About 6 weeks ago, when Loki was 14 weeks, he bit me very hard (enough to draw blood and cause a permanent scar on my knuckle) when I took a bone away from him. He showed no other signs of aggression. He did not warn me vocally – no growling or baring teeth - but looking back, his body language was definitely “this is MINE!” he had his paws on the bone and when I approached, he turned his body away from me, hunched over. It was extremely upsetting, but me and my fiancé had signed him up for puppy classes the week that it happened so we decided to seek advice.

The trainer was really helpful, and since we hadn’t noticed any aggression in him other than the bones, she suggested that we play the trade game with him and teach him the drop command. She also recommended only hand feeding. He was a really quick learner, and picked it up quickly. We never let him have the bully stick completely, we always have it in our hand when we ask him to drop. Then he gets a new one. Fun things happen when hands and people are around! I thought everything was fine.

Yesterday, while I was at the gym, my fiancé calls me and tells me that Loki bit him…twice. Not hard enough to break the skin, but it was definitely a bite and not his usual mouthing (he’s about he’s teething right now). My fiancé had decided to give Loki some food in his bowl, take the bowl away when it was empty, add more, rinse and repeat. Loki bit him twice, both times when he went to take the empty bowl away. The second time was hard enough that my fiancé got scared.

When I came home, I decided to recreate the scenario, as Loki definitely views me as more of a leader than my fiancé. Sure enough, he did the exact same thing – he lunged and tried to bite me when I removed the empty bowl.  

Of note, I sometimes feed him kibble out of a bowl during lunchtime (I work a 9 to 5 job, and am usually in a rush to get back to work – this way I still have time to take him for a walk during lunch) and hand feed him breakfast and dinner – he gets about 2 cups + treats spread throughout the day. Of note, he WOLFS his food down when it is in the bowl.  

I’m completely heartbroken, cried for probably the remainder of the day. Worst Valentine’s Day ever.

We are contemplating re-homing him. We are also in the process of contacting our trainer to ask if she knows of somebody who can come to our house and figure out what we are doing wrong.

The kicker is, nobody believes us when we say that he’s food aggressive. He’s the sweetest dog EVER to everybody. But it is now we are scared as we cannot even tell if he’s being aggressive with his toys (he does some of the same posturing with his toys - paws on them, runs away with them, but he’s always loved being chased and when I do work up the nerve now to put a hand on a toy, he totally lets me and will drop it if I ask) and we are becoming afraid to even take toys away from him. I'm also annoyed that his tail is docked, we literally cannot tell if he's happy or not, even when he is happy (saying hi to people) he NEVER wags his nub.

I’m completely heartbroken, doing my best not to sob while typing all this out…  and while I know the best thing to do is get a professional, I’m really not sure if we can deal with this.

Some insight or if anybody has similar stories to share, I would really like to hear them. Thanks for reading if you made it this far. 

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Cathie, first I do agree that most of the time dogs should be left to eat in peace.  However, for their own safety it's ideal to also condition them that hands near their food are not a threat.  So the idea is you train that, then usually leave them in peace with very rare (a few times a year) rounds of refresher training.  

The mistake made with Loki was to move right up to taking away the bowl to add more food without first conditioning Loki to that.  The reason the ASPCA method works so well is that the dog is taught that hands coming near the bowl are bringing something BETTER, and also you start well away from the dog, at a position where the dog is not threatened. 

I do understand what you are trying to say.  However, since Tracy was so upset when she made the post that she was afraid she might have to rehome her dog, and is obviously at a loss as to how to proceed, I just think your choice of words upset her more.  And when someone tells us she's upset, then we should back off and change our approach.   I'm sure if your dog gave indications you were stressing her you'd change your approach, right?  I think we owe our human friends at least as much courtesy as we grant our dogs, yes?  :-)  

The puppy may be biting without growling because he was scolded for growling in the past.  Or, he may just have a low frustration threshold, in which case careful play and treat activities can gradually build his frustration tolerance.   

Yes, you're right.

