Our Shaped by Dog podcast is designed to be heard or viewed. If you are able, we encourage you to listen to the audio or watch the video, as each includes nuances of emotion and emphasis that might not come through on the written word. Transcripts are generated from the audio, then humans review with love and care, and then there's a double check by our dogs. If you are quoting in print, please check the audio first for full context. Thank you!
SG Susan Garrett
SG Over the past week, my soon to be six-month-old Border Collie has started attacking some of the other
dogs in my household. And when I say attacking, I don't mean in a playful, “Hey, you want to have a
little ramp kind of way.” Hi, I'm Susan Garrett. Welcome to Shaped by Dog. What I've been seeing in
my puppy is something called resource guarding, or it sometimes goes by the name of possession
Today I'm going to share the experiences that I've seen and what I'm currently doing about the
challenge. And if you're watching this on YouTube and you'd like to see more of how a professional
dog trainer deals with their own challenges, go ahead and hit the like button for me right now. You see
there's two forms of resource guarding.
One is when a dog guards things against their human. And the other is when a dog guards things
against other dogs. And what the dog is saying is I find this valuable and I don't want to lose it. This is
something that is maybe scarce in my life. I want to hold onto it. That's what's going on in their brain.
What I've been seeing with my puppy, This! is strictly resource guarding against other dogs. Now, what
does that look like? You might see the overt sign, you know, is a dog that just growls, but it starts very
subtly. So, you might see a dog suddenly freeze near what they call a resource. Now it could be a
For example, This! likes to guard her nail cutting station because she's got some phenomenal treats
every day for the past several months on that nail cutting station, it's a raised dog bed. So, she might
guard that if a dog comes in the room, she might just get up and go in front of it and freeze. So, a body
freeze. And just the eyes tracking the other dog. The body, the head doesn't move.
It's not a relaxed posture at all. You might see a dog lip curl, which she doesn't do. You might hear a
growl. Now with This!, it's not a confident growl. It's a growl that starts low but goes into a shrill peak.
You might see something that she will do is charge at the dog and just body bump them. Or she might
escalate to grabbing their face with her mouth.
Now she's not like biting to draw blood. She's not getting in a fight. Other dogs might air snap, but all of
these signs are directed at another dog in the presence of a resource is what's referred to as resource
guarding. Personally, I find that resource guarding when it's against people is actually easier to counter
condition and desensitize than it is when it’s resource guarding against another dog.
But it's not something that I have not seen before, because I have owned seven Border Collies in my
life. A couple of them have been related. But every one of them has shown some sort of resource
guarding. My first Border Collie Stoni resource guarded her food bowl and- quite badly against my
other two Terriers.
My second Border Collie Buzz resource guarded me against other dogs. And then Encore - massive
resource guarder against toys. And funny enough when I picked her up from the breeder, the breeder
handed over and said, “Oh, by the way, all the dogs in my line are resource guarders.” And then when I
got Feature, completely not even remotely related to the first three Border Collies I owned she resource
guarded leashes and my shoes.
And none of these dogs resource guarded against me - all against other dogs. So, it continues, it goes
down the line. And for This! she resources guards locations, and resources like food, mostly food rarely
toys, but it occasionally has been toys as well. And so, what happens with resource guarding is people
take one of two approaches.
And if you take one of these two approaches, there is a really good possibility that you will end up with
an all-out aggressive dog as an adult. A dog that may have to be euthanized because of the decision
you took here. So, what some people will do is they ignore it. They say, “Oh, he'll grow it a bit. I'll just,
I'll just you know let him, let him grow up.” Yeah, that's putting a lot of trust in that a dog might outgrow
it. And a lot of dogs do not outgrow it. Oh listen, in actual fact the opposite happens. It escalates.
The second approach is that people discipline it, and they discipline it because it doesn't make sense.
Like think of it from a human being point of view. If you're at a party and somebody suddenly, you
know, runs up when you go near the vegan chocolate chip cookies and pushes you out of the way and
says, “Back off!” like instantly you say “That's weird. You're weird. You're wrong. You're being
aggressive.” And so that's the label people put on these little puppies or dogs when they do it.
