Rainer: Resource guarding and tension at home

Early Saturday morning with dogs

Life with Rainer continued fairly smoothly over the weekend — he got more comfortable with the crate, he’s learning that paying attention to people brings rewards, and he seems to be reliably house-trained at this point.

Early Saturday morning with dogs

They got me up early on Saturday morning (6 a.m.), which I wasn’t thrilled about, but they got to spend most of the day outside, chilling in the yard, while Guion worked in the garden and on his hop plants.

Early Saturday morning with dogs

They’ll play brief games of chase, but more often than not, they’ll just choose a separate corner of the yard and doze there.

Early Saturday morning with dogs

On Saturday evening, my friend Maddy and I took them on a walk around the neighborhood, too, and they were both great. No leash reactivity issues from either of them!

Early Saturday morning with dogs

Sunday, however, we had an incident. I was practicing calligraphy in the office and the dogs were sleeping in the living room (just the next room over). A Kong had fallen out of Pyrrha’s crate, so I, unthinkingly, just threw it out into the living room. A few seconds later, I heard those horrible sounds of a dog fight. Totally my fault.

I wasn’t in there, so I didn’t see who started it, but Rainer had Pyrrha by the neck and teeth were flashing from both dogs. Pyrrha was screaming; it was terrible. I was able to pull her away from him by her back legs (which, in hindsight, could have been dangerous for me) and get her into the study and close the door. After a few minutes of cooling down, I moved Rainer into his crate and Pyrrha came and laid down at my feet.

She was very shaken by the incident and continues to be very nervous around him now. Since then, he’s challenged her over her bed (which he has apparently claimed as his own) and any stick, bone, or toy that he finds.

We’ve removed anything that he could lay claim to from the house and the yard (although it is a little hard to clear it of sticks). We now do not leave them for any extended period of time in the yard together. They are still fed in separate rooms at separate times, as we have done from the beginning.

Early Saturday morning with dogs

I need to brush up on my reading about resource guarding and how to manage it among dogs. This behavior from Rainer surprised me, because he showed no signs of it the first three days he was here. I guess he’s just getting more comfortable here and feeling like this is HIS place?

Meanwhile, Pyrrha remains quite frightened of him. She’s always followed me around the house, but now she can’t let me out of her sight. She squeezed herself into our tiny, tiny bathroom this morning while I was getting ready for work, something she’s never done before. It makes me sad.

Early Saturday morning with dogs

Have you ever had to deal with resource guarding issues between your dogs or fosters? What techniques worked for you?


12 thoughts on “Rainer: Resource guarding and tension at home

  1. Wow. This was the story of Wolf and Charlie, to a “t”. Charlie was our first adoption, and then we brought home Wolf (a nine-year-old shepherd) when Charlie was 8. Everything seemed great at first. And then — almost exactly the way you described it — they got in a fight, with the scary teeth and the snapping and biting.

    And, I had the same feeling of being sad for upsetting the apple cart. I was on guard after that.

    I even had to change the way I put them in the car (Charlie first, then Wolf). Wolf was definitely the dominant animal in almost all situations. It didn’t feel right to me, because Charlie was here first.

    But, they were still required to do everything together: walks, rest time, etc. It wasn’t long before I realized that everything had just sort of settled down between these dogs. Charlie didn’t mind that he wasn’t dominant. Wolf stopped being so bossy. It was an adjustment I wasn’t prepared for, but in hindsight, it made sense. Wolf had been homeless for five years, in a place where resources were scarce (the pound). The thing he protected most jealously was his red leash (he would stand like a jackal over it, teeth showing), until I learned not to leave his red leash lying around for him to protect. And I figured out that, in the pound, a leash means more than just a piece of rope! It’s the single connection to a normal life.

    I guess if I had advice to give, it’s that this is probably a completely normal settling in period. Give them time, and don’t give them things to fight over. Make sure they’re getting lots of exercise. They will figure out what the boundaries are, and probably, like my dogs (who are individually kind of jerks!), become friends.

