It’s critical to take action as soon as you observe aggressive behavior emerging around your dog’s resources. The more quickly and effectively you begin treatment, the better. So where do you even begin?
Connect With a Certified and Qualified Dog Trainer or Behavior Consultant
I want to emphasize that working one-on-one with a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, or veterinary behaviorist should be your first step before getting into how you might start to handle any resource guarding with your dog. I don’t directly know your dog or your predicament. Without meeting you in person and learning about your dog’s past conduct, I cannot determine the severity of your dog’s particular condition. Your licensed trainer can assist you with the processes that I’ll quickly outline below in addition to helping you and your dog establish a trainer-client connection. It’s crucial to put both your safety and your dog’s safety first since resource guarding can lead to potentially dangerous circumstances.
Manage the Environment
Make a list of everything your dog has developed a strong attachment to. Then consider ways to alter the surroundings to prevent access to these items. Clearly, this is inapplicable to items that are used on a regular basis, such meal bowls. We’ll discuss those in a moment. However, one of my training clients had a dog that enjoyed grabbing blades from the counter and then refusing to give them back. Not necessarily something your dog should be chasing after to get!
He had to be trained to restrict his access to the kitchen as the first step. Voil! He couldn’t grab the knives and go away since he didn’t have access to them. After his surroundings was controlled, we rehearsed commands like “Go to Bed” and “Drop It” while his owner prepared meals.
Let Your Dog Eat (and Chew) in Peace
Consider managing the context for items that you can’t just take out of your dog’s environment. Create a private space for your dog to eat in if they defend their food bowl. You shouldn’t let your dog eat at will and store the bowl in a cabinet between meals.
During mealtimes, use a gate to close off your dog’s food area so that nobody may enter and cause your dog to feel the urge to retaliate. This is crucial if you have young children or elderly parents who might not realize they shouldn’t pet your dog while you’re eating. If you have multiple dogs and one of them exhibits unsuitable resource guarding behavior, blocking off distinct feeding locations becomes even more crucial.
Give your dog a chew toy or a long-lasting treat if they are something they like to guard in their safe place, kennel, or other locations where they won’t be bothered, and let them to enjoy it alone. Make sure everyone in your home is aware that they are to leave the dog alone if it is eating or enjoying a chew. Simply cease providing your dog chews if you find it challenging to keep them in a secure environment while they enjoy their chew or if you are concerned about a choking hazard.
Start Desensitization and Counterconditioning Training
The cornerstone of modifying resource guarding behavior is this stage. Your dog trainer should be involved in each phase because it’s simple for us to rush things. The idea is to alter how your dog feels when you approach and take away the object that they usually guard. We want them to consider these things rather than the dread and terror of losing it “Oh, nice! Something amazing is about to happen because she is coming over here!”
Can dogs be taught not to guard resources?
- When dogs engage in actions like growling, lunging, or biting in response to food or toys, resource guarding is taking place.
- Possessive aggressiveness is another name for this tendency, which can happen in dogs of any breed.
- Resource guarding can be discouraged before it becomes too problematic by early and frequent training.
Dogs value a wide range of items, including food and your favorite sweater. But when you approach them or attempt to take something from them, some may growl, stiffen, lunge, or even bite. The ability to protect resources is known as resource guarding, and it is a crucial characteristic for feral dogs since it enables them to survive in the wild with little. For domesticated animals, it’s not a particularly advantageous quality. How then can you train your dog to cease protecting resources?
Defining Resource Guarding
When a dog is eating or playing with a toy, knowledgeable dog owners and individuals who are dog-aware typically know not to bother the animal. Simply said, you can never predict their reactions. While eating or playing, some dogs don’t mind being caressed, interrupted, or unintentionally bumped against. Others, however, find these disturbances exceedingly bothersome.
Sometimes, this behavior goes beyond just eating and playing with toys. Resource guarding is often referred to as “possessive aggressiveness,” according to best-selling author and expert on animal behavior Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. Possession, like real estate, is nine tenths of the law from the perspective of a dog. That real estate might be anything from a nesting place to a favorite human.
Discovering the Behavior
It’s likely that you won’t notice your dog’s propensity for resource guarding until they begin displaying it. Big Momma’s Dog Training owner and AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator Nicole Costanza says there are body language cues to look out for when a dog is attempting to ‘protect’ something. The body stiffening over an object, hard staring, “whale eye” (when dogs display the whites of their eyes), lifting of the lips, low growling, and showing of the teeth are a few examples.
“Any dog may be inclined to guard resources. Costanza claims it isn’t breed-specific.” A dog from a breeder might struggle with resource guarding, but a dog from a shelter probably won’t. Everything depends on the specific dog. The environment a dog is raised in may also influence whether or not it develops problems with resource guarding.
When dogs act in this way, they don’t know the difference between people who are passing by and those who are going to take something from them. What they consider to be a threat to their stuff is all that matters. They are reacting to the trigger rather than the activity itself. This is one reason why a pet’s resource guarding behavior is problematic and possibly dangerous.
