Monday, June 23, 2008

Resource Guarding

(tiny paw)

I am learning all about Resource Guarding in dog school. "What," you ask "Is resource guarding?" Well, it is a behavior that some dogs exhibit when they are coveting a toy, bone, item or even person (hence: resource). The "guard" is against the other dog or human that is showing interest in the resource.

A dog that guards will get visibly "grumpy" when a dog or human gets close to a resource in his/her possession. That "grumpy" can include whale eye (keeping eyes on you, but moving head to the side), growling, lunging, holding on to the item and not letting go, and lots of other signals that a professional trainer (which I am not) is keen to detect.

Conditioning a dog out of resource guarding requires patience, and consistency. A dog needs to learn that letting go of the resource that he/she is guarding is a "good thing."

There is tons written on Resource Guarding including "Mine" by Jean Donaldson (link to book below), and it really is a remarkable topic to learn about.

After learning about it, I don't think this is limited to dogs... I actually think that my mom "resource guards" when it comes to her sewing tools, catalogs, or photos of Bruschi and Kodi. Only, I never called it 'resource guarding' I called it "hogging," as in "don't hog the Pottery Barn catalog." She pulls them away when someone reaches for it, turns her head, but not her eyes, and makes a "nahhhh" sound! And, my husband resource guards... the TV REMOTE CONTROL!!! In fact, when he does it this week, I am committed to saying "get your two paws off the remote, stop growling and let me watch Sex and the City reruns!!" My mom doesn't blog, so she won't learn from this, but my husband does...

That all might souned funny, but Resource Guarding isn't something to over look. I am super conscious of it now, and watching for signs that indicate that behavior... in dogs and in humans. Only, I don't think any clicking-and-treating is going to convince humans to surrender the coveted object....

That's a "wuff" for now!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Critter hunt?

Kodi is acting very, very different than normal... i think she may be hunting... in my house? Perhaps there is a mouse in house? hmmm.....

Sunday, June 15, 2008

For The Love of a Dog...

About nine months ago while browsing an airport bookstore before a cross-country flight, I grabbed a copy of Patricia McConnell's latest book "For The Love of a Dog" only, I grabbed it blindly, wanting to read something better than trashy romance, and easier than heavy novels.

This was months before I started my dog training apprenticeship, and before I knew that the author was such a revered member of the animal behavior community. I picked it up because it had a nice cover, a good title, and I missed my dog terribly on this one particular trip. I had also just started fostering, and was becomming more and more inquisitive about what makes dogs do what they do.

I fell in love with the book by about the second page, had tears-in-eyes at least once before the 5th and laughed about a dozen times in the first chapter. You can imagine the looks I was getting from other travelers. This book is about the emotions that dogs show, and here I was, exhibiting a host of my own.

The book's relevance to Brian and my life was so strong, that it compelled me to recommend it as a stocking stuffer in the first-ever edition of Puggles N Prose-- the Newsbite.

The author had such an entertaining and witty pen (or keyboard) that I was easily able to digest the otherwise complex subject matter she presented in each chapter. After reading, I just couldn't help but give a different type of thought to the emotions a dog was displaying. What really was driving Bruschi's emotional core when he barks at the window? What position was his tail in, was the hair on his back standing up, what about his eyes? I felt like I was a few steps closer to understanding my dog, and getting him to show the behavior I wanted (mind you, Bruschi ate cough drops on Friday-- he did not have a sore throat).

I misplaced the book it in one bag or another before finishing it, but found it again last week, threw it in my suitcase for this lastest trip, and promised myself I'd read the last 30 pages. This time, I was prepared with a "oh, its my allergies" to explain to the flight attendant why it 'looked' like I was crying. And, just like the book began, I was amazed down to the final page.

McConnell's chapters are filled with powerful examples, striking insights, and actual scientific studies to support her conclusions. The book is as much about human emotions and interaction as it is about dogs. In fact, the insights the author presented were ridiculously relevant to my workings as a focus group moderator (and support my theory that all college-level communication curriculums should include a dog behavior class to illustrate best practices in communication--that's a whole other blog post).

If I didn't have a stack of other books to start and finish, I'd be re-reading this one.

Below: My mutts, Bruschi and Kodi. Kodi is not happy about getting Bruschi kisses for the camera (he was mid-lick when this photo was taken). Notice how her legs are braced and head is pulling away.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Good Dog! Clean Dog!

The Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation is sponsoring this year's Dog Wash on June 8, 2008 at Bark'N Bubbles in Herndon, VA. Please come out, get your dog a bath, support the organization, and have some fun with the volunteers. Proceeds will help fund the organization's activities.

Date: June 8, 2008

Time: 11am to 3pm

Location: Bark'N Bubbles, 795 Center Street, #1A&B, Herndon, VA.

More information on The Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation can be found at