    1. I just wanted to add: I can’t imagine being without these two guys. Wolf is my “heart” dog, and Charlie inspired our company, CharlieDog and Friends, and led me to a whole new understanding of America’s homeless pets. We hike every day together — the joy of which I would never have discovered without Wolf’s initial difficulties with socializing in the dog park. I also never would have believed I could take on two dogs, until I did it, and understood how much I love the team they’ve become. They really are a pair, and I love watching them together. I’m really, really happy for Ranier. :0)

      1. Thank you! This is a very helpful perspective and context. I think you’re right: even though Pyr was here first, she’s catering to Rainer as the dominant dog now. Even though that seems weird to me, they seem to be OK with this arrangement.

  2. It’s not something we’ve had to deal with a lot, but when it does come up, we put NILIF into practice. That would be Nothing In Life Is Free. It means that Ranier has to earn all of his privileges. If he wants on the couch, he has to be invited there by you, etc. Hopefully things settle down soon.

  3. I’m so sorry this happened! I’m sure the adrenaline was pumping for awhile after that. Maybe you want to buy some of that spray Deven has on hand for dog fights to help you feel equipped if this were to happen again.

    To me, it sounds more like a scuffle than a fight. If you search “dog scuffle versus fight,” you’ll find a lot of examples of people explaining the difference. From what I’ve read, a true fight involves lots of blood, and can be eerily quiet (just low growls). I also read this about scuffles: “During a scuffle, dogs often grab around the ears, sides of the neck and shoulders.” (http://www.healthypet.com/PetCare/PetCareArticle.aspx?title=Reasons_Why_Dogs_Fight) That sounds like what you saw.

    You still need to have peace in your home, and I would worry that scuffles could lead to fights. However, it seems the scuffle was about Rainer trying to assert himself, not about wanting to hurt/kill Miss P. It sounds like you guys are doing everything you should on your end, and that the two dogs are working it out as well.

    1. Yes, I think you’re right, Carolyn! Thanks for your insight and perspective. The fact that I was able to pull them apart at all and that no blood was shed definitely indicates that it wasn’t a full-blown fight. I appreciate your comment and advice! Hope to get this worked out soon. I think he has a lot of potential.

  4. Hello!
    We had a older Golden Kelly and we decided to adopt a Lab to give Kelly some company. When we first brought the Lab home she was agressive of Kelly showing the same signs taking her sleeping spot, stealing toys, ect. When we mentioned this to the shelter we adopted her from the behavior specialist said she was trying to assert her dominance over Kelly.

    To correct the behavior we have to make our new Lab sit and wait while Kelly was able to do everything first, go outside, getting int he car, eating, ect. This shows the dog that Kelly was the dominate one while she had to wait. It did take a few days but it all worked out!

    Not sure if this will work in every situation but it helped us!

    Good Luck!

  5. We try to establish early on that Gambit is the dominant dog in a similar way to what Michele described. Once the foster is a bit more trained the dogs can sift out the pecking order further, but until then it’s our home first, the dogs’ home separate. We do separate Gambit and Eddie for meals and when we are not supervising. Toys don’t get left out all the time, and any toy that is guarded is taken away. If they don’t want to share while playing fetch, I sit next to a doorway and alternate throwing a toy into one room for Gambit, and the other for Eddie.

  6. Oh Abby I’m so sorry! Gosh what a scary moment and I’m glad that everyone is alright! I don’t blame Pyrrha for being nervous now, she’s probably never experienced that before. I’m sure the kong being a prized possession (since it only comes out during crate time?) probably elicited a little more excitement from everyone. You handled it right though and kept your cool!

    I don’t have any experience with resource guarding so I can only offer support and encouragement!

  7. Definitely not fun. But, since no one was injured (physically), that’s a good thing.

    I’m sure Pyrrha will recover from her nervousness soon.

    You’ve gotten some good advice. Is there a trainer or behaviorist who answers questions for the rescue that sent Rainer to you? Maybe they could help.

    When I’m fostering, I follow up with the SPCA behaviorist with any issues that arise. After all, Rainer is not just your responsibility. You’re trying to prepare him for adoption.

    Good job in keeping your cool and looking for smart solutions.

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