Canines are territorial in nature. Dogs will protect their territory against intruders that pose harm to their pack. This behavior transcends not just to their environmental zones, but also to their belongings. It explains why some dogs are notorious for resource guarding, a form of possessiveness aggression that can become a problem if not addressed. With this, pet owners should know how to fix resource guarding in dogs as early as possible.
Below, we discuss how you can deal with resource guarding and how you can avoid common mistakes of other pet owners. Read on and feel free to share your own experiences in the comment section below!
What is resource guarding in dogs?
Resource guarding is a form of aggression in dogs. It happens when the canine becomes defensive of its territory and resources. This is usually triggered when there’s another animal or human that the dog perceives as a threat to its resources.
Moreover, a dog may resource guard just about anything. It can be their food, toys, bed, various items around the house, and even their family members.
While it can be concerning, this is quite common among canines. The key here is training your pooch to prevent it from developing into a bigger behavioral problem. Just because your pet’s resource guarding seems tolerable now doesn’t mean it’s not going to progress into a more serious issue.
Overall, resource guarding is an evolutionary instinct. Canines in the wild have to fend off their resources against intruders in the pack. It can also happen within the pack if other members try to steal food. It’s an important skill to ensure that the canine will survive in the wild.
However, this instinct is so deeply ingrained that domesticated dogs still carry such tendencies. It’s the responsibility of the pet owner to ensure that this problem will be stopped before it starts.
Still, if your dog exhibits signs of resource guarding, you shouldn’t dismiss the pooch as a ‘bad’ canine. Like a misbehaving child, your dog needs proper guidance to outgrow its resource guarding habits.
Dog breeds prone to resource guarding
Almost every dog can develop resource guarding, especially if they aren’t trained or socialized properly. Still, the following breeds are at a higher risk of having this problem:
- Cocker Spaniel
- German Shepherd
- Border Collie
- Doberman Pinscher
- Cane Corso
- Giant Schnauzer
Many times, guard dogs are more prone to resource guarding. After all, they were bred to protect their territories and families. Still, pet owners can dampen this tendency through proper training and desensitization. The key here is teaching your dog what it should and shouldn’t guard.
What triggers resource guarding in dogs?
Resource guarding often involves a valuable possession, which the canine will defend from another animal or person. But aside from feeling threatened, there are other factors that come into play. These are the following:
🐶The dog is abused.
Canines that have been neglected or abused by their previous owners will likely develop resource guarding at some point in its life.
Also, neglected dogs often have to compete for resources with other canines. And in order to survive, the helpless dog would have to use aggression to get its way on food, toys, bed, and other needs.
Aside from that, abused canines often use aggression as a response to any unfamiliar scenarios.
🐶The dog isn’t properly trained.
No matter how smart or docile a dog breed is, it can still suffer from resource guarding without proper training.
As mentioned earlier, resource guarding is natural to dogs as means of survival. Aside from resource guarding, an untrained dog can also succumb to other forms of aggression. Others even become biting hazards.
Aside from proper training, the lack of socialization will also make a dog more likely to resource guard. It’s because the dog didn’t get to be desensitized to the presence of other animals or people, thus they perceive such as threats.
🐶The dog has a history of harsh training.
But my dog is trained, how come it’s still resource guarding? It’s possible that the root of the problem is harsh training methods.
It’s not enough that you train your pet, but you should also use positive methods to ensure that your dog will not develop negative behavior.
For example, instead of using violence when your dog doesn’t heed commands, you should offer rewards to encourage the pooch to respond positively.
🐶The dog has poor genetics.
Canines produced in puppy mills or bred under inhumane conditions are more prone to resource guarding. The poor genetics of the dog often increase its predisposition to a slew of behavioral problems.
If you’re planning to get a new dog, make sure that you only deal with professional breeders. Nevertheless, canines with poor genetics can still be trained to dampen their resource guarding tendencies, in case you’re planning to adopt them from a shelter.
