Guarding Valued Objects

A dog can become very possessive about certain objects. Guarding (also called possessive aggression) occurs with food and variety of objects valued by the dog, including favorite toys. It also may guard inappropriate objects such as shoes or a piece of trash. Attempts to remove the object from the pet may be met with an aggressive response. It may stand over its food dish, for example, and growl when approached. The warning must not be ignored because the dog could bite.

Early signs

Guarding behavior may begin as an attention-seeking game when the dog is a puppy. You may no longer enjoy the game, however, when it persists in your adult dog. Your dog may guard objects during play to attraction your attention. This is typical of dogs that “steal” objects, often in plain view, and run off. If your dog fails to engage your attention with a particular object, it may continue to test your reaction until it discovers one that works. Though playful guarding may not progress to aggressive guarding, it should not be encouraged. Many pet owners believe that guarding food indicates a dog was deprived of food as a puppy. However, this behavior is seen in dogs that have never experienced starvation. Guarding behavior must be distinguished from social dominance because it can intensely displayed even by submissive dogs. Dominant dogs that also guard may be more intensely possessive, but many dominant dogs can be unconcerned with guarding any object of value to them.

Solutions

The best way to deal with guarding behavior is to prevent it. If your dog tends to stay in the same corner or under a bed with its favorite object, block access to these hiding places. Teach your dog that giving up a possession is actually fun in the form of a game. Train it to “fetch” neutral objects (of no value to the dog) , and teach it to retrieve and return them to you. Command the dog to “sit” and “stay.” As you gently remove the object from its mouth, introduce a new command, such as “drop it” or “let go.” If you practice this frequently and offer lots of praise, the dog will associate the new phrase with relinquishing an object. After several weeks of practice, when the dog has learned the basic rules of the game, practice with a variety of objects of increasing value to the dog. Eventually, include objects that were previously guarded.

Another obedience exercise is to train the dog not to touch an object until you instruct it to do so. Place your dog in a “sit/stay” position, for example, with a food treat or toy just out of reach. Say “leave it!” as the dog maintains its position. Release the dog from this position with a command such as “okay.” You may incorporate this training as a daily ritual at meal time.

Challenge Situations

A dog will bite to guard its valued object and should not be challenged. Not matter how secure you feel with your dog under normal circumstances, do not risk injury to yourself by putting your hand or face in biting range. It may be necessary to leave the dog alone until it loses interest in the object, even if the dog may be in some danger. If your dog steals something before retraining is completed, two responses are advised:

  1. If the object is of no danger to the dog, ignore it. In this way, you are not reinforcing the behavior by paying attention to it.
  2. If the object is an obvious hazard to your dog’s health, do not panic. Calmly and without directly looking at the dog, find something of equal or greater value to the dog, such as a special food treat or even its leash. Call the dog to “come” to you and away from the object. Give no hint of anger or concern in your voice. When the dog begins to approach you, give it immediate encouragement even before it arrives at your feet. Put your dog in a “sit” position and give it a reward.

In some cases it may be effective to simply stop what you are doing and leave the room. The dog’s curiosity in your activity might exceed its interest in guarding. Be sure to remove the object, hazardous or not, as soon as possible. Place it in an inaccessible location or discard it.

Young children must never be left unattended during a dog’s feeding time or allowed to approach a dog when it is enjoying a favorite toy or treat. In such instances, you may be able to exert some control (at least long enough to remove the child or halt its progress) by applying the training you have practiced with a “leave it” command or perhaps simply calling the dog to “come” to you.

Source: "Canine and Feline Behavior Problems," Stefanie Schwartz; ASPCA

Rebels with Paws: Surviving a Canine's Adolescence

hotdog_face_35267Those weeks of careful monitoring have finally paid off — you're now the proud caretaker of a housebroken pup! But wait, is that a yellow stain partway up the drapes? And after you unclip Rex's leash in the dog run, and he maniacally bounds around for 45 minutes, it still takes a 10-minute game of "catch me if you can" to get him back on-leash to go home. What gives? Your puppy has grown into a teenager.

The Wide World of Spots

From the age of six to 18 months, your dog undergoes adolescence — that gawky stage between puppyhood and adulthood. Physically, your dog has his adult teeth, but he still needs to chew on hard toys. That cottony puppy coat is falling out during one tremendous shedding cycle, allowing the adult coat to grow in. He has almost reached his adult height, but for now is all loose elbows and gangly movement.

And what movement! During adolescence, the domestic canine resembles a perpetual-motion machine that requires superhuman stamina to wear out. It's a good idea to find your pup a friendly pack of other canine adolescents to run with in the safety of an urban dog run or suburban fenced-in yard. If your dog lacks canine friends, send him or her out with your resident human teen to fetch a Frisbee or go jogging.

Read more: Rebels with Paws: Surviving a Canine's Adolescence

Beware of Pet Poisons

What is poisonous?lillies
Here is a quick reference guide to the more common house and garden plants that are toxic to most animals and children. If you have these plants, you need not dispose of them, but they should be kept out of reach from pets and children.

Read more: Beware of Pet Poisons

Guinea Pig Diet

Timothy Hay WebGrass Hay

Grass hay is an important part of a guinea pig's diet and should always be available.  It is good to give a variety of grass hay, as each type of hay provides a slightly different texture and fiber content.

  • Alfalfa Hay - Only give to pregnant, nursing, or young guinea pigs under 6 months of age.  Alfalfa hay is too rich for adult guinea pigs, and in excess can lead to health problems.
  • Botanical Hay - This hay has a great variety of grass and dry flowers, which offers different flavors for guinea pigs to enjoy.
  • Oat Hay - This is a good hay to throw in some variety as it is thicker and harder and helps keep teeth ground down a little.
  • Orchard Grass - This hay has a softer texture, which is nice for bedding as well as food.

Timothy Hay -This grass hay is a favorite for most guinea pigs and is the most available in stores.

Read more: Guinea Pig Diet

Keep Playtime Fun, Safe

Muffy21853606 1 WEBIs your tabby attacking your feet as you walk down the hall? Ahh, the joys of owning a cat. But fear not – there are ways to redirect that behavior.

  • Engage the cat in interactive play throughout its life using stimulating toys. There are a variety of them in Tri-County Humane Society’s store. (All proceeds go back to the animals!) If you’d rather go the DIY route, stuff an old sock with paper and a little cat nip and knot it at the top; use a string to pull the cat toy along in front of your feline friend.
  • Don’t use your fingers or hands as toys, no matter how cute your kitten or cat is! That’s teaching them bad habits.
  • Interactive toys should be locked away with the game is over. Most of them require human supervision to ensure animals don’t ingest certain parts. Plus, if toys “disappear” they keep their allure to the cats.
  • To be most effective, play the interactive games several times a day with the cat. Playing the game right before mealtime works best. Three to 15 minutes per game is a good guideline.
  • Interactive play provides many benefits. But best of all, it’s quality time with your favorite feline.

Source: Information adapted from Jacque Lynn Schultz, CPDT

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