And so, they discipline them. They correct them. They tell them the wrong and it's like pouring gasoline
on a fire. Because, let me tell you what else happens around the same time resource guarding shows
up. At about five or six months of age your puppy goes through their second fear period, which if you've
seen some of my videos, I've showed you This! going kangaroo barking off at things she sees in the
distance that are zero threat, and that she's seen every day of her life.
She might start barking in the building at things that I'm not sure what's going on. So that's a puppy
that's going to her obvious fear period. Side bar on puppies going through fear periods. What's my
reaction when that happens? Well, if you've saw in that video, I generally just laugh. I stay grounded
and calm and I'll say things like, “Whoa, did that car scare you? That's a big, scary car out in the
Or “Did you see a boogeyman? I didn't see a boogeyman. How about you come back here and tug?”
And the other thing I do once I see my dog going into a fear period like that, I try to be sure that I take
another dog out with me when we're going places so that she can borrow confidence. And even if she
does go off, she might look at the other adult dog going, “Uh, what's your deal?” And the puppy is
going, “Oh, I'm a little embarrassed. I thought there was something. There's nothing, right?” “No,
there's nothing youngster.”
And so, I borrow that confidence. But the important thing is I don't get frustrated or disappointed or
angry. Remain grounded, remain calm, observe and then decide what's going to happen next. Now,
super important, I cannot say this enough, if you're dealing with any kind of aggression in your dog
please see a Certified Veterinarian Behaviorist. And I say Veterinarian Behaviorist, because if you go
to a Veterinarian Behaviorist, yes, you're going to pay more money. But you're going to get somebody
who's a science-based trainer. Who has gone through— Has got a degree to prove that they
understand the behavior of dog.
There's also people who call themselves dog behaviorists. And those are people who've just grown up
with dogs and think they know they understand their behavior. I have been around dogs and I actually
studied behavior in university, but I still call myself a dog trainer. So please if you have a problem, don't
mess around. This could end your dog's life. So, if this is a serious problem, take it seriously and get a
consult just to make sure you're on the right track.
Say, “Hey, this is what I learned from Susan Garrett's podcast. You think I'm on the right track?” And
hopefully they're gonna say, “Yeah, you got a puppy? Is it a fear period?” So, fear period, I don't have
confidence therefore “He's just going to take my stuff, man. I got to go. I got to check my stuff.” Who
knows what goes on in that little brain?
Also, when a puppy goes from puppyhood and they're becoming an adolescent, what happens to a
female when they become an adolescent? Somewhere in the next few months, I'm going to have her
first heat period. Well, I'm not going to have it, actually she's going to have it. But hormones are going
to re— that she's going to be six months old in another week.
That first heat could happen at any time from now until whenever. So, hormones could be involved with
This!. And so, you've got to recognize that what we want to do is number one, help to create
confidence in that dog. That's an important thing. And number two, we want to eliminate these
rehearsals of resource guarding, if at all possible. Now it may not be possible unless you keep your
dog in a kennel and never let them see another dog. And I don't think that's very good either.
Let me just share a great resource Jean Donaldson's book Mine! - if you're dealing with dog, human
resource guarding, this is a great book. It's a great book at any kind of resource guarding, anything
from Jean Donaldson is amazing. A fellow Canadian, by the way. She's awesome. Shout out to Jean.
So, here's what I'm doing. Here's what I'm doing with This!. First of all, I've changed her living
environment. Let me, let me just take a step back. When did I first notice this? I first noticed that This!
was coming on a month ago. And so, I managed, and what I saw was when we had food sitting out on
the counter to thaw for the dogs in the dog area, she would just, if there was another dog that was
going to go down in that area, she would just run down ahead of them and just sit by the food.
