Dog-Human Location Guarding

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Location guarding is the more complex resource guarding behaviour to modify as it entails quite a few steps and foundation behaviours.

  1. First, we need to work with a benign location (one that the dog is not guarding) and teach the dog to target an alternate location (a mat or crate) on cue
  2. Second, we need to teach our dog that it's safe when we approach while they are occupying the guarded location
  3. Third, we teach the dog to go to their alternate location when we approach them while they are occupying the guarded location

If during your work with your dog, they show any of these signs, it it a cue for you to stop, back off, reassess your plan. 

  1. Freezing, sometimes accompanied by side-eye
  2. Accelerated consumption
  3. Growling
  4. Snarling (showing teeth)
  5. Snapping
  6. Bite without damage
  7. Bite with damage

Punishment, such as scolding, yelling, hitting, spraying water, etc... will only cause the dog to escalate much faster and skip the warnings next time. 


The foundation behaviours that are recommended to have mastered prior to working on this plan are listed below. Click the toggle below to learn how to teach your dog each of these helpful behaviours/concepts. 

Go to mat

Teaching your dog to go to their mat can be one of the most important behaviours in your toolbox. When successfully trained, you should be able to cue your dog to go to their mat from a distance and in many different environments. Eventually, they can even lay down and relax on the mat until released. This behaviour can be very helpful when you are doing activities such as cooking, greeting visitors, cleaning up messes, eating meals, or when the doorbell rings.

You can create a natural magnetic effect by ONLY bringing the mat out when you are actively training or feeding a stuffed food toy, meal, or chew. When the good stuff is done, put the mat away. Guaranteed, your dog will start hopping on that mat as soon as they see it!

Use a mat, towel, blanket, or your dog’s bed. Be armed with your clicker and a treat pouch full of high value, pea-sized treats. 

Ideas for cues: "go to mat", "on your bed", "in your crate" "kennel up", "spot!". 

  1. To begin, hold the mat in your hand or tucked under your arm. Next, place the mat on the floor a foot or two away from your dog and watch carefully. If your dog glances towards the mat, CLICK the look. Then treat your dog by placing 4 or 5 treats, one by one, on the mat. Once your dog has eaten all the treats on the mat, gently encourage them away from the mat or toss a treat so your dog follows. Immediately scoop up the mat and tuck it under your arm. Stand, wait, and be boring for 5-10 seconds before repeating. Repeat 5-10 times.
    If at any point the dog does not look toward the mat, don’t worry! Wait 15 full seconds, then pick up the mat, and then wait 15 seconds before putting it down again. 
  2.  Repeat Step 1 but now you will only click for movement towards the mat. Repeat until your dog readily goes toward the mat when you place it on the floor before moving to Step 3.
  3.  Repeat Step 2 but now only click if your dog has 1 or more paws touching the mat. Repeat 5x. Next, you will only click for 2 or more paws on the mat. Repeat 5x. Finally, only click when your dog has all 4 paws on the mat. Repeat 5x.
  4.  Now let’s name it! When you place the mat down, say your cue and wait. When your dog moves onto the mat (all four paws), click and reward on the mat. Then toss one treat off the mat so that they have to chase it and return for another repetition. Say your cue once they’ve eaten the stray treat and are heading back. Repeat this at least 5x.
  5.  Now let’s move around! Stand 1ft away from the mat and cue your dog to go to mat. If they do, click and feed them on the mat. Toss a treat away to reset. Repeat 2-3x. Next, cue your dog from 2ft away, then 3f away, then 4ft away, etc. (do a few repetitions at each level). You are cueing your dog to go to their mat from various distances and angles. If any distance is too hard, go back to the last successful trial and repeat at that distance a few times. Try again but at half the distance your dog found too hard. In this way, you will work on getting more and more distance from the mat while maintaining your dog’s success.
  6.  Cue your dog to go to mat and when they do, rather than clicking, ask for a “Down” (only do this if down is a reliable behaviour). Click when they lie down, return to the mat, and feed them in position. Very slowly, increase your distance from your dog and mat when you ask for the “down.”

Down

Teaching a dog to lie down is the first step to teaching our dogs to relax and settle while we are busy.

