Resource guarding in dogs

Resource guarding in dogs

Many dogs have the troubling habit of resource guarding. They show warning signs of discomfort such as growling, teeth showing and even biting whenever another pet or human gets near an item they consider valuable.

Being a pet parent of a resource guardian is not easy, but the good news is that it is a problem that has a solution. Searching information online is the first step. Reading our article about resource guarding in dogs and how to stop a dog from resource guarding is the second.

Keep reading to understand what is resource guarding and how to stop it. 

What is resource guarding in dogs?

Dogs have a number of things they consider of high value: food, their favorite treats, toys, their humans and even other dogs. Some dogs have absolutely no problem sharing the things they value with others. You can walk around them when they are eating, they can share toys with other dogs and don’t mind if their parents pet another dog.

But, there are some dogs that are not okay with these kinds of situations. Some dogs growl, lunge, and even bite when another dog or human gets near their “possessions”. This is called resource guarding. 

As mentioned before, resource guarding doesn’t look the same on every dog. Some dogs might give a warning when they feel someone is getting too close to their food or toy, such as growling, teeth showing and tense body language. As scary as these signs might be, the fact that a dog gives a warning is something desirable, because it means they are not seeking conflict and just want to let them know they don’t like sharing their possessions. 

That brings us to our second type of resource guarding. Some dogs don’t give any warning, and just bite whoever gets close to their stuff. 

An important thing to remember about resource guarding is that dogs that display this behavior don’t always do it once someone has already taken their toy or treat. They can even react when someone walks past them. They react to triggers, not to actual actions.

Signs of resource guarding in dogs

If you think your dog is a resource guardian, but you are not 100% sure, you can try to look for these signs to confirm your theory.

  • Growling
  • Teeth showing
  • Lunging
  • Stiffness
  • Eating faster
  • Taking their toy or food and going somewhere else
  • Hard stare
  • Eye tracking whoever gets close
  • Hard stare

What causes resource guarding in dogs?

This behavior doesn’t have one single cause that applies to every single dog. 

It is said to be an evolutionary trait, since dogs’ ancestors were opportunistic eaters and had to fight for their food. They couldn’t let any other dog or human get near it because they knew they would take it for them. 

Nevertheless, the reason why some domesticated dogs that do not need to protect their food still have this habit and why some don’t, is still a mystery. 

A possible reason why some dogs display the behavior of resource guarding is because they come from a breeder where puppies are all fed out of a dispenser. If they are grown in this context, they can develop the habit of acting aggressively towards other dogs when they get near their food, because they know they will want to eat it. 

The experience of trauma or abuse can also lead to this behavior. 

What to do if your dog is a resource guardian?

Before knowing how to train your dog to stop resource guarding, there are a few things you should know and do during the time your dog still displays this behavior in order to avoid aggressive episodes. 

Don’t create possible aggressive scenarios

If your dog does resource guarding with other dogs in the house, make them eat in a separate area of the house, or close the door so the other pup won’t bother them. You can also try to not leave toys lying around in the house, so your dogs won’t start a fight over it. 

If your dog does resource guarding with you, leave them to eat alone, don’t bother them when they are eating. Don’t try to put your hand in their food bowl. If your dog guards toys, keep them stored away and only give them to them in a safe space they know they won’t be bothered by others.

If your dog does resource guarding with other dogs at the park, make sure to avoid giving your pup stuff you know they’ll guard, such as toys or treats. 

Don’t punish their growl

As mentioned before, growling is a warning sign. Dogs that do resource guarding and growl, are warning the other that they don’t want them near their food or toy. 

If you punish the growl, you will be teaching them that it’s wrong, so the next time they want to tell someone to stay away, they will probably bite them. They learned that what they used as a warning sign was wrong, so they do the next thing they can to communicate how they are feeling. 

How to stop a dog from resource guarding?

The best and most effective way to stop a dog from resource guarding is to contact an animal behaviorists. They are professionals that have studied and have the tools needed to correct this dog behavior. 

Nevertheless, there is one exercise you can start doing with your dog to start the training process. Let’s see how it’s done.

  1. Stand away from your dog at the distance they start to resource guard. If they start to resource guard when you are 1 feet away from them, stand a little bit close. 
  2. Get some high quality healthy treats your dog already knows and loves.
  3. Toss the treats in your dog’s direction.
  4. Keep tossing some treats near them and start walking around them.
  5. If your dog starts to give resource guarding signs, back up and try again. If not, you can start to move a little bit closer to them when tossing the treats.

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