Resource Guarding: What you need to know!Posted on

Resource guarding is becoming more and more of a common issue in companion dogs and many of those presenting these behaviours coming through our facilities are very young and otherwise healthy dogs.

Make no mistake, resource guarding in dogs can be scary and many find it truly affect their relationship with their dog. However, it is also one of the easiest behaviours to treat and one of the easiest to PREVENT.

What is resource guarding?

Resource guarding is when a dog become protective over an item or items they find valuable and it is not always over food, it could also be;

  • water
  • food or water vessels (bowls, KONGs, treat dispensing toys etc)
  • people
  • space
  • furinture
  • toys
  • or ANYTHING the dogs finds of value

Dogs displaying this behaviour can often be seen showing multiple warning signs before they react in a far more dangerous manner, this may include;

  • eating quicker when approached
  • stiffening of the body
  • lifting of lips
  • low/ deep growling
  • glancing sideways at your approach

Why does it happen?

Resource guarding is becoming more rampant in younger dogs for a number of reasons such as genetics, bad puppy rearing, health but commonly through bad and dangerous advice given to young puppy owners about their development and their food or items.

“Pat the dog while they are eating”

“Put your hand in their bowl while they are eating”

“Take away their food while eating then give it back”

These three are the most common pieces of advice we hear and all three are a great way to fast track your dog into guarding their resources.

Dogs are fantastic at building folders of evidence, each time you do the above-recommended methods you are giving the dog “evidence” as to why they need to be careful of their resources because you have just shown them you might just take it away from them. However, most dogs are INCREDIBLY tolerant, far more tolerant then they should be and sometimes these folders of evidence will build over days, months, or even years before the dog finally “takes you to court” (Bite) and then we turn and say “wow they bit out of the blue!”, well not exactly, most of the time they were expressing concern, you or others just were not listening (See our post on common subtle warning signs here).

How can we prevent it?

To prevent resource guarding you first need to understand how you could be adding more evidence to them that you are a risk to their asset and then change that evidence to value!

When you feed your dog, have something far more valuable and approach them, lob the value next to their bowl and move away, repeat as necessary.

With this simple yet effective method, you show the dog that each time you, other people or dogs approach, they bring me “more value”, not take away value and that is a great start.

By continuing this method you will begin to see the dog stop eating the food in the bowl to pick up the more valuable food and you know you are definitely on the right track when they stop eating altogether, look at you and maybe even offer a behaviour such as sit to say “Hi friend, do you have something else for me?”.

Multiple dog households

If your family consists of more than one dog, then we implore you, do not feed them or give them treats together. Yes, we know that you may have never seen a problem but this is by far one of the easiest ways to remove any unwanted stress or “evidence” to your dog.

Some will proudly spruke about how amazing they are by being able to feed their dogs with their bowls right next to each other. However, if you’ve ever had a sibling eyeing off your plate of chips because they finished theirs in record time, you will know how your dog is feeling and what they will do if that sibling decides to steal a chip.

Prevention of these behaviours is about EARLY identifications and risk management. Prevent the behaviour from starting is far easier to treat then to rehabilitate a dog who has been given endless amount of evidence and now see’s everyone and everything a risk of taking their assets away.

Is your dog resource guarding?

If your dog is showing symptoms of resource guarding or acting on these impulses you MUST seek professional interventions as soon as possible.

our trainers today, book an appointment and begin the journey to making your dog feel better and improving your relationship around valuable items.