Step 1 – Recognizing MY Dog Duke’s Resource Guarding Issue

I post a lot of information on dealing with dog issues – a big one being dog resource guarding. This is just the fancy word for a dog being ‘possessive’ of items, things or places.

DEFINING THE TERM First, I should be clear about what I mean by “resource guarding” (RG, also known as “possessive aggression”). I define “resource guarding” as behavior that discourages another to take, or get too close to, an object or valued area in a dog’s possession. Usually this refers to food, treasured toys or sleeping areas, but I’d argue that some dogs guard their humans as if they were the best bone in the house. RG can range from a quiet head turn to a deafening growl, forward charge or an actual bite.

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My Story

While I experience this daily at the dogs parks, while meeting and greeting other dogs, I’ve been lucky to not have to deal with this directly in my household.

While I do have dog clients that resource guard food or special toys (especially balls), it’s something I’ve learned to quickly identify, and then completely prevent – basically creating a non-issue.

In a specific case, if I have a doggie client visiting who I know gets very possessive over balls, or toys, I will REMOVE all of these variables prior to the dogs’ arrival. Why set them up for disaster? I just remove them, and there is no longer any issue. I do these little things without even thinking.

Same with food aggression.

I almost always feed the dogs in separate areas. One in the bathroom with the door closed, another in the sewing studio, another in the hallway, and on it goes. It’s part of my everyday life, I never even think twice about it.

Until quite recently.
Duke was in bed, next to Logan. (Yes, both dobermans’ sleep in our king size bed).. I’ve been super fortunate that the 2 boys have never had a fight, and besides me getting used to having Duke squished up into my side, there’s never been an issue.

Matt, my boyfriend, went to shove Duke over and Duke growled. This was a definite ‘leave me alone and don’t touch me or I’ll bite you’ growl.

I quickly got out of the bed, and told Matt to do the same. Duke had quickly turned into an unpredictable dog. I had never heard him growl like this before (or at all, for that matter) and the tone of this growl and the his body language made me stand up quickly for safety. I was pretty sure Duke would have snapped at Matt if he had kept shoving him.


I quickly went into panic mode. And thought what most dog owners would think ‘oh my god! my dog is so alpha-me’ing right now! I need to push him off and show him who’s boss!!!’ – but I didn’t do that.

I quickly got my sense back, and just so I could process and think about what the next healthy step would be, I moved off the bed. I didn’t want to act on an emotional response.

Duke was growling at Matt, who was trying to move him away from me. Duke has given off very subtle clues prior, showing sings of resource guarding towards me. But I wasn’t sure enough to do anything about it.
Duke joined our family full time in January, and he’s still quite young, being 1.5yrs old and really just maturing as a doberman. Duke is still getting a full sense of his capabilities and intelligence. He has also developed a very close bond to me. As I have to him. We have a very special relationship. Much closer and intuitive than Logan and me.

My first concern as a dog parent is to handle the situation properly, and not emotionally. (hence: why i didn’t just drag him off the bed, and use my ‘mad’ voice at him, so he knew I was the boss).

The next step. I finally ordered the book, MINE! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding In Dogs

mineIt had been recommended to me as an extremely good quick read (it’s only 100 pages!) on resource guarding. My good friend, and trainer Renee who owns Bravo Dog Training mentioned it as the first step to handling Duke’s issue(s).

I’m excited to take the first step in getting help for this. I’ve read a lot on the topic online, but I need a real plan of action.

The book should arrive this week, so I’ll let you know how it goes …

Do you experience Resource Guarding with your dog? And if so, how do you handle it?

Scent Games with your Dog – Training You Can Do At Home

The weather in Toronto can be described in one word: SHIT!

Toronto, ON - 7 Day Forecast - Environment Canada


That pretty much sums up the past 3 weeks, and apparently the next few more. This cold weather has been as hard on the dogs, as it has for me. Keeping them warm, and as comfortable as possible, while getting their exercise in can be a challenge. The younger dogs, especially, need a lot more activity than the older ones. During the freezing temperatures, more time is spent inside, working their brain! This is just as exhausting, if not more, than physical exercise. You’d be surprised!

With Duke entering my life full time, as my forever dog, I quickly noticed his incredible sense of scent. Dobermans’ are known working dogs, and have a very keen sense of smell.

Your average dog’s nose is tens of thousands of times as sensitive to odors as yours.