Ideas for verbal cues: "down", "settle", "relax", 

Option 1: Lure from a sit
With your dog in a seated position, bring a treat from their nose (palm down) slowly moving the treat down towards the floor and close to their chest, landing between their two front paws.
Keep the treat lure close to your dog’s nose—if you move your hand up too quickly or too far away from their mouth, they may jump up, back up, or give up.
As soon as your dog’s belly hits the ground, say “yes!” (or click) and release the treat for them to eat while they are still in the down position.
You can toss a treat away to reset. Repeat 4 more times for a total of 5 repetitions.

Option 2: Lure from a stand
With your dog in a standing position, bring a treat from their nose (palm down) slowly moving the treat down towards the floor and close to their chest, landing between their two front paws.
Keep the treat lure close to your dog’s nose—if you move your hand up too quickly or too far away from their mouth, they may jump up, back up, or give up.
As soon as your dog’s belly hits the ground, say “yes!” (or click) and release the treat for them to eat while they are still in the down position.
You can toss a treat away to reset. Repeat 4 more times for a total of 5 repetitions.

Note:
If your dog pops up, play-bows, backs up, or remains sitting or standing, mark and treat for a lowered head, bent elbows, or a half-down for this round.

  1. With your dog in a seated or standing position, cup your empty hand (palm down) as if you have a treat in it. Lower it in the same motion as the lure – down and close to the chest, aiming for between the two front paws.
    As soon as your dog’s belly hits the ground, say “yes!” (or click) and feed a treat from your pouch while they are still in the down position.
    If your dog stands up after the mark and before you have a chance to feed the treat, simply lure them back into the down position to release the food.
    You can toss a treat away to reset. Repeat 4 more times for a total of 5 repetitions.

  2. With your dog in a seated or standing position, cup your empty hand (palm down) and lower your hand in the same fashion, to the floor. Freeze and wait.
    As soon as your dog’s belly hits the ground, say “yes!” (or click) and feed a treat from your pouch while they are still in the down position.
    You can toss a treat away to reset. Repeat 4 more times for a total of 5 repetitions.
  3. With your dog in a seated or standing position, cup your empty hand (palm down) and lower your hand in the same fashion, to the height of your ankle – just a few inches off the floor. Freeze and wait.
    As soon as your dog’s belly hits the ground, say “yes!” (or click) and feed a treat from your pouch while they are still in the down position.
    You can toss a treat away to reset. Repeat 4 more times for a total of 5 repetitions.

  4. Repeat Step 3 but freeze halfway up your calf for 5 repetitions, then repeat Step 3 again, freezing at your knee for 5 repetitions, finally, freezing at your waist for 5 repetitions. 
  5. With your dog in a seated or standing position, say “down” in a gentle voice, wait 1 second, then offer the hand signal (to your waist), freeze and wait.
    As soon as your dog’s belly hits the ground, say “yes!” (or click) and feed a treat from your pouch while they are still in the down position.
    You can toss a treat away to reset. Repeat 4 more times for a total of 5 repetitions.


  6. With your dog in a seated or standing position, say “down” in a gentle voice, freeze and wait. Your arms should remain still or behind your back.
    As soon as your dog’s belly hits the ground, say “yes!” (or click) and feed a treat from your pouch while they are still in the down position.
    You can toss a treat away to reset. Repeat 4 more times for a total of 5 repetitions.
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Stay

Think of stay like a muscle – it takes time to build and needs a lot of practice to stay strong and reliable. When we say “Stay,” we are asking our dog to remain in that position until released. This is usually done in a down or sit position. Before starting this exercise, ensure your dog has a solid “down” or “sit” behaviour on cue.

GLOSSARY:
Marker = a click or word (like “YES!”) that captures the exact moment your dog exhibits the behaviour you’re looking for. It tells them they did something right.
No-Reward Marker = a word (like “oops!” or “too bad!”) that captures the exact moment your dog makes a mistake. It tells them they missed a chance for reinforcement. You will reset and try again.
Release = a word (like “okay!”, “release!” or “break!”) that tells your dog they are free to go. They no longer have to hold the position.

Let’s start by building a little bit of duration so your dog understands what you want from them.

Picture your dog as a Microsoft Word document. They are likely to “crash” (move out of their “down-stay” position) so you need to hit “save” (by feeding a treat) frequently until they figure out that they can auto-save. 🙂 

If at any time, throughout this whole exercise, your dog breaks their stay by sitting up or moving away, give your No-Reward Marker and step away. Step back and reset by cueing your dog to lie down again. Reward them in that down in position. Go back to an easier step and repeat it before trying the harder step again. If the environment is too distracting for your dog, find a calmer, quieter space to practice.