I wanted to recreate the event because it was very out of character for him and my fiancé was more inclined to blow it off as not a big deal, whereas I wanted to see how bad it really was. That was where my logic was at. Now I see that it was completely flawed, and may have made things inadvertently worse, but we're going to work on it and change things around. 

This is our first puppy and we made a mistake. Thank you for understanding. 

The advice already given about working through it with a trainer is awesome and it's exactly what I would recommend. When my pup was 3 months old, he started to resource guard (toys and food) and no one would believe that my sweet, happy-go-lucky puppy would turn into a snarling mess when someone stood too close to his stuff. Our puppy trainer helped us work through it and let us choose which path we wanted to take: to work on his resource guarding through trading/hand-feeding or making sure he was always in a safe, secluded place (such as his crate or an empty room) with his high-value item so no one got hurt. We decided to work with the behavior and, to give you some light at the end of the tunnel, now he no longer resource guards like he did when he was a puppy.. With the exception of the occasional low growl if another dog comes near his favorite toys, but that's something I manage by removing his favorite toys around other dogs. Good luck and hang in there! You can do it!

Perfect, thanks so much. We've gotten several recommendations from a few people. We really felt alone in this, it was funny how when we opened up how so many people have told us they went through something similar. I guess everybody wants everybody else to think they have the perfect dog! I really appreciate insight from somebody who has been there.

I just wanted to add to please don't assume the worst;  puppies come home out of the litter where they had to compete for food all the time and they can be quite funny about it.  Jack growled ferociously at his food bowl when we got him and he's not turned into an aggressive dog.  He DOES tense when you go to take something from him that he likes and so we always practice the trade game.  

He is what I would consider a more dominant dog, but resource guarding has little to do with dominance or submission.

I've read quite a few studies of wolves and free-ranging dogs on this. In a wolf pack (and dogs are not wolves but sometimes it helps to compare), even very submissive wolves (which is usually sub-adults) will fiercely guard food they already have in their possession, even against the alpha wolf.  Status determines who gets first dibs on new food coming in, but high-status animals simply cannot just take food from even the lowest status animals without something of a fight.  

That's why I'm very skeptical of using dominance techniques and much prefer the methods described where you condition a dog to realize that when you come near the bowl, you are bringing something better.   That's what ASPCA does with their rescue dogs that food-guard.


Since he is lunging/biting first without growling, just watch for other signs which are usually stiffening and stillness.  Once you learn to see it you will recognize it instantly, but it takes careful observation at first.  Happy dogs are not totally still.  A still dog is like a coiled snake, seeing what he needs to do next.  Lunge?  Retreat?  So take that as his warning instead of waiting for a growl.

I almost guarantee you that a year from now, you'll look back at this and smile.  Instead of thinking "He might be aggressive; we have to rehome him" think "He's a puppy who is used to competing for things" and it will seem less intimidating.   

Thank you Beth! Website bookmarked. I was definitely not in a good spot when I made this post and feel a LOT better today. I hope you are right. 

FYI...all of us can have those days when things seem to be sooooo bad we just want to quit! Glad you're feeling better.

Yep!   Jack was an incredibly mouthy, nippy puppy.  And when he got tired, he would not put himself to sleep unless he was in his pen or crate and he got CRANKY and wild.   

I walked in the living room one day to see my husband looking like someone had died.  I asked what was wrong and he said "He's AWFUL." 

And Jack grew up to become a therapy dog (though we've "retired" him since, but not because of his behavior).    Soooo, moral of the story is that puppies can be very trying and make us cry as we slowly turn them into civilized dogs.   And the fact that some people have perfect, lovely, mild pups who almost never turn a hair the wrong way can make us feel worse; I've been fortunate enough to grow up with a puppy like that and those puppies make us feel like we did everything right.  *sigh*

 Just in case you haven't looked this up yet!