Not growling, not doing anything just like, “Yeah, I got this. You don't need to come near. I got it.” And
that escalated to just a little growl in the last couple of weeks. I noticed if she had a bone in her ex-pen,
now her ex-pen is in the middle of the kitchen, her exercise pen. She might charge at the fence. Not
growling, not snapping, just charging to make a noise at the fence. And so, what we've done is we've
moved that ex-pen up against the wall. My hallucination and again guys, we do not know what our
dogs are thinking. All we can do is make the best choices to help create more confidence and comfort.
So, I've moved the ex-pen up against the wall and we've put a blanket around that ex-pen so that she
can see out in one side, but it's more like a den for her so that she doesn't feel like, you know, like
she's on display and she has to protect her stuff. Right. So, we've created a different environment for
her. Number one thing you're going to do. If you have a puppy or a dog who's resource guarding, if it's
a dog, please, you know, don't mess around with this. Get your Veterinarian Behaviorist on speed dial.
The first thing you're going to do is get yourself a journal. I just took a regular notebook and everybody
that's in the house right now, we're tracking what's going on. And so, what we have is every day I write
the time and we're writing the good things and the not so good things. The time, the resource that the
puppy was guarding, the location she was guarding, the dog she was targeting, what her action was,
what the outcome was.
And the outcome is because we're never leaving her alone with other dogs, one of us is going to be
around to respond. To respond and all that I'm doing right now is we are getting her to jump in a Hot
Zone or a dog bed. That's where she's going to go. I want to break the trance of her fixating on that
other dog. So as soon as we see that stiffness, we'll ask her to go. And if she's in her ex-pen, I've put
two dog beds in there. So, she can just jump from one to another - that's enough to get her out of that
state. And we instantly reinforce her for getting into the other bed.
Okay. So, by journaling, I know that her main target is Tater Salad. Now, Tater and This! love to play
tug. But what has happened in the last, I would say three weeks with Tater is if he sees the puppy has
a toy, he runs up and grabs it out of her mouth.
Now he does that, our thought process was, “Oh, he's trying to play tug with her.” But could that have
led to her wanting to guard her resources? Who knows? As I mentioned, this is something I commonly
see with Border Collie puppies. So, it's not that anything we did or didn't do is the cause.
There is definitely a nature, a genetic component, and there is a nurture. And this is what I want you
guys to get right. Because if you get the nurture part wrong, you could end up with a lot of problems.
Remember, do not ignore it hoping it goes away. Do not discipline the puppy. It's telling them they're
bad. Do not. If you discipline a growl, you're going to get a bite. Right? Okay. So, journal, journal,
journal, journal. And then you're going to know, what are the top resources.
So, you want to identify what are those triggers and remove them. Remove them - so if you know
like I knew Feature as a puppy only guarded leashes and my shoes. I just started putting my shoes
away and hanging the leashes up. She never resource guarded anything else with the other dogs. And
eventually she— we gave the confidence, you know, all of the great behaviors we did to help build
confidence. And never had a problem with her when she became an adult dog.
All right. So, identify and remove the triggers. Unfortunately, for me with This! there's a lot of triggers.
It's toys, it's food, it's locations. And so, it's not going to be as simple as that. So, number one journal.
Number two, identify and remove those triggers. Number three create a safe environment for her.
And that's where I've done with the ex-pen, moving it back against a wall and covering it on three sides.
And then you want to have to rank your reinforcers. In podcast number 59, I gave you an exercise
where I told you it's really important to know what's really high ranking and what's lower ranking.
If we were working on resource guarding against people, it would be a different protocol. And I would
start with really high value food. But the challenge is when it’s resource guarding against another dog.
If we put outrageously high value food, like on the counter so that I could reinforce her when another
dog goes by, she's just going to guard that outrageously reinforcing food.
So, what I'm doing, and what I suggest you do is you go to middle of the road food. So, it doesn't— So
she doesn't go, “Oh my gosh, that's my best. I got to guard this.” All right. So, you're going to know
what your food is. And you're going to focus on playing games like ItsYerChoice, as I said, the Hot
Zone, a retrieve so she'll bring things to you when she feels she has to guard it. I asked her to bring it
to me. I give her a reinforcer, ask her to get in the Hot Zone. Ask the dog to get in the Hot Zone. And I
reinforce them both.
