Resource Guarding: It's Mine, Back Off!

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What is Resource Guarding?

Resource guarding is when a dog controls access to food, objects, people and locations that are important to him through defensive body language or overt aggressive display. This is actually a relatively common canine behavior and can be influenced by a number of environmental and situational stimuli, including a dog’s natural instinct to survive.My ball!

Dog’s that resource guard, often have deep-rooted insecurity and the inability to cope well in a social situation, even with people and other dogs he knows.

  • An insecure dog can see anyone as a potential threat to a resource, whether that resource is food, toys, space or access to a person.
  • A resource guarder will not tolerate competition and will guard the resource to maintain priority access.
  • The threat of losing the resource can make a dog more vigilant, angry, and irritable.

Misunderstanding why dogs guard resources can lead owners to get angry and confrontational with their dogs. Confrontation, however, usually increases competition and causes the dog to guard the resource even more. Using physical punishment on a resource guarding dog is the exact OPPOSITE of what you need to do. Instead, make sure you understand and work to instill more confidence in the dog so that he feels less threatened.

When working to rehabilitate a dog that aggressively guards his resources, he should not be "dominated" into submission, nor should he be challenged or physically punished.

To stop a dog guarding his food bowl:

  1. Change the physical picture by providing a new bowl in a different location.
  2. Pick up his bowl and make it appear as though you are filling it with his food.
  3. Place the empty bowl on the ground in front of him. Let him investigate, see there is nothing there and look at you. As soon as he looks at your, praise him and add a bit of food to his bowl.
  4. After he’s finished, wait for him to look at your again and add more food into his bowl.
  5. Repeat this until all of his food has been eaten. Walk away from his bowl and then back and add a little more. This shows your dog that your approach and presence at this bowl means he is going to get more food and that you are a positive part of the experience. 
  6.  Start adding delicious treats as you’re passing his bowl, so that he associates only good things with you near his bowl.

Resource guarding can be a dangerous behavior to work with so bring in a qualified, humane trainer in your area. Children should never take part in this training.

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