Undesirable      behavior can be caused by many things, including undetected illness. No      behavior modification program should begin without first taking the dog to      a veterinarian for a complete physical examination. While you're there,      give your vet a printed copy of this page and ask if it would be an      appropriate technique for you to try. The NILIF program is an accepted      standard in dog training/behavior but it is not, and is not intended to      be, a substitute for an in-person, professional evaluation of your dog's      behavior. This technique is intended for dogs in good health and of sound      mind and stable temperament.

The NILIF program is remarkable because it's effective for such a wide variety of problems. A shy, timid dog becomes more relaxed knowing that he has nothing to worry about, his owner is in charge of all things. A dog that's pushing too hard to become "top dog" learns that the position is not available and that his life is far more enjoyable without the title.
It is equally successful with dogs that fall anywhere between those two extremes. The program is not difficult to put into effect and it's not time consuming if the dog already knows a few basic obedience commands. I've never seen this technique fail to bring about a positive change in behavior, however, the change can be more profound in some dogs than others. Most owners use this program in conjunction with other behavior modification techniques such as coping with fear or treatment for aggression. It is a perfectly suitable technique for the dog with no major behavior problems that just needs some fine tuning.
ATTENTION ON DEMAND The program begins by eliminating attention on demand. When your dog comes to you and nudges your hand, saying "pet me! pet me!" ignore him. Don't tell him "no", don't push him away. Simply pretend you don't notice him. This has worked for him before, so don't be surprised if he tries harder to get your attention. When he figures out that this no longer works, he'll stop. In a pack situation, the top ranking dogs can demand attention from the lower ranking ones, not the other way around. When you give your dog attention on demand you're telling him that he has more status in the pack than you do. Timid dogs become stressed by having this power and may become clingy. They're never sure when you'll be in charge so they can't relax. What if something scary happens, like a stranger coming in the house? Who will handle that? The timid dog that is demanding of attention can be on edge a lot of the time because he has more responsibility than he can handle.
Some dogs see their ability to demand attention as confirmation that they are the "alpha", then become difficult to handle when told to "sit" or "down" or some other demand is placed on them. It is not their leadership status that stresses them out, it's the lack of consistency. They may or may not actually be alpha material, but having no one in the pack that is clearly the leader is a bigger problem than having the dog assume that role full time. Dogs are happiest when the pack order is stable. Tension is created by a constant fluctuation of pack leadership. EXTINCTION BURSTS Your dog already knows that he can demand your attention and he knows what works to get that to happen. As of today, it no longer works, but he doesn't know that yet. We all try harder at something we know works when it stops working. If I gave you a twenty dollar bill every time you clapped your hands together, you'd clap a lot. But, if I suddenly stopped handing you money, even though you were still clapping, you'd clap more and clap louder. You might even get closer to me to make sure I was noticing that you were clapping. You might even shout at me "Hey! I'm clapping like crazy over here, where's the money?". If I didn't respond at all, in any way, you'd stop. It wasn't working anymore. That last try -- that loud, frequent clapping is an extinction burst. If, however, during that extinction burst, I gave you another twenty dollar bill you'd be right back in it. It would take a lot longer to get you to stop clapping because you just learned that if you try hard enough, it will work.
When your dog learns that the behaviors that used to get him your attention don't work any more he's going to try harder and he's going to have an extinction burst. If you give him attention during that time you will have to work that much harder to get him turned around again. Telling him "no" or pushing him away is not the kind of attention he's after, but it's still attention. Completely ignoring him will work faster and better.
YOU HAVE THE POWER As the human and as his owner you have control of all things that are wonderful in his life. This is the backbone of the NILIF program. You control all of the resources. Playing, attention, food, walks, going in and out of the door, going for a ride in the car, going to the dog park. Anything and everything that your dog wants comes from you. If he's been getting most of these things for free there is no real reason for him to respect your leadership or your ownership of these things. Again, a timid dog is going to be stressed by this situation, a pushy dog is going to be difficult to handle. Both of them would prefer to have you in charge.
