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Canine Behavior/Food guarding escalating

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QUESTION: I'm not sure if you can assist, I did read the part about active aggression, but I figure it's worth a shot to see, if not, then we'll contact a behaviorist.

We adopted Roxie (husky/Golden Retriever) from the local shelter, where she was picked up at ~3 months as a stray. She had no signs of guarding or aggression, until we adopted Mollie, who's a beagle/Chow, about a year later. Then she started shouldering Mollie out of the way when she tried to eat out of the dish, but would stand down when you told her. It's been 10 years since we adopted her now, and it's slowly escalating. She snarled at me yesterday when I was refilling the dishes. We have a free-feed system, which I (who firmly believes in set food times), disagree with, and think it's making the problem worse. Mom (who's dogs they actually are, and loves free-feeding), thinks that feeding them at set-times in their crates, would just transfer the guarding and aggression to the crate. I'm not sure how to progress.

If she hears the food settling in the dish, the water glug in the bottle, or sees anyone approaching "her" dishes, she rushes over, body-checks them out of the way with a growl, and then slowly eats a piece of kibble at a time, until the other walks away. This past week it's escalated to bared teeth, and she snapped at Mollie today when Mollie was getting a drink. She is NOT aggressive any other way, time or manner (she's knocked herself out multiple times at the local strip-mall, because she sees people on the other side of the glass, and rushes over to say hi, not understanding glass), doesn't guard treats, toys or long-lasting treats (hooves, pig-ears, rib bones, etc).

Is this something we can still resolve with training? Do you think that putting the feed at certain times in the crates would help, or make it worse? Should we be concerned with this escalating (I know -I- am!)? Do we need to contact a behaviorist for this? Thank you so much for your time.

ANSWER: NO FREE FEEDING.  I understand your Mom's position, I have free fed as many as eleven dogs in my home at a time, but each one of those dogs knew I was ultimately "in charge" and I never had one problem.  In your house, this situation began a long time ago (Beagle/Chow mix!  Wow....very bad hybrid; Golden/Husky, also bad hybrid - if, indeed, these dogs are actually the hybrid types you think they are.)  Your Golden X has been in a struggle with the other dog for a very long time. This is a struggle in social hierarchy.  As she ages, it is getting worse because the behavior is set and she is losing "status" due to age.

NO CRATE FEEDING.  Feeding should take place in the following way:  Feed twice daily the optimum amount of food (ask your veterinarian); feed both dogs at the same time in different rooms.  Feed the Golden first: put the food down, walk away, close the door; feed the other dog next in a separate room (again with a closed door).  At the end of fifteen minutes, casually go into the room where the Golden is, distract her (throw a squeaky toy), pick up the dish, leave the room with no comment.  Then, do the same with the other dog OUT OF SIGHT of the Golden.

Second:  dispense with water bottles.  Instead, place several bowls of water around the house (and one next to the meal you are serving to each dog).  Let's see if resource guarding continues to extend to BOWLS of water.

Third:  I will put both your dogs on Nothing In Life Is Free but first answer the following:

1.  Have both dogs had recent and complete checkups (including comprehensive blood chemistry) to rule out biologic problems (kidney disease, orthopedic issues, neurological issues, cataracts, etc.)?
2.  Describe to me what happens when you and your other family members return HOME?  Which dog greets you first or is there a chaotic "battle" during greeting where one attempts to shove the  other out of the way?
3.  Where do these dogs "rest" in your home?  Have you EVER seen one of them displacing another from a favorite "resting" place?
4.  Think carefully and query other family members:  Have you EVER seen these two "mix it up" (without leaving injury) over toys, cookies, PEOPLE, sofa, chair, bed...etc.

Please use followup feature to answer.  I'm looking for a CLUE as to which dog is actually higher in social hierarchy, might be quite difficult to determine unless your answers make it quite clear to me (which, hopefully, they will).  CRATES are NOT NECESSARY for these dogs, both of whom are approaching their elder years.  Do NOT leave them alone together when you are out, this is a fight-on-sight problem waiting for an opportunity.


