Saturday, December 01, 2012

Breeze's food issue

Over the past few weeks, our blind puppy Breeze (now seven and a half months old) had developed a habit of growling when eating in her crate with the door closed as all her meals have been served.  

Note: the only time the dogs are crated is when they are home alone and when crated, they get a Kong with either part of their meal or something yummy stuffed inside.  I really don't think this is a crate issue, she goes in with no fuss at all.

Breeze has never been a fast eater and if the door to her crate is left open when she goes in with her kibble, she will wander out, tour the house and come back, nibble and repeat.  This tends to drive the others a bit crazy since they know they can't have her kibbles. Keeping the crate door closed while she was eating seemed to make her agitated and she growled more so I tried leaving it open.

After a few days, even this wasn't making a difference.  I tried saying, "Breeze. Quiet."  and that would work briefly.  Then when she growled, the kibble bowl would disappear.   She would calmly sit and it would reappear. Then it got to the point where I'd be removing and replacing the bowl almost constantly due to the growling.  

Now we're trying having her eat in the alcove off the kitchen next to the bathroom with a baby gate since I am thinking it's a confinement thing.  She has room to wander around and eat with nobody able to bother her.  So far, this seems to be working better.  Better, but not yet solving the problem.  The one thing that does seem to make a difference and keep her from growling is if I talk.  Constantly.  A running commentary about what I am doing.  I wonder if that is the actual solution.  A radio doesn't cut it, the television doesn't.  I wonder, is me babbling away the answer to this?  Will she out grow this as her confidence increases?  Any thoughts, ideas and/or suggestions are appreciated, either in the comments or e-mail.

I know it's not fair to compare but neither blind Hiker or blind and partly deaf Brook had this problem.  Breeze is a very happy and well behaved puppy who does the normal growling at others when they have something she wants and occasionally it erupts to a bit of a tussle, especially with Azule who is deaf.  She is just a normal puppy except for the food growling.  

On a lighter note...

This afternoon, the temperature warmed up, the slight accumulation of snow melted and the ground became a bit soft.  I think the dirt probably smelled nice and fresh and somebody just couldn't resist!

Me: Breeeezzzeee...were you digging?

17 comments:

  1. As she can't see, she may be warning the others that, that is her kibble....can't understand why the other blind dog doesn't growl. Could be something in Breeze's past.

    XXXOOO Daisy, Bella & Roxy

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    1. Blind Hiker goes crazy when anyone gets close while she is eating...they only ever do it once! Blind Brook eats so fast, nobody has a chance. I wonder if maybe Breeze is just developing her personality and maturity. Oh well, she's a love!

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  2. I'm afraid that I don't have any great ideas. I do like your idea of trying a different location that's less confined for her to eat. Maybe that is working?

    We are having a slightly similar problem. Our Shyla barks insanely when in a crate if I am not in the room with her. As you can imagine, the crate is needed for times when I can't be in the room with her to supervise. Fortunately, she stops when I leave the house... Some behaviors are really hard to break...

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    1. Breeze seems more content in the alcove with me babbling away. So far so good!

      Hopefully Shyla will settle in her crate as she gets used to it and realizes that it's a nice spot to relax.

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  3. My cattle dog was a constant growler too, so constant that I realized it was a way of talking for her. It still put others on edge and wasn't the nicest form of communication, but I got pretty used to it. Sounds like giving her more space is a good solution.

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    1. I thought that it was just conversational growling too but as I observed more and more I could see she was doing it when another touched her while she was relaxing, when she wanted what somebody else had and that type of situation.

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  4. That's a head scratcher for sure! Maybe she's "talking" to her food or to you? That's good that you've found a solution - however temporary that may be.

    I guess Breeze doesn't realize she's white and that dirt shows up much clearer on her! ;)

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    1. Well, as I keep saying, good thing she's cute! We'll get through this.

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  5. I hope your growling solution works! You don't want her to start getting defensive toward the others, for sure.

    Those white dogs just can't get away with making any kind of mess. Bless their hearts. I do sometimes wonder about the things that people with dark colored dogs just don't realize--Silas pees on his own feet all the time, for instance, and has to be wiped down before I'll let him on the furniture.

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    1. He pees on his feet?! Oh Silas!

      I agree with you about dark colored dogs. My boy Bill never looks dirty and it's a surprise to find that he's tracked dirt all over the sofa.

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  6. All it could take is just having one of the others stealing a bite of kibble. So now, since she can't see them trying to steal from her, she is being vocal to warn them away. Being confined in her crate, probably makes her feel she is at a disadvantage in protecting her dinner. But the sound of your voice, knowing you are near to help keep the others away, calms her. Hopefully, enough time will pass without any food theft, and she will relax her guard.

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    1. Well, that's the weird thing, nobody has gotten her food, ever. She's always eaten in her crate and I am very strict about nobody bothering each other, especially a new arrival. I think that it might be a lack of confidence that will improve as she matures. For now, the alcove is working really well and I don't have to talk as much.

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  7. Agree with Collie222 - as long as you're there, she knows you won't let the other dogs take her food! What about putting her in a room with a solid door that can be closed as opposed to a wire crate door or a baby gate? Once she realizes she is alone and no other dog can get in, maybe she'll relax and be able to enjoy her food...

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    1. That's a great idea but our house, although very old, has had additions and the downstairs is all open with only one room having a door and that's where the cat food and litter box is. Breeze is relaxing more and it's odd, even when growling, the tail is wagging like crazy.

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  8. I don't have any useful suggestions, I'm afraid. If it's a resource guarding problem, maybe Jean Donaldson's book, "Mine!" would have some useful suggestions. Love the photo of Breeze with a dirty face! Here's a link to the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mine-Practical-Guide-Resource-Guarding/dp/0970562942

    Susan and Wrigs

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    1. Thanks for the link, I'll check it out. Maybe it'll offer insight to something I'm not seeing.

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  9. I am glad to hear the alcove is helping, and agree with others that she might be warning the other dogs away, whether they've ever gotten her food before or not. She knows her food is there, she knows other dogs are there, and she may not feel completely safe in her crate. I think she's just discovered that growling "works". If another dog touches her and she growls, that dog moves away - it worked! The thing is you don't want to punish her for growling, because it can lead to dogs who go straight from looking fine to biting, with no warning in between. Instead you want to change the environment to make her feel safe. And apparently your voice does make her feel safe because she knows you won't let the other dogs bother her! I bet if you tape-recorded yourself and left the room it wouldn't take long for her to realize you weren't really there by her sense of smell, and she'd go back to growling.

    I don't think this means you're doomed to have to stand next to her while she eats for the rest of her life (hopefully). :-) But I think treating this like resource aggression is a good plan, and the book Mine! as recommended above is a great resource. Here's another good article, which has more to do with dog-to-person resource guarding, but is still very helpful. http://ahimsadogtraining.com/blog/resource-guarding/ You can modify it to work with the other dogs by giving her extra treats when a dog walks by. And the "Say Please" protocol is so important - she has to learn that good things only happen when she does what you want. If you use a clicker, you can try to click and treat whenever she is eating without growling. If she growls, a simple "nope" and the treats stop. Also hand feeding is a good way to teach her that the food comes from you and there isn't a bowl for her to guard that way. Unfortunately I've had a lot of practice (and not as much success as I'd like) with Ziggy resource guarding. It's not easy to deal with but it can get better with time and training!

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