ARTICLE: It's Mine! Resource guarding in dogs.

Written by Shelley Smith

Shelley Smith Dog Training
778 836-DOGS (3647)

Many dogs and puppies included, guard what they deem of value. This can include food, a favorite toy or even a comfy sleeping spot. This is normal dog behavior in a dogs world but it should not be accepted in our homes and it is easy to turn around in an adult dog and easier still to prevent in a young pup. All dog owners should be able to approach their dog and take anything from it at any time, without any fear of retaliation on the dogs part. If you have an adult dog that is actively guarding resources you need the help of a professional who will set you up on a step by step program where you show your dog it is to his advantage to have you around things that he deems valuable. Where owners fail, and some "old school" dog trainers fail in dealing with resource guarding, is they challenge the dog, which increases the dogs need to guard what he deems valuable, not decrease it. The old saying "you get more bees with honey than vinegar" applies in dealing with a dog who is actively resource guarding. The dog trainer you choose to rectify resource guarding should be well versed in behavioral techniques and very familiar with Behaviorist Jean Donaldson and or Dr. Ian Dunbar's work in this area.

With that being said the easiest way to deal with resource guarding is to prevent it in the first place. Start when your pup is young.

Sit with your pup while he is eating and occasionally drop treats into his food bowl. He will soon learn that your hands are not taking away anything, but actually providing additional treats. Once your pup is used to your hands dropping treats in to his food bowl, then start actually taking the food bowl away while he is eating, adding a tasty treat and giving him back his food bowl. Over time your pup will learn that when you approach his food bowl or go to take it away, it is to give him an additional treat only. Repeat this exercise often as your pup ages.

Your next step in preventing resource guarding is make your dog comfortable around chew toys. Sit with your pup holding a chew toy. This could be a Greenie, raw bone or even a stuffed Kong, but it has to be something of high value to your pup. You are not giving this to your pup outright but rather holding it for him to chew on. Every so often simply pull the chew toy away from your pup and reach into your pocket and give him a treat. It is important that this treat be hidden for this exercise and given to your pup as a reward for allowing you to take away his chewy. Always give the chewy back, and always make sure your demeanor is very matter of fact and happy. You are not threatening your pup but rather showing him that it is your chewy but you will share it with him and when you take it away he gets a treat and he also gets it back from you. Do not pet your dog as praise instead use your voice. The goal here is for your pup to enjoy your presence around his chew toys and to wag his tail in anticipation of goodies when the toy is taken away. Ultimately your goal is to give your pup a chewy, retreat and walk up to your pup and be able to take that chewy away without any guarding on his part but rather a tail wag in anticipation of a treat forthcoming.

One last area where some dogs actively guard is where they sleep. Not called resource guarding but rather placement guarding and it is worthwhile to do some work teaching your pup he must move or get off on your command. Again treats are offered to the dog for getting off on your command. Simply lure your dog off with a treat and a happy but firm command of "off" and give him the treat for doing so. No need to give him a treat for getting back on his bed or your couch as the couch or his bed itself is the reward. The treat is always used for getting him off only. If at first your pup does not get off when given the command, (and why would he, he does not know what the command means), firmly but nicely take your pup by the collar and pull him off and while saying "off" then offer your praise and the treat. Again we want to set it up in the dogs mind that getting off earns him your praise and a tasty reward. Again as with the other things this needs to be done periodically as your pup ages.

There is no need to put up with resource guarding so either fix the problem in your adult dog or prevent it from happening in the first place.