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I have a 7 mo male chessie puppy who was only occasionally possessive for short periods before we went on vacation. We kept him with a sitter who was highly recommended by some friends, with a short trial run and everything seemed fine, so we felt comfortable leaving him with them while we were on vacation. Since our return, he seems very anxious and frequently throws tantrums and gets possessive about toys.

Currently, he's sitting by the stairs guarding a toy and working himself up, frothing, growling, barking, the whole nine yards. Nobody has tried to take it from him and we've mostly ignored him for the duration of his tantrum. However, this behavior is getting more frequent and carries on for longer periods of time.
I read about this when we were choosing him, but I didn't anticipate the sense of powerlessness that comes with it. Do any chessie owners have tips for things we can do to calm him down enough to use the stairs? Or is waiting it out the only option?
 

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7 month old chessie pup growing a set.

You would be best advised to seek professional help from a GOOD dog behaviorist. Better yet.... - GREAT dog behaviorist.

Most likely this is just a chessie who has gotten his way - but there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with it.

Thorough basic obedience is a MUST. He should not have the run of the house. He should not be bothered while he is eating. He should not have any toys or bones.. not until this is resolved.
 

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What is the dog's obedience and socialization background?
" Nobody, has tried to take it from him" Are you afraid of the dog?

Doesn't sound like a problem that will be solved over the internet.

Tim
 

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Thorough basic obedience is a MUST. He should not have the run of the house. He should not be bothered while he is eating. He should not have any toys or bones.. not until this is resolved.
Thanks! I will also look into a dog behaviorist. Have you owned chessies before? Do you have any tips for what I can do during the episode itself?
 

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Tim - He is well-socialized and good around new people and new dogs (in fact, he is very sweet and gentle around other dogs and is always excited to meet people). Obedience-wise, well, it's like your signature says - there's a bit of negotiation! He is getting better at responding when we give him commands, but still takes time to listen. However, we haven't scheduled classes for him, and his training is done at home.

We didn't try to take it from him for two reasons - one, his vet told us not to "confront" him and to let him get distracted before taking it away, and two, I suspect that he is anxious from spending time with the sitter. The sitter had two other dogs and, since this behavior was so much rarer before, I am not sure how much of this is resulting from his time spent there without us.
That's why I was wondering if chessie owners had any tips for what to do while a chessie is throwing these tantrums. Is it from the anxiety or something else? How should we deal with it in the moment?
 

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What is the dog's obedience and socialization background?
" Nobody, has tried to take it from him" Are you afraid of the dog?

Doesn't sound like a problem that will be solved over the internet.

Tim
Yes, without knowing a lot more or assessing the dog it would be hard to offer advice. You may wish to consult a pro with Chessie experience to work with you and the dog.

Good luck
steve
 

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I would suggest using the "nothing in life is free" principle to reinforce who is in charge. Sit before eating, going through a door, leaving the kennel, etc. Dog must comply with a command before getting anything.

Just a thought and I am realitively new to this but it helped with my dog when she was a pup.
 

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I would recommend picking up all his toys and as mentioned above make him earn them by following a command. You can also offer a higher prized food treat and trade him for the toy when play time is done. I have found when you try to over think why a dog is doing something "like he is upset cause we left him at the dog sitters" it is time to get help from a pro or knowledgeable trainer who can help after observing the dog. I found this book helpful with a food guarding issue with a former dog I owned " Mine" by Jean Donaldson.This guarding is a problem with any dog but a Chesapeake will train you if you give them the opportunity.
 

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What is the dog's obedience and socialization background?
" Nobody, has tried to take it from him" Are you afraid of the dog?

Doesn't sound like a problem that will be solved over the internet.

Tim

What Tim said. The dog is in charge, and that needs to change. I like the "Nothing in life is free" approach...it puts dog owners on the right track and teaches them better ways to interact with dogs.

And no offense to anyone who likes animals behaviorists, but so far, I haven't seen any credible evidence that most of them actually have much more than book learning experience. Get somebody who knows Chessies.
 