I spend a lot of time calling the dogs - and now you can't do this if your dog is really escalating, but you
might start with dogs across the room and just throw reinforcements to each one. With This! I can get
the dog super close and just hand out cookies. And that's what I've been doing since I saw her sitting
about a month ago, sitting in the dog room, looking up at the food on the counter. I started this. Calling
dogs in and just giving everyone cookies.
And a lot of the times you'll see resource guarding there with puppies where they'll start snapping at the
adults. Have never seen that with her. All right. So, have those go-to behaviors. And again, for me they
are Hot Zone, Recallers or recalls so that she will come get in Hot Zone. And ItsYerChoice so she has
control if there's a cookie on the ground, she doesn't try and grab it and eat it. And if another dog
comes near her, she snarks at it.
My puppy knows that cookies on the ground are not for her to grab. And the retrieve, the Bring Me!.
Now all of those behaviors I've been teaching since she was a wee puppy. So, she knows them
brilliantly. She will drop a toy when I say out. So, if there's a resource that she's got, and I think another
dog, I might ask her out, come back to me and she can earn high-value reinforcement.
All right. So, you've got to journal, you've got to create a safe environment for your dog to live in
when you can't be supervising, you've got to always supervise your puppy when there's another dog
around. You're journaling to pick out what are those triggers, and then you're removing the triggers.
You're ranking your reinforcement. And then we're working on desensitizing the dog and counter
conditioning. It's a long process. And if you have a serious problem again, I remind you, seek out the
help of a Certified Veterinarian Behaviorist. If you don't have those behaviorists, I talked about Hot
Zone, recall, ItsYerChoice, Bring Me! and out. Then I'm going to do something I've only done one other
time. And that is on a previous podcast. I said, I will let you join. I'll open registration for my podcast
listeners to join Recallers. I believe this is such an important thing. You've got to get those behaviors
So, if you send my team an email and it says, ‘I need help’ in the subject line, that's what it needs to
say. They will know you listen to this podcast episode. Episode number 66. They will know that you
want help with your dog to learn those basic behaviors. Now, of course, Recallers is so much more, but
those are the things that we're going to focus on. And they're going to give you access to for
registration link so you can join.
But again, this is just for people who are listening to this podcast now. Because it's serious. You can't
ignore it. Please, please, please don't listen to anybody that tells you, you need to discipline your dog
when he does this. Because the disciplining a dog for doing something they don't really have control
over is going to make them more anxious.
And when they get more anxious, they're going to respond more what we call with the lizard brain, and
you're going to have a lifetime problem. It doesn't need to be a lifetime problem. All of my Border
Collies grew up, none of them ended up being resource guarders. I would take maybe Stoni, the very
first dog that Border Collie I ever had. She maybe had a little bit of it, but very little, none of my other
dogs had it.
So, you can fix this. But the most important thing that you have to be patient because it's a boring
process. Anytime we have a behavior issue, we want to keep our dog under threshold, so they don't
rehearse that behavior. And keeping a dog under threshold. Training under threshold is boring. But
overcoming behavior challenges, in that case boring is beautiful. So, I love boring training when it
results in creating a confident dog who doesn't have these lingering resource guarding problems. All
right. So that's it.
Remember send an email to my team if you are in need of help - ‘I need help’. And we will give you
access to join Recallers today. All right. You know, normally it's not open. It's not open. You go to my
website. It'll say Recallers is closed. You listen to this podcast, it will be open for you to register today.
Please leave me a comment. Let me know what you've done to help your dog overcome any resource
guarding. And please don't take this lightly and please trust the people who have really great
experiences with this. And leave me a comment if you'd like me to do a follow up to let you know more
about what I'm doing or what's helping in helping This! with this challenge. I'll see you next time on
Shaped by Dog.