🐶Taking away resources all of a sudden
One mistake pet owners make is whisking away valuable items from their dogs without offering an alternative or training their pooch. In the process, the canine will become confused and frustrated. Next time the pet owner tries to take away the same item, the canine will resource guard.
How to fix resource guarding in dogs
Resource guarding in dogs can be fixed through proper training, desensitization, and socialization. Here are the 7 steps you can take:
Step 1. List down your dog’s triggers
The first thing you need to do is list down your dog’s resource guarding triggers. From there, you can come up with a training plan for your dog. In case you’re exploring the alternative solution here, listing your pet’s triggers is still a good idea to help the professional dog trainer you’re going to hire.
Aside from coming up with a list, you should also determine your dog’s maximum tolerance or buffer. This is the maximum distance or exposure level to which the dog will start to resource guard.
Step 2. Desensitize your dog
Once you’ve determined your dog’s triggers, the next step is to desensitize your pooch to it. Take note that this process must be done slowly. Rushing will only defeat the purpose of desensitization and it can potentially make your dog’s resource guarding more intense.
Start by getting your dog used to your presence. Keep safe a distance while your dog eats or plays with the item it usually guards.
As you do this, observe your dog and see how it will react to your presence. For example, if the canine starts eating its meal faster, you should consider backing up a bit more. This will help teach the pooch that you don’t mean to steal their food.
Overall, you need to be patient on this part. Each dog responds to desensitization at its own pace.
Step 3. Start giving resources to your dog
Once your dog is calmer with you around, you can start giving it the resources it used to guard. For example, you can give your dog a high-value treat then you’ll go back to your original spot. This way, the pooch will associate your presence with something positive.
You have to do this for days, or even weeks if your pet has a serious case of resource guarding. The goal here is to desensitize your pooch to the point that it no longer reacts negatively to you.
Step 4. Start going near your dog
The next step is to start reducing the distance between you and your dog. For example, if you’re staying six feet away initially, you can move one foot closer. After that, repeat steps two and three to make sure that your dog is desensitized to your closer location.
Step 5. Repeat the process
In general, you just need to repeat the steps above until you can sit next to your dog while it possesses the object it previously guards.
It will also help if you feed your dog on your palm. This is to teach the pooch that your hands provide food and not steal it away as what it thinks while resource guarding.
Aside from you as the pet owner, you can repeat these steps on other triggers. If your dog resource guards when another pet is around, you need to desensitize the canine with the other animal.
Step 6. Manage your dog’s environment
Aside from training your dog, you also have to manage its surroundings. You can’t fully erase resource guarding, but you can manage potential triggers before it becomes a problem.
For example, if your two dogs resource guard during meals, it’s best to feed them in separate rooms. It’s also a good idea to give the canines separate beds in different parts of the house.
Also, those with multi-canine households should provide their pets with separate toys and belongings. This way, the canines won’t have to compete for resources.
Step 7. Monitor and train your dog continuously
Lastly, continue to monitor and train your dog to prevent the recurrence of resource guarding. The earlier you address tell-tale signs of aggression, the easier it will be to fix.
Alternative solution: hire a professional dog trainer
The truth is that not all pet owners have the time and knowledge to train their dogs out of resource guarding. If you’re one of these pet owners, you shouldn’t hesitate to tap the help of a professional dog trainer.
Professional dog trainers can identify the root cause of the problem and provide the necessary solution. This will also take the guesswork off your shoulders.
However, it’s important to emphasize that this service comes at a price. But if you want a foolproof solution for your pet, professional training is worth the splurge.
What to avoid when your dog is resource guarding
Fixing resource guarding in dogs can be a tricky task. Part of doing it right is avoiding common mistakes that other pet owners commit. Here are some that you should keep in mind:
🐶Never use punishments
No matter how frustrating it can be, you should never use physical violence to correct your dog. Punishments only make things worse for your pet. Always remember that negative corrections never yield positive results.