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There are roughly 150,000 Labradors registered with the AKC each year ; less than 5,000 chesapeakes.

Chesapeakes are noted for having strong personalities. Call me at 6102206229, if you would like to discuss your situation further.

Happy New Year
 

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You have gotten good advice. I too would be very wary of a behaviorist. Especially, if they have no experience with chessies. Chessies are a different breed in that they were bred to be somewhat like a lab but also required to keep all the gear safe while the owner was off marketing game birds.

Ignoring this problem now could result in disaster down the road. I encourage you to be involved in the dogs training. You need to be able to read signs and now how to handle them. Some chessie owners/breeders are more tolerant of bad behavior than others. Look for results not years in the breed.

Chessies can be great dogs. I hope you get this worked out.

Tom
 

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Where are you located? I may have someone in your area with experience in dealing with resource guarding. It's not a chessie thing - it's an anxious dog thing. It can be resolved and needs to be addressed immediately before someone gets hurt. PM me with your location and I'll check my network.

I would be reticent to give you advice via internet and I would recommend strongly you a) not take any and b) not hire a vet behaviorist or other "purely positive force free" trainer for this. You need someone with experience handling anxious and aggressive dogs that uses a good combination of methods.

I have a network of about 200 trainers to draw on that could potentially help. Send me your location and I'll see if I have a referral.

Meanwhile, keep him in a safe area on tether or in a pen of some sort and keep things away from him. At his age and size he could hurt someone badly.
 

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The recommendation is a behaviorist? Has anyone on this forum actually gone to one? Mostly fro-fro La la dog people talk lot about motivations and postive re-enforcemet. Go back to your breeder for advice or to someone who know-trains Chessies, no one should be in a situation where they are afraid of a 7 month old pup. First Dog toys are gone, nothing belongs to him. Also might look into medical issues, but your best bet is a knowledgeable Chessie person, who can tell you if this is normal testing behavior and how to address it or if it's something else, growling frothing barking is NOT normal, particularly toward his household-family. Get assistance
 

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The recommendation is a behaviorist? Has anyone on this forum actually gone to one? Mostly fro-fro La la dog people talk lot about motivations and postive re-enforcemet.
As my husband would say
I was wrong, you are right. I love you.... ok, maybe take the I love you part out. :)

I guessed that a behaviorist would work to 'unscrew' a dog with unwanted behaviors - I would never recommend a positive only trainer for a dog and family with this type of interaction going on.
 

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As my husband would say
I was wrong, you are right. I love you.... ok, maybe take the I love you part out. :)

I guessed that a behaviorist would work to 'unscrew' a dog with unwanted behaviors - I would never recommend a positive only trainer for a dog and family with this type of interaction going on.
Guess I've been to too many behavioral talks at vet schools these days, overly-nice people but from what the majority in the field seem to teach-practice, I would be highly reluctant to enlist a behaviorists help for any real issue, much preferred to find someone with real world-breed experience, which sadly is getting harder and harder to find these days. You should've heard them trying to digest why my highly trained dog didn't feel like retrieving, real interesting items about motivations, quadrants of re-enforcement and what I could do to make everything happier for her. They are OUT THERE ;). Pro trainer simply observed that my girl had learned to play the fiddle, and that I had been taught to dance pretty well. Guess who was right ;).
 

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Guess I've been to too many behavioral talks at vet schools these days, overly-nice people but from what the majority in the field seem to teach-practice, I would be highly reluctant to enlist a behaviorists help for any real issue, much preferred to find someone with real world-breed experience, which sadly is getting harder and harder to find these days. You should've heard them trying to digest why my highly trained dog didn't feel like retrieving, real interesting items about motivations, quadrants of re-enforcement and what I could do to make everything happier for her. They are OUT THERE ;). Pro trainer simply observed that my girl had learned how to play the fiddle, and that I had been taught to dance pretty well. Guess who was right ;).

Hahaha... yes... I suspect there are many child pyschologists that could fall under the same 'veil'......
 

