Resource guarding is a common behaviour found in many dogs. It is where a dog uses avoidance, threatening, or aggressive behaviours to retain control of food or other items in front of a person or another dog. This behaviour is also called possessive aggression, and any dog breeds can be equally affected by it.
Aggressive behaviours are displayed when you try to approach something they find valuable. It could be mild behaviour, such as growling at you or running away with the item that they love. On the other hand, some dogs show full-blown aggression and may potentially bite the person or another dog that tries to come near the object they are guarding. Other behaviours include ingesting food or treats at a very fast pace, or positioning their body in a certain manner such that they can physically block access to the resource.
Resource guarding can develop at any age, and could be an issue that appears and progresses over time or begin suddenly after a change in environment or routine. When resource guarding, dogs tend to be more vocal and display actions such as barking, snarling, snapping and growling. While this does not always mean that the dog will bite, it is recommended to take safety precautions to prevent injuries from happening.
It is a misconception that resource guarding is related to dominance. This often leads to training using force and punishment which results in the behaviour problem worsening, causing your dog to fear you and damage your relationship. Studies have shown that reward-based methods are more effective when curbing resource guarding, as we change the underlying motivation and emotion behind the behaviour, such as anxiety, fear and frustration.
Dogs feel nervous about losing what they value. Keeping that in mind, an important aspect of preventing resource guarding, is to teach dogs to be happy when someone approaches the item that they value. Dogs who are happy are less likely to act aggressively. This positive emotional reaction can be created by associating the approach of a person with something positive, for instance, treats.
Walk towards your dog and toss a good treat near the valuable item. Once the dog is used to this, the next step would be to walk over, pick up the valuable item, drop another treat, and return the valuable item. Do this quickly so that you dog does not feel like they are being teased.
People accidentally teach dogs to guard their resources. If your dog is having a treat and you take it from them, they learn that have to take action, otherwise they will lose the item that they value. Instead of taking something away from your dog, exchange it with something else. Hold another treat or other desirable object right by their nose and if they drop the item that they are currently holding, give them the offered item. This will teach them that they get paid for letting go of things instead of getting them stolen whenever they have something valuable.
It is important to help your dog feel happy such that they associate releasing items with it being something positive. Another method is to teach your dog to drop the item, give them a treat and then give the item back to them. This teaches them that it is worthwhile to release things. The cue “drop it” is great for situations whereby a dog gets something that they shouldn’t be in possession of and asking them to release it can prevent them from damaging it or in some cases, prevent them from hurting themselves.
Behaviour modification plans are easy to implement and they are effective at improving the dog’s behaviour. Work at each level of intensity until your dog is comfortable, only then should you progress to something harder. You may also choose to simply live with it, while putting in effort to make sure that that you are managing it at the best that you can. Do what’s best for you and your dog, with a solution that suits you both while keeping people or other dogs safe.
In certain cases, it could be essential for your dog to receive resource guardian training with a professional. If your dog bites or you have exhausted all methods to train your dog by yourself, consult with a Certified Applied Animal Behaviourist or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer.
Any views or opinions communicated on this page belong to the author and do not represent the views or opinions of any other organizations. This article is meant for us to share our own views and opinions in general. Kindly consult a professional if you would like to seek professional advice.
Adopted from sources
– How To Get Your Dog To Stop Resource Guarding Their Stuff. By Karen B. London, The Wildest.
– Resource Guarding In Dogs. By Samantha Zurlinden, Veterinary Partner.
– What To Know About Resource Guarding In Dogs. By Jeffrey Weishaupt, Pets WebMD.
– Images of dogs, Pixabay.