If your dog keeps resource guarding despite your efforts, you should give it a break. It will also help to reassess your approach to identify whether you’re doing something wrong.
🐶Don’t lose your temper
Training a dog can be very frustrating. Still, you should never lose your patience or shout at your dog.
If you’re getting frustrated, you can end the training session and proceed later once you’re calmer. Remember that dogs can pick up our emotions and behavior, so training with a hot temper won’t really help.
🐶Don’t play with your dog’s food
Other pet owners think that playing with their dog’s food and taunting the canine will help address resource guarding. On the contrary, this will only make things worse as the manner of provoking the dog will just reinforce resource guarding even more.
Instead of trying to “show your dog who’s the boss” by playing on its food, you can desensitize the pooch instead.
🐶Don’t leave items around that your dog may resource guard
Your dog won’t resource guard if there’s nothing to guard in the first place. This is why you should keep away toys, shoes, and other items if it’s not in use.
You should be strict on this part, especially if you have multiple dogs at home. As much as possible, you’d want to avoid any form of competition between your pets.
🐶Don’t reward bad behavior
When training a dog for resource guarding, it’s easy to breach the line between rewarding good behavior and enforcing the bad ones.
To prevent the latter from happening, make sure that you only provide rewards when your dog followed your command or has stopped resource guarding. This way, your dog will learn that staying calm is a rewarded reaction.
🐶Avoid making the training sessions too long
Always think of dogs as kids when training them. Canines can’t keep their attention longer than 20 minutes. So if you’re training and desensitizing your pooch to fix resource guarding, you should limit it to short sessions. After that, let the canine take a break before continuing.
Also, it’s best to end each training session on a positive note. Don’t wait for your dog to show signs of aggression before you decide to end the encounter.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can resource guarding be fixed?
A: Resource guarding in dogs can be fixed with proper training. Also, pet owners should be willing to dedicate time and effort to solve the problem. Most cases of resource guarding can be fixed at home. However, if your dog exhibits a severe case, you may need to contact a professional dog trainer. This is to ensure that the dog will receive the right approach and to protect yourself from potential attacks.
Q: Why is my dog resource guarding all of a sudden?
A: Your dog may suddenly resource-guard if it feels threatened. This can happen even if your dog is trained, especially if there’s a new canine around. If you notice your dog growling and has a stiff body posture, you should intervene right away. This is to prevent resource guarding from becoming a full-on dog fight.
Q: Will resource guarding go away on its own?
A: Resource guarding won’t go away on its own. If you leave your dog’s possessive aggression unchecked, it will just branch into other behavioral problems. Worse, this kind of aggression will be dangerous not just to other dogs and people, but also to you as the canine’s owner. If you want to fix your pet’s resource guarding, it’s important to provide training and desensitization as these are the only way to tackle the problem.
Q: Is my dog resource guarding me?
A: It’s important to remember that resource guarding isn’t just exclusive to food, toys, and other material items. Dogs can also resource guard their owners if they feel that another dog will steal that person from them. While it may sound cute, this behavior shouldn’t be tolerated. It’s a sign that your dog has a deeply rooted insecurity, which can trigger other forms of aggression.
Q: Does hand feeding help with a dog’s resource guarding?
A: Hand feeding is a good way to slowly curb your dog’s resource guarding. It teaches the canine that your hand isn’t a threat, but rather a source of reward. Over time, your pet will realize that a reaching hand will not take anything. Instead, it will be a signal for a reward.
Knowing how to fix resource guarding in dogs is crucial to prevent other behavioral problems. Proper training, desensitization, and patience are the key to combating this problem.
If all your efforts aren’t yielding any results, you shouldn’t hesitate to enlist the help of a professional dog trainer. While it comes at a certain cost, it will ensure that your pet receives the right approach.
Is your dog resource guarding? How are you dealing with the problem? Share your thoughts below!