As scavengers by nature, many dogs show a natural tendency to guard valuable items such as food or toys. This is a valuable trait for wild dogs to have – no dog would survive very long if they willingly gave up food to the first dog or person that came along! Unfortunately for our pet dogs, this is not such a desirable trait to have when living with a human family and falls under the ‘problem behaviour’ of resource guarding.
A dog can guard anything; it all depends on how valuable that item is to the dog. Common scenarios are dogs that guard their food bowl, bed, favourite person, lead or toy.
So what does resource guarding look like? A dog that is resource guarding will do all or some of the following, in escalating order, as you move towards them or try and take their valued object:
 growling dog
  • Pick up the object and retreat
  • Tense up and ‘hunker down’ over the object
  • Freeze
  • Harden their stare and show the whites of their eyes
  • Give a low growl
  • Curl their lip/snarl
  • Snap
  • Lunge and bite
Fortunately, resource guarding is easily prevented if you start some basic exercises early on in a pup’s education. The key is to teach the puppy that you approaching and being around their valued item is a good thing.

Here’s what to do:

  • While you pup is eating, walk up to the food bowl and add some tasty treats into the bowl for them to eat. Do this 2-3 times per meal and watch the light bulb go on as your pup thinks ‘I wish they would come back to my food bowl so that I get some yummy treats!’
  • Practice trading toys and chewies for treats – take the toy, give a treat and then give the toy back.
  • Exchange items – if your pup has an item that you don’t want them to have then trade it for a toy or treat.
  • Seek help early on if your pup shows a tendency to resource guard. This problem is easier to fix in its early stages.
Taking these simple steps will ensure you raise a pup that is happy to share its valued resources with you.

Here’s what NOT to do:

  • Punish your pup for growling – remember that a growl is communication and is an emergency signal that you have training to do in that area!
  • Regularly play with your pup’s food and take the bowl away while they are still eating. We’ve all been to that restaurant where the waiter tries to take your plate before you are finished – how annoying!
  • Regularly take toys away without giving them back just to prove you are ‘the boss’.
Doing all these things will cause your pup to be more protective over items in the future. If you have a dog that is already a resource guarder then be sure to seek help from qualified, positive trainers.

About us

The D’For Dog team goes further than just dog training - we teach you to recognise why your dog behaves the way he or she does. You’ll learn the skills and techniques to effectively communicate with your dog and change your dog's behaviour, so that you are able to mould your pooch into the dog you’ve always wanted. Contact us now and reap the benefits of a well trained dog!

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We stand by our training methods – if you follow our programme you will see your dog’s behaviour improve! However, if you aren’t convinced after your first session, you are under no obligation to embark on a D’For Dog programme.

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