  1. Stand in front of your dog and ask them to lie down. Remain still, After they lie down say “stay”, show your dog a “stop sign” hand signal, and count to 1-Mississippi. If they’re still lying down, click or say “YES!” Reward from your treat pouch or from behind your back in that “down” position. Repeat this 3x while your dog maintains that same down position. So it will look like 1-Mississippi, click, feed, 1-Mississippi, click, feed, 1-Mississippi, click, and feed. Then you will give your release cue and let your dog move away for 10 seconds or so. When you’re ready to do the next step, cue your dog into a down again and begin Step 2.
  2. While your dog is in their down position, stand still and face them. Say “Stay” and show your dog the “stop sign” hand signal. Count to 3 seconds (3-Mississippi) and, if they’re still lying down, click or say “YES!” Reward from your treat pouch or from behind your back in that “down” position. Repeat this 3x while your dog maintains that position. Give your release cue and let them move away for 10 seconds or so. Now you’re ready to add distractions.
  3. While you’re training your dog to stay during mild distractions, you are actually building duration! It’s like getting a 2-for-1 deal. For Step 3, ask your dog to “Down” and, while they’re holding the down, do each of the following actions:
    - Swing your right leg out to the side (like you’re kicking a ball at your side) and then bring it back to the original position. Click or “YES!” and then reward in position.
    - Swing your left leg to the side (like you’re kicking a ball at your side) and then bring it back to the original position. Click or “YES!” and then reward in position.
    - Step your left foot to the side, shifting your body weight but leaving your other foot planted. Shift back. Click or “YES!” and then reward in position.
    - Step your right foot to the side, shifting your body weight but leaving your other foot planted. Shift back. Click or “YES!!” and then reward in position.
  4.  Have your dog lie down. Take one step to your left (see position 3 in the diagram at the bottom of the page) and then step back in front of your dog (this is home position – always return to home position to feed your dog) . If your dog stays, reward them in the down. If they move out of position or stand up to follow you, use your No-Reward Marker and start over. Repeat this until you have 5 successful repetitions in a row. Practice a few times on each number, working your way up from 3 to 8, until you can walk all the way around your dog without them getting up. 
  5.  Now, let's add distance. Ask your dog to “Down” and “Stay.” Take one quick step backwards and then step back in front of the dog. If they stay, click or “Yes!” and then reward them in the down. If they pop up AFTER you click, just lure them into the “Down” with your treat and feed. If they move out of position by standing up to follow you BEFORE you click, use your No-Reward Marker and start over. Repeat this until you have 5 successful repetitions in a row. Add one step at a time until you are across the room. Keep your eyes on the dog so your No-Reward Marker timing is correct. Don’t linger at the end of our distance. Return immediately to your dog as though there was a bungee cord connecting you together. 
  6.  Ask your dog to “Down” and “Stay.” Facing your dog, take one step back. Turn your back on your dog for 1 second and then turn back to face them again. Step forward and return to your original (home) position. If your dog stays, reward them in the down position. However, if your dog moves out of position by standing up or trying to follow you, use your No-Reward Marker and then start over.
  7. Repeat until you have 5 successful repetitions in a row. Next, increase your distance, one step at a time, until you are across the room. Keep your eyes on the dog so that your No-Reward Marker timing is correct (say it the instant they break the stay). Bungee back to your dog after reaching each distance goal and turning your back for 1 second. Give your release cue and take a break before moving onto the next step.
  8.  Gradually increase your distance, step-by-step, but don't push it so that your dog fails! The more methodical and gradual and slow you are in this process, the faster they will learn this concept. 

The following training plan has two tabs - one for CC/DS and another for DRI. 

CC/DS is short for counterconditioning and desensitisation - creating a positive emotional response and gradually getting closer to the target. 

DRI is short for Differential Reinforcement of an Incompatible behaviour - replacing the unwanted behaviour with something that cannot occur at the same time, like a "sit"! 

Work through the CC/DS first and once successfully completed, move on to the DRI plan. 


Download your Dog-Human Location Guarding Training Plan below:

When you click the button above, you will be asked to make a copy of the document for yourself to keep and use. It is a Google Spreadsheet. You do not require an account to use this.

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