Preventing Resource Guarding

Anyone who has a dog that resource guards knows how extremely dangerous it can be. What is resource guarding? It’s when a puppy or dog guards something he has that it feels is high value. It may just start with a growl but if handled improperly, the situation can escalate. If a puppy is showing signs of resource guarding,  it is not something to be ignored or taken lightly. The goal, of course, is to prevent resource guarding before it even begins because once the puppy learns that growling works in order to get to keep something he wants, it can be a hard habit to break.

There are some simple things to practice with your puppy in order to prevent resource guarding. One thing to do is when your puppy is eating, routinely reach your hand toward the bowl and give him something yummy either from your hand or in his bowl. You want to associate your hand coming at his food with a good thing! You don’t have to hang out there long.  The point is for him to have satisfaction from your hand being near the bowl. I have done this with all of our dogs as puppies and still as adults, if I put my hand toward their bowl, they stop eating and look at me excitedly. I have heard others recommend just putting your hand in the bowl and making the puppy eat around you. I see no positive in this for the puppy. I’m not saying the puppy would mind it necessarily but you want your hand to be better than the food, not just an obstacle to eat around.

Another thing to practice is basically the same thing but with a bone. If your puppy is chewing a meaty bone for example, reach down and give him a treat.  Don’t try to take the bone at first, just evaluate your puppy’s reaction. A bone can be a whole different ball game! A bone is much more valuable than his food bowl. Once he is happy to stop eating the bone for his treat (this may take awhile and it may take a really tasty treat,  like a piece of raw meat or a smelly hotdog), you can pick up the bone and give a treat but make sure to give the bone right back. What you want is your puppy not worrying when you touch the bone. You want to enforce that you coming near and handling his prized bone is a good thing and he will have it promptly returned to him. If he thinks every time you reach for his bone, it goes away, that’s when a problem can arise.

Same goes with toys. Some dogs guard toys. You can practice trading the toy with a treat, then give it back. Never try to overpower or dominate your puppy when taking something away as this can cause or worsen resource guarding. It may seem like the easier route to just rip the object away but the extra work is worth it. I can take anything out of any of my dogs mouths without a problem, which could actually save their lives if they got a hold of something unsafe for them. Keep in mind, I am not a certified canine behaviorist, this comes from my experiences working with dogs for the majority of my life.