Whole Dog Journal's Blog September 6, 2011

Peanut-Sized Dog With a Mastiff-Sized Attitude

Posted at 10:55AM - Comments: (12)

Over the years, I’ve received dozens (if not hundreds) of letters from readers saying, “Thank goodness for WDJ; you just published an article on (fill in the blank) the moment that I needed it to help me deal with my dog.”

There have been times that I’ve had the same experience – in which a problem crops up with on of the dogs in my life and -- voila! -- one of my writers submits an article that we’ve not previously discussed.

Well, here we go again: Last month, WDJ Training Editor Pat Miller asks whether I’d be interested in an article on dogs who guard their “resources” (food, treats, toys, beds, humans, whatever) from other dogs. We’ve done lots of articles on how to deal with dogs who guard their stuff from humans, but I couldn’t think of a time when we wrote about this exact topic. Sure! I said.

Just a day or two later, I took possession of my 23-year-old niece’s dog. Peanut, a four-year-old Chihuahua-mix, is living with my husband and I until my niece can establish herself (job and then a rental where dogs are permitted) on this coast. For the first week or so that he was with us, Peanut was shy and extremely deferent – to us, to our dog Otto, and even to our two (just-past-kittenhood) cats.  But almost a month into his residency, his confidence is building . . . to an almost ridiculous degree. Or at least one that is congruent with that of my last Chihuahua, Mokie (whom I “fostered” for three years for one sister, and who is still happily living with our other sister).

Despite the fact that Otto is not a chow-hound and has no interest whatsoever in Peanut’s food (or tiny bed); Peanut has begun guarding those “assets” rather ferociously. If Otto is anywhere within 30 feet, even paying no attention to Peanut whatsoever, Peanut starts growling and “guarding” – body stiff, eyes rolling, lips curling, the works.  Otto’s response is sort of a bemused-looking “Whatever!” He backs away from Peanut, tail wagging, licks his lips and looks at me as if to say, “What did I do?” Let’s just say, I have my photo model for Pat’s article, which will appear in the October issue.

Why do these tiny dogs act so tough, when this clearly out-of-scale response could actually endanger their lives, if they tried it around a less-benevolent dog? I’ll have to ask Pat to discuss this in a future article.

Comments (12)

One of my dogs is a resource guarder. He guards me. I knew I needed help months before it got so bad others understood what I was dealing with. Only after he guarded me from a Bedlington, resulting in the Bedlington losing part of an ear, did I finally get referred to someone who knew how to help. That incident was nearly 8 years ago now and my dog is a vastly different dog now than he was back then. But, he still wants to guard and would given the opportunity. He gives me signs to indicate when he is upset and to signal to me to step in. Now, I rarely have to block a bite attempt. I know what signs to look for. I consider him a fairly safe dog around other dogs because I know what pushes his buttons and try to prevent those situations from occurring.

Posted by: hltroendle | December 12, 2012 12:24 PM    Report this comment

I wish someone could expand on this - we have 3 dogs and two cats. The youngest dog, just over a year and a mixed border collie/blue heeler - has over the last six to eight months started guarding her food from the other animals. If she even THINKS someone is in the hallway outside the kitchen during "dinner" she goes bonkers. In the last 2 months it has escalated into her trying to bully the other animals from even getting to their own food. Primarily our little neutered male pom. There is no issue whatsoever with us humans taking her food, but god forbid if an animal even looks into the kitchen while she is trying to eat. Any suggestions?

Posted by: Dragonwytch40 | October 16, 2012 4:52 PM    Report this comment

Well, well, well... glad my article is so eagerly anticipated. GREAT photo, Nancy, and GOOD BOY Otto!

Posted by: PPaws | September 7, 2011 6:53 PM    Report this comment

The red eye in the photo is perfect for this subject. Makes this pint sized dog look like a real terror

Posted by: NOLAhounds | September 7, 2011 11:32 AM    Report this comment

Perfect timing for this article. I just took in my very first foster dog 5 days ago, the exact spitting image of Peanut, right down to the curled lip! He growls and snarls whenever my 2 lab mixes come within a few feet of his kennel/bed/food. I will be anxiously awaiting the article!

Posted by: KELLI B | September 7, 2011 9:37 AM    Report this comment

I cant wait for this article we have a lab who gaurds her food from the other lab (who is her sister) and from my english masstiff who is afraid of her own shadow I have tried everthing with no success. She even carries on when she eats alone HELP

Posted by: Unknown | September 6, 2011 8:18 PM    Report this comment

Wow, timely! I had a fight this morning over a frog, of all things! My two neutered males went at it - no one was hurt but it sounded awful and they wouldn't quit when my husband tried to break them up. It took me to make them stop. Looking forward to the article!

Posted by: JoAnne R | September 6, 2011 6:57 PM    Report this comment

I'm also looking forward to Pat's article,

but for now, what did you do, what are you doing for Peanut? (btw, thanks for being there for Peanut; every dog should be so lucky to have an Aunt with open arms).

Posted by: Linda C | September 6, 2011 6:17 PM    Report this comment

I'll join the crowd in looking forward to this article. Our lab mix resource guards against dogs, including our "real" lab, who apparently is not allowed to enjoy toys ever (according to him).

Posted by: LINDA F | September 6, 2011 1:57 PM    Report this comment

I can't wait for Pat's aticle. Both my Labs do some resource guarding from each other (one more than the other). I welcome any insight available! :)

Thanks! :)

Posted by: Karen S | September 6, 2011 12:25 PM    Report this comment

My dog doesn't guard her food, or her toys. She does guard me, though and the house. When something (most of the time a dog - either in the park, or walking down the street) she determines is "threatening" either one of those things, she becomes very vocal, hackles up, and everything. I've been trying to figure out how to stop it, and I've tried a lot. But, it's not easy becuase I can never catch it before it happens. I can't wait to see this article!

Posted by: Andrea R | September 6, 2011 12:25 PM    Report this comment

I have a rotti that resource-guards against other dogs, but no one else. Anyone else can take her bone, food, toys, etc, right out of her mouth, including our cats, and she'll let them, but if any dog gets too close, we get the bared teeth and growling. I've resorted to hiding all the toys, bones and her food when we have canine visitors, but she still guards the kitchen from other dogs and will run and block the entrance if they try to go in. I've tried redirecting her, which works temporarily, but then she's right back at it. I've even tried giving her treats ONLY when there's another dog in the kitchen with her, but she will chase them out at soon as the treat is done. How do I stop this for good?

Posted by: BigDogMama | September 6, 2011 12:24 PM    Report this comment

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