Eliminating Resource Guarding Behavior
To some extent, most dogs exhibit some type of guarding behavior. Have you ever seen a dog hover over their food bowl or toy when another dog approaches? Does your dog growl when a person tries to take a bone out of their mouth? Have you seen a dog be a perfect angel but would get fiercely protective and guarding over their crate or even their owner? These are all examples of varying degrees of resource guarding.
A dog that resource guards may never growl, snap or bite, but it is a behavior to be extremely cautious over. The last thing anyone wants is for their dog to take their resource guarding behavior to a severely aggressive level. Even if your dog shows mild resource guarding, there is always the possibility that it can explode to uncontrollable proportions.
As a Charlotte dog trainer, I have worked with many food aggression and resource guarding cases. They are both very common issues, and often times the resource guarding clients I work with are ones that have experienced this behavior in the past with their dogs, it’s just now it’s become more problematic and in some cases, very violent. Working with resource guarding, there are some simple steps to take to eliminate this issue, but it does require consistent training and leadership.
One of the first steps is to decide to be a leader for your dog and stick to it. Again, consistency is key here. If a dog is being guarding over food or even the owner, the dog is demonstrating a leadership role over these resources. While confidence in a dog is perfectly fine, the dog cannot take it to the point where they are leading and controlling their owner. If your dog is growling at you when you reach for their food bowl, they do not trust you and/or they are commanding you to back off. This is an unhealthy relationship between dog and owner…the owner knows what is best for their dog and they should be in the leadership role. As a leader, it is important to be fair to your dog—give them love and spoil them if you want, but don’t forget to set boundaries and make it perfectly clear to them that any type of aggressive guarding (toward you or anyone else), is absolutely unacceptable.
Another good step is to check how secure the dog is. Most food aggression or resource guarding cases will stem back to some type of insecurity of lack of confidence. Confidence CAN be built by setting rules; it’s not about being harsh, it’s simply about showing the dog what he/she needs to do. When your dog has a better understanding of what is right and what is wrong, there’s less confusion and less neurosis. Confidence can also be built through very simple and advanced training exercises. This allows your dog to be set up for success and to receive reward and encouragement. Your dog will learn and grow a lot from simple encouragement, and through this, you’ll also be teaching them how to behave and reliably listen to your command.
One of the last pieces of advice I give regarding the elimination of resource guarding is take control of your dog’s environment. We want to correct inappropriate behavior, but if there’s a chance to just destroy the opportunity for the bad behavior to arise, why not take it? For instance, if your dog is getting aggressive because another pet eats their food next to them, why not just create more distance between the two? Why not instead feed the two pets separately and avoid any issue from forming in the first place? It’s not necessarily a copout to do this…dogs learn through association, and if you eliminate the association of being aggressive toward the other pet over food (with a combination of set boundaries and environmental control), then they will no longer feel the need to be so wary and guarding in that type of situation. Sometimes even the simplest things can solve the toughest issues!
Resource guarding is a behavioral issues, and it can be addressed through training. If you need professional help to deal with your dog’s resource guarding, reach out to us at 704.741.2880 and we’ll help you tackle this behavior problem!