Resource Guarding Alaskan Malamute

Posted by Shilohs-Mom
Feb 19, 2008
We have an Alaskan Malamute puppy, Shiloh. She is about 3 1/2 months old and is already huge (we are told she'll probably get up to around 135 lbs. but she's probably already about 50 lbs.). She has been a sweetheart since we got her at 7 weeks of age but suddenly she has developed what I thought was a protectiveness towards myself and my husband but I'm told it's actually "resource guarding". She growls when I get close to her as she eats, growls at strangers who want to pet her or get close to me, is very jealous of any attention I give to my beagle etc. Yesterday they got in quite a scuffle and silly me, tried to break it up and guess who got bit in the malay?

Basically my quandry is that I'm told we need to socialize her, such as taking her to the park to meet other dogs and people. I'm very concerned about doing that because I can't trust her at this point. I saw someone mention using a muzzle. Isn't a muzzle considered cruel? I don't want to get out there and have a bunch of other dog owners give me a hard time about muzzling her but at this point I can't think of any other way to accomplish socializing her that I can trust. Any other ideas? And finally, while I feel this is a case of resource guarding, how does one tell the difference between her protecting me vs. her guarding me as hers? I don't want to discourage protection but I do need to resolve this other behavior.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Feb 19, 2008
Hi Shiloh's Mom!

Shiloh is only 3.5 mos and already 50 lbs?! Wow, she is already heavier than my adult dogs!!

I really think you should not waste any time about socializing him and also correcting his resource guarding behavior.

I understand how you are concerned that your puppy might hurt some dogs or people but it would be even worse if you keep your puppy away from them. It will be much harder to socialize him as he gets older.

When a dog has an access to something or somebody, he would think it is his resource and try to protect it or the person and he will get aggressive when the resource is being taken away. A good example is: you let your puppy on the bed and let him snuggle next to you and when he gets older you might no longer want your dog on the bed and try to move him. By this time the dog has already claimed the bed as his resource so he would growl or snap at you to protect his resource.

In order to prevent this from happening you need to practice tell your dog to get down from the bed many times with rewarding him. When you see your dog on the bed, instead of forcing him to get down, show some treat on the floor as you tell him "get down" so that he has to get down to reach the treat. If he does, praise him and give him the treat. Now you tell him to get on the bed and repeat "get down" practices. By doing this, he will learn that he gets a treat when he does what you ask him to do. This is an obedience training.

As for the food bowl guarding, don't feed him a whole meal in his dog bowl at once. Put about a half of his meal in the bowl. As he eats throw in a few kibbles or feed from your hand. Keep talking to him saying "Good boy". Pretty soon he will learn you are not trying to take his food away but giving himmore food when you are around. He will know that he does not need to guard his resources from you at least.

The most important thing when you raise a dog, I believe, is to build a trust worthy relationship in both ways. Once you and your dog can successfully build a good relationsip you can expand it to other people and other dogs. YOU have to be trusted by your dog first so that your dog will be relaxed and comfortable when he is with you.

I am sorry I might sound too strict but all the problems I see on this forum seem to me due to the lack of the trusty relationship between the owner and the dog. Resource guarding is a very common problem and you know why it happens? It is because the dog sees the owner as a threat, and the dog doesn't trust the owner. It is sad to think this way, isn't it?

You can teach Shiloh that you are not a threat to him by training based on positive reinforcement.

As for the muzzle, I don't know what to say. One of my dogs developed a fear aggression against big dogs and I was also told to put a muzzle on him. However, I didn't because I thought what he needed is self-confidence and muzzling him would work in the reverse way. I tried to comfort his telling him he is OK when he sees a big dog instead. He has gone a long way and he is now almost fine if he is loose (not leashed) in the dog park even if there are big dogs. He has learned to flight not fight.

Anyway, I really recommend you start positive training every day at the meal times and a few 15 minutes sessions. I am sure it will make a difference.

Good luck!
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Feb 19, 2008
Hi Shiloh's mom again!

I forgot to mention about socializing him. I don't think it's a good idea to take him to a dog park, or where there are a lot of dogs and people at this point. You would like to introduce your dog only to new dogs that you can trust; friendly, well-mannered, matured and trust-worthy. As for people, you might want to ask someone who knows how to handle the situation, dog trainers, instructors, doggie day care employees, etc.

What I would like to suggest is that you don't want to overwhelm Shiloh.

I think someone (maybe Todd) has written how to do this somewhere in the forum.

Good luck!