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Friday, 11 November 2011

Resource Anxiety

I have a theory forming, based on suspicions I've had for a while (and probably blogged about before).

Cutting straight to the chase, I believe that making a Dog wait for their food creates frustration / tension and therefore they get to it in a state of heightened arousal...

It's something we all teach puppy owners to do, to use the food bowl as an opportunity for training, to teach that the owner provides and doesn't take away in order to reduce the likelihood of food guarding.

However, what if the very action of mucking about with a Dog's primary resource is creating the very tension that leads to anxiety that leads to guarding?

Should we simply be teaching people to leave a Dog in peace while they're eating?

The latest reason for my doubts...

I've recently started controlling my foster Dog's access to his bowl; making him wait for his food for a few seconds behind the indoor gate and then releasing him.

I started this simply as an opportunity for a training session. He'd never had a problem with me or our other dogs walking past him while eating before.

Since we've been implementing the sit-and-wait, his arousal levels have escalated at mealtimes and his resource anxiety has resulted in full-blown guarding with him leaving the food bowl to display Level 2 bites on three occasions, once to me walking around in the kitchen and twice to our other Dog walking past him. Neither of these incidents would normally have solicited this kind of behaviour.  I believe there is a strong element of barrier frustration going on here too, with him wanting to charge the gate the minute the food goes down.

Needless to say we have stopped the sit-and-wait and have gone back to just letting him go straight to his food and things have calmed down but he is still a little resource-anxious.

I was considering impending a food resource-guarding programme but have a strong feeling this will simply be perceived as mucking about with feeding time and we will simply be increasing the intensity of his anxiety.

I'll update so watch this space, but this has been another case for me that confirms my suspicions and is leading me to the affirmation "LEAVE YOUR DOG AND HIS DINNER ALONE".