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

QUESTION: Wow, thank you for the insanely quick response! You asked:

1.  Have both dogs had recent and complete checkups (including comprehensive blood chemistry) to rule out biologic problems (kidney disease, orthopedic issues, neurological issues, cataracts, etc.)?
2.  Describe to me what happens when you and your other family members return HOME?  Which dog greets you first or is there a chaotic "battle" during greeting where one attempts to shove the  other out of the way?
3.  Where do these dogs "rest" in your home?  Have you EVER seen one of them displacing another from a favorite "resting" place?
4.  Think carefully and query other family members:  Have you EVER seen these two "mix it up" (without leaving injury) over toys, cookies, PEOPLE, sofa, chair, bed...etc.

1) Yes, both go for a yearly check-up, Roxie, the Golden, has arthritis in her shoulders and hips, but otherwise both are in good health.
2) When we leave, the Golden gets put in her crate, as she has separation anxiety and trashes the house when left unsupervised. We leave the Chow out, as she just sleeps while we're gone. So when we get home, the Chow comes over to say hello, and then we uncrate the Golden, and then the pushing and bodychecking comes into play. The Golden gets crated at night, and the Chow sleeps on Mom's bed, and in the morning when getting ready to go outside, it happens again.
3) The dogs rest primarily on my Dad's armchair (with him in there), or under Mom's desk where she works. It's VERY common for them to push each other out of the way. The Golden will also run to the door barking and carrying on, which gets the Chow riled up, who jumps down and rushes to the door also barking, at which point the Golden takes the spot the Chow -had- been.
4) Yes, there's been several "mix ups", usually over Dad's chair, or who goes outside first. There's been 2 actual fights, with blood resulted (the Golden drew the blood) over unknown things. We'll be reading, then suddenly there was an actual dog fight in the middle of the living room. In my experience, it's usually the Chow that 'starts' these, usually edging closer until the Golden snaps, at which point the Golden gets up and walks away, and the Chow takes over where/what she wants. These typically seem to be over who's going to get the armchair, or under mom's desk, or while we're having a 'special' dinner, things like steak, ham or turkey. There's also usually a stand-off when we let them out, where each one will stand in the doorway, stiff tail and slight ridge, as the other tries to come back inside. There's not much over toys or food outside the kibble, and as far as other people go, the Chow is terrified of people, so she runs and howls/barks, whereas the Golden LOVES people, and comes rushing to say hello. When you call them for treats, the Golden always comes, but the Chow only comes if she sees the Golden actually -getting- something.

We have a 5-gallon gravity-feed water bottle in the living room, and there's also an ice-cream bucket of water in both bathrooms, there's a filtered water system in the dining room (for the cats, but the dogs drink out of it too), as well as a steel bowl of water in the kitchen. The Golden -does- guard those on occasion, but usually after a scuffle, otherwise she doesn't seem to notice.

I hope these help! Thank you again for your assistance!

Answer
You have two bitches close to fighting on sight as they age; they appear to be mismanaged.  You have promoted the Chow X by allowing her to sleep with a Human; you have demoted the Golden X by crating her, allowing the Chow X to be free (in her sight).  I think the actual hierarchy should most likely be:  Golden X, Chow X.

You need hands on by a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist.  You have to change the manner in which you are living with these dogs, completely.  Because I can't see anything from here, my opinion is now based purely upon educated guess and that is not good enough.  

Do not crate one and leave the other free; crate them both, across the room from one another.  While you are waiting to see a CAAB (not a dog trainer), put lightweight leashes (house tabs) on both dogs and remove them when either one attempts to get onto the furniture.  Pick up the tab, do not make direct eye contact or be angry, say "off", lead the dog off, praise and walk away.  Do this as many times as necessary (and it might be quite a lot) until neither one attempts to get onto any furniture.  Make bedrooms unavailable to both dogs (close the doors).  Feed separately as described in first answer.  Your thought that the Chow X is the instigator is most likely inaccurate; the Chow X is doing what is normal for a dog that has been "promoted" in social hierarchy by its Humans and perceives the Golden X to be much lower (because the Golden X is crated when she is not).  This has to change.

Find a CAAB by calling the veterinary college in your area or from the following sites:

http://certifiedanimalbehaviorist.com/page6.html

http://www.animalbehavior.org/ABSAppliedBehavior/caab-directory

You may also ask for referral to a veterinary behaviorist when speaking to the veterinary college representative.  As dogs age, their cognition can fail, as happens in Humans, and social hierarchy can become a severe problem.  There may be some medication available that a veterinary behaviorist will recommend to one, or both, dogs.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.

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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.

Experience

30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for ThePetChannel.com for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, K9Shrinks@egroups.com. 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.

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

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

Education/Credentials
Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
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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