Owning a dog is a joyful experience, but it can also be stressful or confusing. Training is just one example of this, but it’s especially true if certain canine behaviors give you pause. One of the more concerning codes of conduct (or lack thereof) is resource guarding. While it’s perfectly normal, it can be hard to live with. That’s where your friends at Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital come in!
Sharing is Caring?
Dogs are hardwired for survival and will stop at nothing to preserve shelter, food, and water. Even if these items are freely given to them, dogs still feel the need to protect what’s theirs. This behavior is known as resource guarding, and it can be managed.
Your dog may guard obvious things or items that don’t make a lot of sense to you. Because of this, it can be difficult to identify that your dog is actually resource guarding. Some dogs can even intensely guard a human, and many resource guard against another animal.
No Bad Dogs
Dogs who develop or employ resource guarding as a tactic are not always dangerous. Undoubtedly, almost every dog exhibits possessive traits from time to time, but the extent of the behavior and the items that are guarded influence how you deal with it.
Resource guarding is not seen as a behavior from dominant animals. Instead, it’s the result of an anxious or frightened dog who’s worried about being separated from items of significant meaning or importance. In short, confidant dogs are less likely to display this behavior than their insecure counterparts.
Managing Resource Guarding
Please let us know how we can help. Working together is especially important if you or someone else (including other animals in the home) have been “air-snapped” or bitten by your dog.
Punishment or scolding informs the dog they do not have a right to resource guard, and they should be afraid of having their stuff taken away.
Typically, the following work to prevent or manage resource guarding behaviors:
- Understand what your dog values and the order of his or her priorities (such as treats covered in peanut butter or a tennis ball). Do not take these items away from your dog.
- If you know your dog’s triggers, do your best to avoid them. For instance, if your dog guards food, offer meals in an area where there is no competition. Remove the bowl after meal time.
- Toys can be objects of deeply-felt possession. Only allow your dog to play with favorites in an area of the home where there’s little or no disruption.
- Do not scold him or her for displaying common warning signs, such as growling. Doing so may indicate that your dog should go straight for the attack or bite, since growling doesn’t get the right result.
- To reduce anxiety related to contents in the food bowl, stay with your dog and drop small amounts into the bowl. Use a soothing voice and offer praise.
- Consider training with basic commands, such as “down,” “off,” or “no.” This will help if your pet guards a certain place, like the couch or in front of the door.