least 3 mile runs every morning and walks throughout the day - plus wrestling with my other dog).

We will take him back, and plan on keeping him since none of us can go through giving him up again. We all loved him but I have a almost 5 y/o and an almost 3 y/o and their safety comes first. I need some advice about whether his food aggression can be managed/trained out. I also need to train him to leave the cats pretty much alone and to not bark at people/animals when they walk by our front fence.

Is this realistic? And who do I need to see for training - a behaviorist? I think this is beyond what they offer at my local Petsmart.
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Old 02-08-2010, 04:34 PM
 
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I'm afraid I have no experience with the cat issue as my two are not trustworthy around cats. However to start with I would feed him in his crate (do you have one?) with the door closed. Not only does it prevent problems, but it will reinforce that the crate is a good place to be (which is helpful if you also want to use it to manage the cat situation and put him in when you can't supervise around the kids).

Re: fence, is that when he is outside or inside? If outside I wouldn't leave him there unsupervised as dogs who have protective instincts often seem to take it on as a serious job if you let them. If it's inside, I'd probably block his view while you work on it, and ask him to come and lie down beside you when he barks at something out there. We have a barky dog with guard dog ambitions and while she will still let out one or two barks, she usually comes running to us (even if we're in bed sleeping) at the same time. Then I tell her "good girl, thank you", and "that's enough" if she doesn't stop. It seems to give her something to do, so that she feels she's done her job I guess? Plus once she comes and lies down she usually can't see what she's barking at anymore, so that is a bonus.
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Old 02-08-2010, 04:53 PM
 
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Yes, food aggression can be modified.

Here is one article that can help

Dr Yin

Basically, you want the dog to not have a reason to guard. Dont start taking his food away or messing with him while he is eating. Feeding by hand is a great way to start. If he is ok with people by his bowl, walk by and drop extra special treats in while he is eating.

Personally I always feed my dogs seperate and in a safe place. They are fine with us by them but I dont want them to feel like they even need to thing about worrying. I also work from day one on a strong "leave it" command so that if food falls on the floor, the kids have food, etc the dogs know it is not for them. I would keep the dog up while eating so there is no danger to the cat....and honestly the cat should not be allowed to bother the dog while eating anyways.

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Old 02-08-2010, 06:38 PM
 
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Our latest rescue is a Great Dane who came to us with several issues, including food aggression/resource guarding. We've had him for 3 months, and with careful training and management, we have had no incidents other than stiffening up when eating in a group setting (we have 3 other dogs).

First, google NILF (Nothing In Life Is Free) and plan on implementing it for at least the first week the dog comes home. I prefer to tether the dog to me (or DH) for the first 2 or three weeks, but that isn't always practical

Second, hand feed all meals in a quiet, calm place where you won't be interrupted. Try to work in eye-contact as you do this - you want him to focus on your face, not the food.

Get to know his body language. Some dogs are obvious and crouch over their food growling, but others are far more subtle and all you might see is a slight stiffening or pause in chewing. Your goal is to teach him to RELAX around food.

Once the hand-feeding is going well, and you're getting good eye contact, try to work in a "wait" command. For example, in our house, all the dogs have to sit, look at me, I put food down, and they wait to dig in until I say "okay".

You can eventually build up to feeding in the crate, or whatever calm/quiet spot he will eventually be fed in, but be prepared to take a step or two back if he starts showing signs of tension around food again.

One final note, if he does have a setback and growls or snaps, do not react with a harsh correction!! When you correct a dog who is warning you, you're basically telling him that the warning wasn't heeded and next time he'd better up the ante. Go back a few steps, and build back up from there.
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Old 02-09-2010, 12:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ola_ View Post
Re: fence, is that when he is outside or inside? If outside I wouldn't leave him there unsupervised as dogs who have protective instincts often seem to take it on as a serious job if you let them. If it's inside, I'd probably block his view while you work on it, and ask him to come and lie down beside you when he barks at something out there. We have a barky dog with guard dog ambitions and while she will still let out one or two barks, she usually comes running to us (even if we're in bed sleeping) at the same time. Then I tell her "good girl, thank you", and "that's enough" if she doesn't stop. It seems to give her something to do, so that she feels she's done her job I guess? Plus once she comes and lies down she usually can't see what she's barking at anymore, so that is a bonus.
It's outside - we have a picket fence. He does it when I am out with him - I don't generally leave the dogs unsupervised. He does also bark when someone comes to the door, but so does my other dog.

Quote:
Personally I always feed my dogs seperate and in a safe place. They are fine with us by them but I dont want them to feel like they even need to thing about worrying. I also work from day one on a strong "leave it" command so that if food falls on the floor, the kids have food, etc the dogs know it is not for them. I would keep the dog up while eating so there is no danger to the cat....and honestly the cat should not be allowed to bother the dog while eating anyways.
Yes, part of this was my error. I've had dogs and cats together my whole life and never had to isolate them during feeding. But I've never had two dogs at once, either.

We're getting him back tomorrow night and seeing the trainer my vet recommended the next morning. I have some anxiety about the whole thing - I was so sad to give him up but my household is much calmer - and cleaner - without him - and I know it's going to be a lot of work to train him. Hopefully when I see him I will just be glad that he's back.
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