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Canine Behavior/Food hoarding puppy now aggressive


I have a 7month old silky terrier puppy. Since we got her at 9wks she has always hoarded food which is high value to her. We have never punished her and have started to call her out as she slinks away with it in her mouth ready to bury it. After she ruined some furniture by hiding oily food in it.

Today we caught her out trying to walk away slowly to hide her xmas treat. We called her and told her to eat it and she refused. We offered her more to show her there was more to come but she didn't want it. My husband followed her outside and found a hole in the back yard where she had just hidden it. He bent over and uncovered the food to take it back off her and give it to her inside the house like we have many a time with lots of treats. (if we let her eat it or bury it outside the crows will steal her food)
But today, she actually nipped at his hand. it was not a full bite but he said it was stronger than her playful nips she gives when we are playing with her. She also seemed to get agitated as he went near her hole and she got very low and close to his hand and nipped at once before she actually got him. He was grabbing the treat and getting up off the ground when she nipped him.

i am wondering if this is food/resource guarding and what can we or should we do about it?

She is not hoarding out of stress or starvation, she will hoard when she is either full already or just wants to save it for later.She only hoards some not all foods. Only high value ones. She genuinely seems to like to go back and eat her food a few hours or days later. Especially raw hide. She will come inside with it and sit and chew it next to me proudly (tail wagging, playful run etc) And she will hoard regardless of the size of the item. We have tried making the pieces smaller as we noticed the bigger it is, the more likely she is to hide it.

She has never been aggressive or even remotely concerned about us taking away her dinner food or taking things off her. We've never done that anyway unless it was dangerous to her. She has just learnt the "drop it"  & Leave it cues.

I'm wondering what can we do about this before she gets more aggressive. I can't see that offering her more highly valued foods would work to teach her not to hoard if she is hoarding because she is full already.


ANSWER: Your dog is trophying and also displaying a highly unusual behavior for this breed type: digging to horde.  I suspect she is not a Silky Terrier but may have other DNA.  I also suspect she was a neonate to a dam who did not have the ability to feed all her puppies (a bitch "bred" to a larger dog of different breed, or even same breed, (especially if it is an outcross) will have a larger litter than she can feed.  If this was her first litter, she may have been biologically and psychologically unprepared.  Whatever: your very young dog (early adolescence) is suffering the result of inadequate nutrition as a neonate.  AND: she is obviously WITHOUT bite inhibition (another sign of a dam in distress who cannot properly "educate" her neonate puppies regarding the use of teeth).  I can't fix this from here.  You need a certified applied animal behaviorist.  Here are links, I have no idea who these people are or how qualified, it's up to you to determine that by telephone interview, asking for veterinary reference (a veterinarian who knows this person) and REFERENCES from former clients:

MEANWHILE: remove all high value "toys" (raw hide, even stuffed animals she may be trophying).  Feed her twice daily a high value dry dog food (NOT TOO HIGH IN PROTEIN).  Put it down, then leave the room.  Give her twenty minutes alone with her food WITH NO ACCESS TO THE OUTDOORS, NO RUGS, NO SOFAS: KITCHEN AREA ONLY).  Then distract her with squeaky toy and small "party" (yay yay come and play) and remove the bowl NOT IN HER SIGHT.  DO NOT handle food while she is eating it.  DO NOT stand over her or add anything to it.  NO COOKIES OR TREATS until an expert has been able to SEE her behavior.

ALSO:  the fact that she is not freely accepting her "Christmas treat", even when encouraged and invited, tells me this dog SEES HER FOOD and HIGH VALUE REWARD as being YOURS.  Something is going wrong with her training.  She may also have been seriously put into "place" by a larger litter mate when trying to eat.  You need a professional.

She should not be able to "slink away" to another portion in the house to hide anything.  While being fed, she should be confined to the kitchen, as I spoke of above.  When playing "take it/leave it" with her, use only squeaky toys that are LARGE.  And see this:

NEVER put a dog in a situation where it will fail.  Her next bite will be worse.  There is absolutely NO REASON she should have access to the outdoors or your furniture while eating.  Beware that rawhide treats can be dangerous, especially in small pieces, and this dog should not have any until she is evaluated by a professional.

She is very young.  She has a problem specific to some deficiency in her neonate days or even in her home life.  Her life is on the line.  Find a professional.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for the help. We have tried the location training to eat by placing her in the kitchen and then putting a baby gate so she couldn't get out and she would not eat at all. She starved herself to the point of throwing up in the mornings because she wasn't eating enough. She also lost weight which is dangerous at her tiny size and grew frightened of both the gate and the kitchen. She wouldn't come near either nor me if she thought i was going to lock her in there. She wasn't so bad if i stayed in the kitchen just making dinner at the same time but ignoring her but she still wouldn't eat.

She is a purebred papered pup and i have copies of the entire family lineage on both sides. We visited the mother and pups several times before we collected her. It was her mums first litter however and the breeder never separated mum or the babies from the other dogs. So she was almost always struggling for food in my view. Even though she was always first in for a drink or solids, the others would push her out of the way because she was the smallest. I suspect the breeder also may have punished her too on occasion like she did with toileting accidents. We're still trying to undo that training in her little brain. Poor dear.

She was freely accepting her treat and did eat a few pieces with us there and sometimes us holding for her to be able to get it to her molars as she is teething and missing a few vital teeth lol. She brings food over to us and puts it on our lap asking us to hold it for her so she can eat it easily with her molars. She did this a few times then the last piece she wanted to save obviously cause that's when she took it outside.

I will try the food training as you have suggested and will speak with a professional as well.  
Thank for your fast response. Merry christmas

BAD BREEDER, set this pup up for failure.  You REALLY NEED to consult A CERTIFIED APPLIED ANIMAL BEHAVIORIST.  This dog is suffering emotionally and might also require a veterinary behaviorist (your CAPD should know one) for short term medication.  Her need to "hide" food is a superstitious behavior, and it requires sophisticated professional intervention (since it is quite rare in that breed).  ACT NOW before the dog fails completely.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

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Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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