To implement the NILIF program you simply have to have your dog earn his use of your resources. He's hungry? No problem, he simply has to sit before his bowl is put down. He wants to play fetch? Great! He has to "down" before you throw the ball. Want to go for a walk or a ride? He has to sit to get his lead snapped on and has to sit while the front door is opened. He has to sit and wait while the car door is opened and listen for the word (I use "OK") that means "get into the car". When you return he has to wait for the word that means "get out of the car" even if the door is wide open. Don't be too hard on him. He's already learned that he can make all of these decisions on his own. He has a strong history of being in control of when he gets these resources. Enforce the new rules, but keep in mind that he's only doing what he's been taught to do and he's going to need some time to get the hang of it all.
You're going to have to pay attention to things that you probably haven't noticed before. If you feed your dog from your plate do you just toss him a green bean? No more. He has to earn it. You don't have to use standard obedience commands, any kind of action will do. If your dog knows "shake" or "spin around" or "speak" use those commands. Does your dog sleep on your bed? Teach him that he has to wait for you to say "OK" to get on the bed and he has to get down when you say "off". Teach him to go to his bed, or other designated spot, on command. When he goes to his spot and lays down tell him "stay" and then release him with a treat reward. Having a particular spot where he stays is very helpful for when you have guests or otherwise need him out of the way for a while. It also teaches him that free run of the house is a resource that you control. There are probably many things that your dog sees as valuable resources that I haven't mentioned here.
The NILIF program should not be a long, drawn out process. All you need to do is enforce a simple command before allowing him access to what he wants. Dinner, for example, should be a two or three second encounter that consists of nothing more than saying "sit", then "good dog!", then putting the bowl down and walking away.
ATTENTION AND PLAY Now that your dog is no longer calling the shots you will have to make an extra effort to provide him with attention and play time. Call him to you, have him "sit" and then lavish him with as much attention as you want. Have him go get his favorite toy and play as long as you both have the energy. The difference is that now you will be the one initiating the attention and beginning the play time. He's going to depend on you now, a lot more than before, to see that he gets what he needs. What he needs most is quality time with you. This would be a good time to enroll in a group obedience class. If his basic obedience is top notch, see about joining an agility class or fly ball team.
NILIF DOES *NOT* MEAN THAT YOU HAVE TO RESTRICT THE AMOUNT OF ATTENTION YOU GIVE TO YOUR DOG. The NILIF concept speaks to who initiates the attention (you!), not the amount of attention. Go ahead and call your dog to you 100 times a day for hugs and kisses!! You can demand his attention, he can no longer demand yours!  
Within a day or two your dog will see you in a whole new light and will be eager to learn more. Use this time to teach new things, such as 'roll over' or learn the specific names of different toys.
If you have a shy dog, you'll see a more relaxed dog. There is no longer any reason to worry about much of anything. He now has complete faith in you as his protector and guide. If you have a pushy dog he'll be glad that the fight for leadership is over and his new role is that of devoted and adored pet.

©1999 Deb McKean

Corgi's in general are a tuff nuts, but so worth it. In my opinion - they are so loyal, playful and strong willed. It takes patience and time. I just told my husband this - we brought Remington home 4 weeks ago, I just now feel like he "loves" us. It took a few weeks to build his trust and respect. Our expereince with Corgi's has not been like other puppies (boxers - for 10 years). Corgi's don't fall in love with you and become that awesome companion overnight.  It takes time. But once they do - you will have an amazing dog. That said - don't give up. My first Corgi - named Skippy was very dominant and we had food issues, sleep issues, toy issues...ect...But we worked through them. If something didn't work - we tried something else. The bottom line is - you have a very young dog - who wants to know his place in your world. Keep trying. As for not having a tail to wag, you can try watching his ears. Our Corgi's are alert - playful - happy -  ears up. Nervous -tentative - protective - ears back. Good luck and don't give up - it will be worth it. My corgi's have not lovebugs or cuddlers, they do however follow me from room to room, sleep on a doggie bed by my bed, ride in my truck next to me with heir head on my lap, follow us on horseback camping trips, and fishing trips.....Wherever - we go - they want to be with us....It is what we look for in a companion dog.

Very nicely said:)


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