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The recommendation is a behaviorist? Has anyone on this forum actually gone to one?
Actually work with many dogs that have been to a behaviorist and failed.

The recommendation was to AVOID a behaviorist - and I offered a referral which I was never solicited for. I'm not going to speculate why but I would imagine the second someone says "take charge" the need for professional help is reduced significantly.

Breed is irrelevant on this one in my experience with many many resource guarding dogs - I've seen it in everything from labs to pitbulls to bichon frise - it's a nerve thing - anxiety and fear based - it's not a "dominance" issue in any of my experience or a breed issue.

The only thing about a chessie here is to remember they imprint things very fast - so having the right strategy up front is important, but I see that in many of the dogs I work with. Doesn't take most of them long to learn what context to avoid.

This dog is probably nervous in a lot of other circumstances, but the signs may be a bit subtle - or even obvious - and overlooked/neglected. The situation where they have a coveted item and are a bit energized becomes the tipping point where a shy dog becomes unacceptable to people.

I see it almost weekly.

"taking charge" may help - all the way around but it needs to be done carefully and be well understood by the dog. The dog has shown a willingness to be aggressive. Inconsistent and confusing punishment could lead to a big problem. There needs to be good balance. The dog's world needs to become black and white 24/7/365. The guarding might then go away without being addressed directly. Often times it won't though. So a good strategy to keep everyone safe until it's solved is also in order.

This is going to happen best in the home with someone who has good success with these cases.

I agree with you and others - a vet behaviorist or cookie pushing pure positive trainer isn't going to get it done.
 

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Breed is irrelevant on this one in my experience with many many resource guarding dogs - I've seen it in everything from labs to pitbulls to bichon frise - it's a nerve thing - anxiety and fear based -
I agree. The problem comes when an unknowing person hears the retriever part of chessie and makes the assumption they are just a lab with a different coat.

Tom
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
Hey all, thank you for the help and advice. My chessie is coming on 14 months now, almost to the anniversary of the day we got him. He is much better behaved after a few months of love. We went from tantrums multiple times a day to tantrums once a month, if that.
We did reestablish the social order of the house by making him "apologize" when he growled at one of us, locking him in the basement after tantrums, etc. We sent him to a daycare when he was younger, and the increased socialization also helped his behavior. He gets lots of exercise and regular trips to the dog park. He loves other dogs, but not always new guests. We're working on letting him meet them outside the house before they are invited in, which has calmed his fears for the most part.

(As a note, I think the people we left him with over winter break really did make him very anxious. We won't be recommending them to anyone. The lesson here is don't take sitter recommendations from colleagues without heavy scrutiny.)

As time went on, our chessie seemed to just outgrow the tantrums over toys. Still, we got him a shock collar. It doesn't really hurt him; when he starts working himself up over a toy we give him a buzz and it distracts him enough to listen to our words. I tested out the charges on myself and I never use a charge above an annoying buzz. However, since getting the collar, we've only had to use it for this reason once or twice. We use it on walks to remind him not to say hello to our neighbors.

Even as he grew up, the one thing he used to consistently "guard" was his food. We feed him raw meat, mostly chicken but sometimes beef or even more rarely lamb as a treat. The problem was that we gave him too much and the pieces were too large, so he got worried that we would take it from him and started acting out. We started cutting the meat into smaller, bite-size pieces and hand-feeding it to him while he sits or lies down at our command. He gets enough smallish servings until he's not hungry anymore, which amounts to about the right amount of food each day.

When he listens to us during a tantrum, he gets lots of love and positive reenforcement from his family, but whatever he was growling over gets taken away. He seems to have gotten the message that we love him, but not the bad behavior, which is exactly what we wanted.
He's still not the best listener, especially when he's playing, but he's getting much better and can pretty much always be reasoned into doing what we want him to. When he was little, my biggest worry was that he wouldn't recognize us as his family, but, looking at his big brown eyes now, I am very reassured that we are on the right track to good behavior.
 
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