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Don’t become your dog's resource.

I had a client a long time ago who was living in a senior home with a very tiny dog.

This lady’s daughter hired me to help her mom because no staff could get close to the lady to give her the medical attention that she needed. The little dog would bite the doctor/nurses when they so much as set foot in her room. This lady was sick. They told her she would die if this continued as she desperately needed her medication.

When l went to pay this lady a visit, the dog was very aggressive and vocal to the point whereas l could not have any conversation with the lady at all.

When l spoke with the daughter and the staff, they told me this dog basically lived on the lap and arms of the old lady. The dog was the old lady’s “baby”. He peed on a Pee pad which is the only time his paws would touch the ground.

The dog basically looked at the lady as a resource. He was guarding this precious resource from anyone and everyone.

Unfortunately, the old lady did not understand that. She thought the dog was very loyal to her. She believed the dogs was protecting her.

How does a human become a resource?

Why would a dog look at a human like that?

Usually, this happens when the human is displaying a lot of soft emotional energy towards the dog all the time, is always indulging the dog no matter what the dog does, is always communicating with the dog in a highly humanized fashion, and is always fussing about the dog in an obsessive manner.

To the dog, the human is a free vending machine of treats, praise, freedom, and affection.

As the human dispenses the “candies” to the dog all day, the human feels very good so she becomes addicted and keeps dispensing more and more.

As the dog keeps getting all these unearned and misplaced “candies” all the time, he does not want it to ever stop — so he guards whenever someone else comes close to his free vending machine.

The human is addicted to being the vending machine. The human does not want to stop. The dog is obsessed about this vending machine. The dog cannot stop.

If you see a couple having a relationship whereas the husband would not allow any other man to talk to his wife, when he would respond with violence whenever someone looks at his wife, when the wife cannot go anywhere alone without the husband — would you call it a healthy marriage?

Yet, this old lady, who had the exact relationship l just described with her dog, thought her dog was just being loyal and protective. She did not see anything wrong and she did not want it to stop.

After l left the senior home, a few days later, they told me the dog attacked a staff and hurt the owner very badly so they had to put the dog down.

I kept thinking about this dog for a long time after.

I kept thinking about how anxious, obsessive, and compulsive he looked when he snarled and growled and barked at me with every muscle he could tense up in his body.

l kept thinking about how much he wanted me to leave his vending machine alone so he could keep getting his free candies.

But I kept seeing most often in my mind was the reaction of the human.

She looked pleased. She looked fulfilled. She was very satisfied and amused.

She kept talking to her dog as if she truly believed that the dog understood every word she said, “Charlie, O Charlie! Ha ha...what are you doing, baby?”

I had this image in my mind for a very long time — even long after this dog was euthanized.

Although l have never seen this lady again, l keep seeing many variations of the same dog/human relationship dynamic in my line of work for many years after.

It saddens me to see how both humans and dogs love each other deeply but the way they have expressed that love is often so unhealthy!

They have really tried but they could not help it. It is like an addiction.

Usually, resource guarding of human and separation anxiety go hand in hand. They are two sides to the same coin -- the dog cannot stand sharing his free vending machine with anyone, and the dog cannot stand not having the free vending machine in sight at all time.

Please do not turn yourself into a free vending machine. It will imprison you and your dog like a very intense addiction. It is not the kind of life you want to give yourself nor your dog.

Hope this makes sense.

Thank you.

Reactive dog board and train dog training with Vancouver dog trainer behaviourist Richard Chan


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