Resource guarding is a challenging behavior to combat for new and experienced owners. Guarding possessions or food can occur between dogs in a household and/or between dogs and humans.
Early training is the best method to preventing resource guarding. It is important for puppies to learn at an early age that people touching their food bowl is a great thing and so is a person taking food and toys away from them. A great way to instill this trust is to hand-feed your puppy at least one meal a day, so the puppy learns that your hands mean good things around dinner time.
Dog to People
- Start hand feeding every bit of every meal – put the dog bowl away for a couple of weeks.
- When the dog has transferred back to eating out of its bowl, drop by at meal time with some yummy treats and give the pup some treats, and then drop some in his food bowl.
- Pick up the food bowl and put some treats in it and replace it. Soon the puppy will love to see you coming at food time.
- If your dog likes to guard his bone or favorite toy, trade your dog with very tasty treats for his treasured possession and then give it back – so he trusts that you are not always going to take away his favorite things.
- If the above is all going well, then instill the use of other family members and friends to give treats during meal time so the puppy will learn not to guard food from others.
Dog to Dog
- It is natural for dogs to give a warning growl or lip curl to tell another dog that “Hey this is my stuff. Don’t try to take it.” The other dog should respect this and leave.
- Scuffles in multi-dog households can break out from time to time over possessions. To prevent this, only give special treats/bones, etc. when the dogs are separated. Always make sure that everyone gets special treats/bones, and no one dog is singled out.
- In the case of dogs that are seriously fighting over possessions, you will have to eliminate toys/food (whatever is stimulating the fights) when the dogs are together.
- If there is an actual fight and a trip to the vet is necessary, consult a behaviorist or experienced trainer.
If you have a dog that is exhibiting serious aggressive body language including growling/lunging at people while being fed or having a treat, feed in a private quiet and secure area and never let children around the dog while eating. Eliminate giving treats except when the dog is securely in its crate. And as soon as possible, seek professional help from a certified behaviorist.
For individualized training plans and advice for your dog, enroll in the AKC GoodDog! Helpline. The telephone support service is staffed seven days a week by experienced dog trainers and can be reached, here.