Have you ever noticed your dog get snappy with people or other dogs if their food/water or toys are involved? If you have, there’s a good chance your dog is resource guarding. The American Kennel Club defines resource guarding as “behaviors like growling, lunging, or biting over food or toys.” This behavior should definitely be addressed and trained out of as it could a potential accident. Here’s what to do if your dog is resource guarding.
Learn Your Dog’s Body Language
If you’re not new to dog parenting chances are you’ve probably learned what your dog likes/doesn’t like and how they react to certain things. If you are new to handling dogs, this part is very important. Dogs might not be able to speak(at least not human words), but their body will always tell you what they are thinking. Introduce your dog to new things and situations and see how they react. This can help you gauge if your dog will like or dislike being in a certain situation, and additionally, help you know when you need to curb the behavior.
Discourage Protective/Aggressive Behavior
Ideally you would want to start training your dog out of this sooner rather than later, but you can teach a dog of any age to stop resource guarding. If your dog guards food against people, you can practice when you have friends or family over. Tether your dog somewhere near their food bowl and have someone slowly walk towards them. If they tense up and show teeth discourage the behavior by saying “no” or “leave it”. Practice this a few times and anytime your dog stops displaying the aggressive behavior praise them with a “good boy/girl.” You can practice this same technique to help with guarding against other dogs who approach them while they are eating or playing with their favorite toy. Distraction is another technique you can use. Use another toy to distract your dog from the toy they are guarding. A good quick distraction can yield good results. Always take things slow with dogs. Moving too fast can have the opposite effect that you want.
Resource Guarding People
Just like with food and toys, dogs can resource guard people who they deem their property. This usually happens with their parents, but dogs can also guard other people they have grown close to. This behavior is usually displayed when that dog sees their “person” giving attention to another human or dog. In that dog’s mind, their source of joy/comfort/affection is being threatened and feel they need to protect them. Use the same approach above to help train your dog out of resource guarding humans.
If The Behavior Persists
If your dog is persistently aggressive and guarding, you may want to consult with a dog behavioral trainer who will be able to work with your dog personally, as well as give you tips along the way.