Is your dog possessive when you want to take something from her that she shouldn’t have? Does she growl when someone gets near her food bowl? This is called “resource guarding.” Some dogs display this type of behavior because they want to keep their “treasure” to themselves, but if it’s hazardous or valuable, you need a way to get it back. At a time of year when you have more people than usual around, there is more likelihood that things will get dropped or left where the dog can help herself to them. Keep reading to learn how to make a trade without drama.
Don’t wait to start training until Fluffy is thumbing her nose at you while she chews your mother-in-law’s cashmere scarf. Begin now to teach your pup that trading or giving up something is a good thing. While using a toy to play with your dog, offer a tasty goody. When the toy is released, reward! Practice this often, so that when it’s truly important, you know it will work. Every so often, while your dog is playing with a toy, approach her, give a nice treat, take the toy, and then give it back. For more ideas on how to deal with this problem, read more about resource guarding.
Non-pet-owning friends and relatives don’t always understand the need to be careful about what is left within the dog’s reach. It’s usually too much to ask even the best-mannered dog to pass up a good opportunity, so during parties or family gatherings, set your dog up in the crate with a special treat in a secluded room. You will be too busy to keep an eye on her, and this way, she won’t be helping herself to snacks and drinks that are sitting on low tables or getting handouts that she shouldn’t have from well-meaning guests. Do the same during holiday meals. Your dog does not need all of the food that falls on the floor, especially when there are young children at the table who tend to drop even more.
When your dog gets something that you would prefer she not have, but that isn’t harmful or valuable, such as a tissue or harmless piece of food, just let her keep it. Making a big deal of it will only make her think it’s worth keeping from you.
Make an extra effort to keep the dog’s space free of things she should not have. You must get the entire family on board. Dogs can forget about resource guarding if they don’t have a reason to do it for several weeks.
While company is in the house, feed the dog at quiet times and in a quiet place. Do not let any guests, especially children, bother her while she’s eating. Keep most of the dog toys picked up, only leaving one or two out at a time. Rotate them to prevent boredom.
Occasionally, dogs can be serious resource guarders, and professional help is needed to change the behavior. If the dog is growling, snapping, or lunging when people or other pets get near her stuff, then lure the dog away with a treat, put her in a crate or fenced area, and then put the toys away so the dog cannot access them. Ask your veterinarian to help you find a certified behaviorist for an evaluation.