We don't know much about Alfred's life before he was 'Alfred.' All he showed up with was a collar, leash, and trunk full of issues: food allergies; extreme mouthiness; a hatred for towels; loud noise induced anxiety; and, of course, resource guarding (to name a few).
|Any closer and that camera's mine...|
At first it could have been almost anything that would set him off (toys, bones, beds), but the most serious guarding occurred at meal time. Never having experience with a resource guarding dog, I sought the advice of our trainer, Rendy, at Anything is PAWSible. Bruce Wayne and I had worked with Rendy in the past and knew of her extensive experience with rescue dogs in Chicago, and she was happy to meet with Alfred for a temperament test in her studio, so off I went with Alfred in tow.
He was excited to meet Rendy and spent a good amount of time exploring the large studio space, pacing back and forth from one corner to the next. Once he had a chance to calm down, Rendy began to do a few tests to gauge his reactivity and assured me that he wasn't a lost cause, but that it would take a lot of hard work and commitment to get the improvement we were hoping for. She prescribed Alfred to the Nothing In Life Is Free program, and recommended that I read the book Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs by Jean Donaldson. I was determined to 'fix' this dog and was ready to get to work right away.
After ordering the book on Amazon, I began working with Alfred on his other training. All toys and blankets came up off of the floor and would only be shared after a series of 'sit,' 'paw,' 'down,' 'stay.' We didn't go on walks until he sat and waited for me to open the door and invite him outside. Dinner wasn't served unless he 'relax'ed for at least 10 second at first, then 20, 30, and so on. He learned his commands quickly, but was this really going to keep him from snapping every time we came near his dish?
|Do I look 'relax'ed?|
Progress was slow and difficult to track at the time, but a year and a half later it is easy to see that Alfred has come a long way. We're able to pet him while he chews on his toys, and can take away shoes without issue when he steals them from the rack. We can finally play fetch because he'll gladly trade one ball for another instead of bearing down on one until it's been turned to confetti. We had unfortunately lost some momentum in his meal time training because of all of his food allergies and the long search for a meal that wouldn't result in moping the kitchen floor 3 times daily, but we can at least walk past him in the kitchen without him putting up much of a fuss. Perhaps it's time we get back to some serious work...who knows, maybe someday the guarding can be a distant memory for all of us. But for now, at least it's getting better all the time. :)
P.S. - I'd highly recommend the book by Jean Donaldson if you're dealing with a resource guarder of your own. It's filled with useful tips for all different kinds of guarding issues, but the greatest thing I took away from it was the lesson on "Conditioned Emotional Response (CER)." Life changing!