Preventing resource guarding.

So first of all what is resource guarding?

Resource guarding is when a dog growls, covers, runs away with, wont let go of, goes stiff and freezers if a person or other dog goes to take something off a dog or appears as though they might; whether that be a sock, food item, food bowl, chew, toy, bit of paper, sometimes even their owners affection.

Food and toys are the most common things dogs guard but more serious forms of resource guarding can also transfer onto meaningless items such as paper, bits of plastic, basically anything your dog gets their mouth around.

This particular article is going to address dog-human resource guarding particularly puppies not dog-dog as this is a totally different scenario.

Why do dogs resource guard?

Sadly resource guarding is extremely misunderstood which can put our dogs and families at risk. The old fashion and out dated view of resource guarding was that dogs who displayed the above behaviour around food and items were trying to 'claim' them therefore were being more dominant, therefore were trying to be in charge. These days we have so much more knowledge and understanding of dog behaviour to be able to say 'this is completely wrong!'

A dog who guards food items if an extremely worried and anxious dog. From our dogs point of view they have no idea if they will be fed next so it makes sense to try to keep what you can and prevent it from being stolen which will prevent the dog from starving. Its a basic survival technique, they have no idea that the kitchen cupboard is full of dog food!

When we get a new puppy they have spent the first 8 week of their lives having to fight and compete with their litter mates in order to be able to drink mums milk or get enough mouthfuls of food. If they didn't do this they wouldn't have gotten anything to eat!

When we bring that new puppy home they don't know who you are, if you will feed them, when there next meal will be coming if at all. So from their perspective it makes perfect sense to eat as fast as you can before it is stolen and to guard it so it cant be taken. As humans , the majority of us are very luckily, we know that there is plenty of food in the cupboard and to buy in supermarkets, so it can be very difficult for us to put ourselves in our dogs shoes and think of it from this perspective.

How to prevent resource guarding?

Now that we understand how our poor puppies are feeling the last thing you want to do, but yet it seems to be the advice given all too often, is to take the pups food bowl away from them when they are eating and give it back, or put your hand in their bowl. What is happening here is that the pup is being given confirmation that all they were worried about is true! You should never ever take your pups food bowl away from them whilst they are eating, especially when they don't know you so have no trust in you yet. RG If this 'technique' worked for you then well done you have been the luckily few, or perhaps your dog isn't actually happy and is simply a ticking time bomb and will eventually get fed up of this and bite! DONT TAKE THE CHANCE, instead follow this advice to keep you pooch happy and safe and your family happy and safe:

For the first week simply leave your puppy be when they are eating, put them in their crate or in a separate room and let them eat in peace. Keep things they shouldn't have out of reach and make sure there are plenty of toys/chews down which are safe.

Once you notice that your pup is slowing down by themselves when they eat (the first sign they are becoming more relaxed) then you can think about approaching your pup whilst they are eating and throwing some more food in the bowl or adding a bit of chicken or ham. This makes your approach a positive thing for your puppy, your not here to pinch their food, you are actually giving them more! Why would they not be happy about that!

Don't go right over and surprise your pup, gently say their name first and then drop the food from a height into the bowl.

After a few days of this you should notice your pup look up and step back from the bowl slightly, this is a fantastic sign that your pup no longer fears you. Now you can put the food right into his bowl.

Repeat for a few days, now you can lift the bowl, place the extra food into it and put the bowl back down.

Jobs a good one! You now have a pup who has complete trust in you and is much happier and relaxed, what a lovely state to be in not to have to fear a basic live source being taken away from them all the time.

happy dog

Do the above randomly through out the dogs life to keep the trust there and repeat the same when it comes to toys, chew and bones.

If you have an adult dog who is resource guarding then the above can work for that too, although I would recommend getting a qualified, force free trainer in first just to assess your dog.

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