4 month old black german shepherd growling and resource guarding.
I have had my dog since he was 6 weeks old. He was let go then instead of 8 weeks because all the puppies in the litter were big and healthy. Recently, it started 3 days ago, when he is sleeping, and you walk over and pet him, he growls.
He does have guarding issues over certain bones and his food bowl when he eats. He is nearly 50 pounds now so it is alarming me.
What I am doing at this point, is when he eats, i sit down by him. I put some food in his bowl , and hold another bowl out of sight, and when he finishes eating what he has, i let him see my hand come in and put more food in the bowl. He will eat out of my hand and has no problem with that, but if he's eating out of the bowl and he is touched he growls. I'm thinking i will keep doing the whole putting more food into the bowl for a few days then add a touch as i do it.
The BIGGEST issue to me and the most concerning, most important, probably because i have no idea how to remedy it, or how to work with him on it is when he is sleeping on his bed or anywhere on the floor, and you touch him, i don't understand the growling, it just popped up, he had been fine, then that day it started. I'm really not sure how to go about that issue at all. If you have any advice AT ALL i would greatly appreciate it.
When he is chewing on a pig ear or something alone those lines, I have been laying beside him, with my hand close to his face, and usually he is fine with that, but if i touch him he is growling most of the time. Do you have advice of what i can do more with that issue? I'm thinking of using the same thing as doing a trade off with a treat, then giving him back the pig ear or whatever he has...
One of the issues often seen in puppies who leave their canine families too early (and honestly, even if the puppies are big and healthy, they NEED to be with their doggie family until 8 weeks!) is inappropriate social interaction - with dogs and humans. They simply didn't have the chance to learn about bite-inhibition or how they're expected to behave with others.
As your pup is now an juvenile (rather than a baby) he is starting to try to exert his authority and explore his position in terms of where he fits in the pack. Guarding resources is a normal canine behavior, and a dislike of being touched when eating or sleeping is also normal, but neither of these are acceptable in the human world and obviously can be dangerous.
Overall you are following the right track in terms of how to deal with it, but I would caution against getting your face close to his when he's feeling stressed about being touched. If he snaps at your hand it's much less dangerous for you than if he snaps at your face!
As well as working with him at home yourself I would strongly recommend enrolling him in a formal obedience class or getting some at-home help from a professional dog trainer (one who is experienced with large, guardian breeds and only uses positive, rewards-based training methods). This will help you a lot, as hands-on help is more useful than a book or my tips in this type of situation.
With the food guarding I would continue to do exactly what you're doing as it is desensitizing him to you being around his food bowl, but I would leave the touching him while he's eating until he's completely comfortable with all activity in and around his food. Then build up to giving him a treat in his bowl at the same time as you touch him, but take it slowly. If he still has issues with that then you need some one-on-one evaluation and help there.
There are general tips and advice for dealing with food guarding or aggression on this webpage... Dealing With Dog Food Aggression
As for the growling when he's asleep or lying still, be sure not to startle him awake or bother him while he's sleeping as that can provoke a completely instinctive defensive reaction. Instead use his name and make sure he's aware that you are next to him and that he's awake first.
Try holding a treat out to him and allowing him to lick or nibble at it while you touch him, very briefly at first. Then reward him with his treat and a 'good boy' if he hasn't growled. Try to help him co-operate by making the touch very very quick at first, gradually increasing the length of time you are touching him over several weeks. Don't 'get in his face' about it though, if possible sit on a chair or sofa and have him standing or sitting next to you, don't make eye contact with him and make all your movements slow and gentle.
If he growls or complains, tell him 'No' firmly (but don't shout or smack), and try again. It will take time to get him used to this so take it slowly. As with the issue above, if you aren't making progress after several weeks of consistent effort, get some professional help to deal with this. You need to get it taken care of while he's young if possible.
Teach him the 'Leave it' command by exchanging a toy for a treat, then immediately giving him the toy back. Again build up slowly as you work with this. Training takes time because he needs to unlearn the bad behavior he's started and learn more acceptable reactions.
I hope this helps and wish you lots of luck with it all.