By Tito Rivera, Senior Behavior Counselor - IACP
Hello and welcome to another blog brought to you by the Biscuits & Bath training team. Today we are going to discuss about resource guarding. We are going to talk about what it is, what may cause it and ways to help prevent it.
Resource guarding is a normal canine behavior and is often misunderstood as aggression. Resource guarding can occur with objects, people, food and small spaces (guarding a large space such as a yard is a territorial display, this is related to but not the same as a resource guarder). Resource guarding can stem from several factors including shortage of food, competition for food, having items constantly taken from them, or something the dog may see as vital to his survival (even if it isn’t, the key factor is that the dog thinks it is vital to him/her). Dogs will also display resource guarding in two main ways, the first is a more defensive stand where the dog will only react if you come very close to the resource, the second is a more overt display of aggression. Both of these displays stem from insecurity more often than not. Now that we have identified our problem how do we correct it?
After establishing a baseline, we can think about what we’ll need for our training. We’ll need a motivation (usually kibble), the trigger object (for our purposes we’ll use a food bowl), and a leash may be helpful. You’ll want to start with your dog’s EMPTY bowl on the ground with you standing next to it. Allow your dog to come over and check things out. Once your pup looks up at you after realizing the bowl is empty you can praise him/her and put a couple of pieces of kibble in the bowl. Each time your dog eats the food and looks up at you repeat the process. You should do this over the course of a week or two, adding more food per handful each time. The goal here is that after a week or two you should be able to stand near your dog’s bowl without problem. The next step will be to repeat the empty bowl set up, however this time you will be moving past the empty bowl and reward each time your dog looks up and appears relaxed with you moving near the bowl. Always remember to place all food rewards in the bowl during this exercise.
This is a basic example of working with resource guarding and is recommended to be used with pups or dogs that are in the early stages of displaying this behavior. If your dog is exhibiting more extreme guarding behaviors such as advancing or attempting to make physical contact then consult one of the behavior counselors in our training department immediately before proceeding. Take your time with training as solid results are more important than quick results. Until next time take your time and have fun training!
Biscuits and Bath offers training classes, private lessons, train-and-play sessions, and home phone consultations with our trainers. Ask about what is best for you and your dog!