Discouraging Resource Guarding
“Your best option is to begin training as soon as possible to stop resource guarding from developing, explains Costanza. Naturally, that’s not always feasible, particularly if you adopt an older dog from a shelter or receive one as a gift from a relative. According to Costanza, you can help dogs that resource guard food by gradually desensitizing them to your presence near expensive goods.
“Tether your dog to a sturdy, substantial object. She suggests keeping 68 feet away from the dog and throwing food, such chicken or hot dogs, in the dog’s general direction. Throw the food towards the dog while continuing to walk. You have strayed too close if the dog gives you warning signs like tightening the body or raising the lip. Following a few repetitions, keep an eye out to see if the dog’s body language has altered. You may get a little closer if they approach you with a joyful expression on their face, indicating that food is on the way.
Costanza advises taking your time and not pushing the dog through this procedure. The ultimate result should be that you can approach the dog’s water bowl without making them feel scared or anxious. She does, however, suggest enlisting the aid of qualified trainers to assist in this endeavor and to offer advice and pointers to help you along.
Deciding Between Dogs and Humans
After reaching adulthood, some dogs exhibit resource guarding and become unusually protective of their food, toys, and bedding. A trip to the vet need to always come first for these pets before training them, advises Costanza. An underlying medical condition may be indicated by a behavioral shift or an aggressive behavior flag.
She advises seeking advice from a veterinarian or an animal behaviorist in such cases to develop a therapy strategy. However, the dog may not necessarily be the target of the treatment. People who live in the home, particularly kids, must pick up management skills. Costanza asserts that refraining from any form of punishment is of the utmost significance.
“No yelling, screaming, or beating your dog to “exert dominance,” according to her. ” This might simply make the behavior worse.
Unfortunately, resource protection can occasionally result in biting. Costanza highly advises contacting a behaviorist right away to evaluate the consequences if such an incident occurs. This is crucial if there are infants or young children living there.
Resource guarding can develop into a serious and even dangerous practice if left unchecked. Therefore, it’s crucial to deal with the problem as quickly as possible by getting professional assistance.
Do you need assistance training your dog? In spite of the fact that you might not be able to attend live training sessions during COVID-19, we are still available to you electronically through the AKC GoodDog! Helpline. With the help of this live telephone service, you may speak with a qualified trainer who will provide you with unrestricted, personalized advise on anything from behavioral problems to CGC preparation to getting started in dog sports.
How do you prevent a dog from protecting a resource?
You could seek assistance at your preferred veterinarian’s clinic or by speaking with an expert in animal behavior. These experts are skilled in identifying undesirable behaviors in dogs and knowing how to react to them. Additionally, they can aid in the diagnosis of any underlying medical disorders that may be the root of resource guarding.
Check out the actions listed below to start modifying the behavior at home. You can detrain a dog that is displaying resource guarding warning signs with the right instruction and dedication.
Step 1: Desensitize the Dog by Standing Outside Their Reaction Zone
Desensitization is an excellent way to help dogs that are too possessive of their belongings learn to control their behavior. You can help the dog understand they are not in danger by gently triggering them in specific ways.
While they are enjoying their prize, stand just outside of their “response zone,” which is the region around the resource they are guarding. The objective is to make them accustomed to the fact that you won’t eat their food and to reaffirm your friendship with them.
Step 2: Start Throwing the Dog High-Quality Treats
By giving your dog high-quality goodies, you can teach him to identify you with the generally positive feelings of being fed anytime you are around.
Toss the reward to the dog while standing outside of his reaction area. After the dog becomes accustomed to this, approach him gently and drop the treats in front of him. Pick up your dog’s bowl, put the reward in it, and then hand it back to them if they are protecting their food.
Step 3: Increase the Intensity by Moving Closer to Their Resource
This stage is to change your dog’s emotional reaction to you approaching their possession. You want the dog to respond favorably to you by saying, “I’d do anything for a treat!” rather than the typical response of fear or rage at a potential perceived threat.
When the dog is enjoying a treat or meal, start far away and steadily move toward the reaction zone. When you start to approach too closely, aggressive dogs will warn you, most frequently with a low growl, a stiffening of the body, and/or a partial head tilt. Restart after waiting until the aggressive behavior has subsided. By doing this, you can get to the point where your dog won’t become aggressive when you approach, pet, or even touch their prize.
One of the most important phases in changing resource guarding behavior is this one. As a result, it’s critical to put in persistent effort for as long it takes to succeed. Don’t hurried the procedure. If you can maintain your patience, you should eventually be able to entirely remove the object from your dog’s possession without causing any unwanted reactions.
Step 4: Live With Resource Guarding
As long as the resource guarding actions are not resulting in fear or physical injury, some pet owners choose to just put up with their dog acting in this way. Some dog enthusiasts simply avoid them when they are in possession of their prized possession since they have grown accustomed to this type of behavior, especially from people who have rescued, adopted, or otherwise taken in a dog. Depending on your particular circumstances and way of life, a single individual might be better equipped to handle an aggressive dog than, say, a family with young children.