Dogs’ sense of smell overpowers our own by orders of magnitude—it’s 10,000 to 100,000 times as acute, scientists say. Dogs can detect some odours in parts per trillion.

What does that mean in terms we might understand?
According to the book, Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz, a dog-cognition researcher at Barnard College, while we might notice if our coffee has had a teaspoon of sugar added to it, a dog could detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water, or two Olympic-sized pools worth. Another dog scientist compared their ability to catching a whiff of one rotten apple in two million barrels.

Experts have reported incredible true stories about the acuteness of dogs’ sense of smell. There’s the drug-sniffing dog that “found” a plastic container packed with 35 pounds of marijuana submerged in gasoline within a gas tank.

There’s the black lab stray from the streets of Seattle that can detect floating orca scat from up to a mile away across the rough waters of Puget Sound. Read about it!

Here are a couple fun and easy games you can play with your dog, to get you and your dog introduced to scent detention.


All of these games stress reliance on his nose, not his eyesight.


To avoid confusing your dog, trainers recommend you choose one word which indicates food or dog toys (I’ve started using “SEEK”), and a completely different word for objects with human scent or people themselves (I use “FIND IT”). By doing this, the dog is always clear about WHAT he’s looking for with his nose and will not confuse food scents with human scent. One of the most common problems with using food to teach scent discrimination or tracking is that you must ultimately teach the dog that the food is not what you really meant at all!

Now for the games!


This is the simplest of all games.
1. With food or a toy in only one hand, present both closed hands to the dog.
2. Ask him, “Which one?”

You may improve upon this game by insisting he touch with a paw or scratch lightly at the correct hand before receiving his treat, or simply have his nose bump your hand.
If he gets it wrong, show him the correct hand but DO NOT give the treat. Just try again.

Add lots of dramatic flair to this – dogs love a good show.

This one is great fun for the dog.
1. Show your dog a treat (preferably crunchy) or his favorite toy
2. then place it out of his sight but easily accessible in a dark room.
3. Tell him to SEEK – follow him in to listen for his success which you will praise enthusiastically.

Obviously, the rewards for the dog are multiple – he gets a treat or finds his toy plus a very happy dog parent.   If using a toy, be sure to reward his find with some play before starting again.

When multiple treats or toys are used, this particular game helps to build persistence and trust in the handler. The dog may initially find only 2 out of 3 treats, but he quickly discovers that persistence in searching when you give the SEEK command pays off. He learns to believe you – there really is another one there!

You can increase the difficulty of LIGHTS OUT by hiding the cookies in less accessible places (like in a shoe, or placed on a low shelf.) This can be practiced outdoors as well as in your car, or a parking lot or anywhere else- be creative!

Mrs. Sizzle is a New Fashion Blog for Dog and Animal Lovers Alike

000000000000000Can’t get enough of adorable animal photos? If you want a daily dose of fur, fashion and philanthropy, look no further than Mrs. Sizzle. The site is the brainchild of Suzanne Donaldson, consultant and former executive photo director at Glamour magazine for the past 12 years. She quit her coveted position just this past spring to dedicate herself full time to her new venture and has never looked back. Full of panache and just plain fun, Mrs. Sizzle is a blog that showcases doggy art, chic pet accessories, training and support for animal lovers everywhere.

Suzanne Donaldson (Mrs. Sizzle) and her pups, Edie and Clair © The Dogist
Suzanne Donaldson (Mrs. Sizzle) and her pups, Edie and Clair © The Dogist

With Donaldson’s impressive resume ranging from Interview Magazine to the Robert Mapplethorpe Studio, she lends her dynamic eye to every detail, sharing a universal love of pets and advocating for adoption. The site highlights a ‘Rescue of the Week’ and regularly promotes shelters and charities that help place animals in good homes. Whether featuring Cindy Sherman’s parrot or capturing pets strutting down the runways at Fashion Week, Mrs. Sizzle is bursting with sophisticated enthusiasm and inspiration for all furry (and feathery) creatures.

© The Dogist
© The Dogist
Marc Jacob’s dog Neville © Olivia Bee
Marc Jacob’s dog Neville © Olivia Bee
Vincent Flouret and his dog Max © Vincent Flouret
Vincent Flouret and his dog Max © Vincent Flouret
Gus Van Sant’s dog Milo © Miles Rasmussen
Gus Van Sant’s dog Milo © Miles Rasmussen
© Holly Brookhouser
© Holly Brookhouser

(Via: Feature Shoot)