Have you experienced ‘resource guarding’
It’s enough to send chills down your spine!
What does it looks like? As you walk past your dog eating his meal, you’re met with ‘gurrrrs’ rumbling from your dog!
He stops eating, lowers his head, moves his eye placement and stops, his body is stiff, waiting for you to pass.
Or, maybe your dog has become very protective of ‘his’ place on the couch! Any attempt to remove him from the couch, is met with those familiar ‘grrrrrrs’!
Your dog is ensuring that whatever he has, whether he is eating, chewing, or protecting his space, stays in his possession.
Resource guarding - possession aggression.
A resource can be a toy, treat, bone, food, bed, or place in the home. Displays of aggression can be anything from a cold stare and the body stiffening, to a forward charge, or even a bite.
Maybe you have a rescue dog, that had to fight for his food in an earlier life. Removing food, or other objects away from your dog can have the sam result. The dog now thinks, he needs to guard his belongings!
Leaving food out will weaken your leadership position.
Our dogs inherited this natural instinct to guard resources, we to, can become part of our dogs ‘resource’.
If we consider the dog’s heritage, canines would not have survived, without resource guarding. They had to communicate to other animals, thievery would not be tolerated, a warning growl would have been delivered.
Resource guarding resurfaces in some dogs and not others, it can be linked with genetics and early life experiences.
Puppies are more likely to resource guard until they are taught, guarding is unacceptable.
If young dogs aren’t taught how to behave in a given situation, as an adult, they will use whatever methods give them the desired results.
It’s up to you to teach your dog, resource guarding has no place in your home.
Areas to consider
Is your dog sick? A dog in pain will also be under stress. A vet check would be recommended.
Is your dog getting enough to eat? It would make sense that a hungry dog will be more protective of food, bones, and treats. Warning signs displayed as subtle body language are often all that is needed to communicate a defensive threat. Provide a quality complete kibble.
Is your dog getting enough exercise? Lack of exercise can cause negative behaviours to surface, including aggression.
Is your dog being mentally stimulated? Dog’s can practice undesirable behaviours simply because they are bored. In addition to exercise, mental stimulation, new environments, training sessions and playtime, will assist.
Is your dog very young? Puppies are still learning how to behave. They will sometimes try out behaviours, both positive and negative to see what reaction they get, reward ALL good behaviour.
The emotion underlying resource guarding is usually fear.
Your goal, should be to eliminate fear and conflict, through consistent training, so that your dog feels more relaxed and doesn’t feel the need to guard. Using harsh discipline can result in your dog raising his aggression to retain the resource.
It is possible to change your dog’s response from this negative dangerous behaviour, by using positive reinforcement. Children are more at risk of being bitten, as they don’t recognise the warning signals coming from the ‘resource guarding’ dog. Swift movement from children around a dog eating can be hazardous.
Positive associations need to be experienced by your dog when family are near or walking past when your dog is eating from his food bowl.
Eliminating Fear and Confict
Method:- Decide what tasty treat will move your dog away from his bowl when he is eating. Keep a distance from the food bowl, drop a piece of salami close enough to the food bowl, for him to leave the bowl and come to take the treat. Repeat this sequence at each meal, with your goal being able to move a little closer each time. This sequence should be positive, with no guarding behaviour from your dog. If he does display negative postures, you have moved too close, too quick, keep the space and the pace positive.
When you can be close enough, drop a treat into his bowl [do not lean over the food bowl or towards your dog.] Increase this lesson by offering the treats as you stand next to the food bowl, allowing him to take the treat from your hand.
These are positive associations, related to one family member, from your dog. Each family member should be encouraged and supervised to become involved in this training, if not, your dog will continue to guard his bowl when other family members pass by or approach.
Whatever your dog is ‘guarding’, this is a behaviour.
Given your full attention, all behaviours can be worked through, with a positive, patient approach.
written by Lee Hettiger - Centenary Dog Obedience