Additionally, there are additional ways to lessen animal violence, such as keeping numerous pets apart during mealtime or placing your dog in its own “safe place” when you have friends over.
How can I teach my dog to guard other dogs’ resources?
Dogs frequently engage in resource guarding, which is a typical activity. Dogs are genetically predisposed not to want to share precious resources with others. Resources for pet dogs can include food, toys, or even the owner’s focus. The majority of the time, resource guarding is limited to simple communication in homes, but on occasion, the activity may increase in frequency or intensity, leading to accidents. It is best to get assistance from your veterinarian or another competent specialist before taking action on your own if you have ever been concerned about violent behavior in your dog, whether it is connected to resource guarding or not.
Even though there are numerous guidelines to reduce conflict in dogs that protect resources from their owners, protecting against other dogs poses its own set of difficulties. However, the fundamentals of working with a dog that protects resources from dogs and humans are essentially the same. Usually, fear is the emotion driving the behavior.
A meal can mean the difference between life and death for animals in the wild. Therefore, even though cherished pets never face starvation (far from it! ), the instinct to guard precious resources is still present. Any training technique aims to lessen or eliminate tension and fear to make the dog feel more at ease around a resource. It is possible to alter a dog’s motivation and emotional response by using positive reinforcement and counter-conditioning. The conduct itself stops as a result.
Steps to success
The key distinction between a dog protecting itself from humans and a dog protecting itself from other dogs is that, in most cases, the person isn’t really after the slimy, stale rawhide resource, whereas the other dog usually is. There are two training duties to take care of when working with two dogs in a household. The first is to get the guard dog used to being approached and the second is to get the approaching dog to stop robbing other canines of their possessions.
Utilizing sound management practices to stop the undesirable conduct is the first step in changing resource-guarding behavior. Perfect practice makes perfect! Make a list of the things, places, or circumstances that are most likely to cause the dog to become guarding. Next, either alter the environment to eliminate the chances or bar the dog from it. This may entail getting rid of beloved toys, limiting access to specific areas or pieces of furniture, isolating the dogs during mealtimes, and implementing other management techniques. Baby gates, crates, and pens are excellent tools for managing your dog’s environment and thwarting undesired behaviors. Note that dogs may occasionally need to be kept completely apart, save for during training sessions.
It is now time to get down to the business of training a dog after properly managing it has set it up for success. It is very beneficial to teach some strong, positively-trained foundation skills to each dog individually before working with two dogs at once. In case they haven’t previously, expose the dogs to clicker training. Develop a powerful “leave it” and a powerful “stay” behavior. Exercises like Doggie Zen and mat work for relaxation and self-control are also beneficial.
Train and treat the two
Start training with the dogs collectively after that. One handler for Dog A and one for Dog B are required. Start by focusing on a somewhat inexpensive item that your dog loves but isn’t particularly enthusiastic about. For many dogs, a common hierarchy of resource values can be: plush animals (low value), chew toys (mid value), and food (high value).
The intention is for every interaction to be fruitful and instructive.
The intention is for every interaction to be fruitful and instructive. At all times, keep the dog “under threshold.” In other words, if all goes according to plan, you won’t ever witness any hostile conduct.
To start, both dogs should be leashed for protection; Dog A, the guard dog, may even be tied for further security. Although error-free learning is the ideal, it’s always better to be cautious than sorry.
Put the tool next to Dog A. Bring in Dog B next, stopping far from Dog A and outside of any potential danger to Dog A. Err on the side of caution and estimate the distance based on the dog. After leading Dog B away and rewarding him with treats for not going after the resource, click and reward Dog A for maintaining composure.
Repeat, gradually reducing the space between the dogs, and reward Dogs A and B once more for acceptable conduct by clicking. Go return to the previous distance where they both succeeded and repeat if either dog ever displays behavior that is not calm and comfortable. Reduce the distance gradually and incrementally until Dog B can pass Dog A without either dog reacting.
Return to the starting place at this point, but use a higher valuable resource. Repeat these procedures until Dog B can walk directly past Dog A and both dogs are at ease, always keeping both dogs beneath the threshold. Repeat the procedure using progressively more precious resources until you are using the best available. Additionally, you can perform this exercise in many settings, particularly any area that Dog A has a propensity to guard, such as a couch.
One for you, then one for you
Do another enjoyable exercise. Tether the dogs if required and place them far apart, one on either side of you. Give Dog B a medium-value reward and say his name. Say Dog A’s name and give him a better treat right away. Move the dogs farther apart and try again if either dog shows any signs of discomfort. Continue until both dogs will calmly keep their “sits” while one dog receives a treat. Once the dogs are content sitting as close as a body length apart, gradually close the gap between them.
Keep in mind: safety first! At all times, both dogs must be entirely at ease. This exercise aims to teach Dog A that receiving a treat from Dog B indicates that he will soon receive an even better treat. Dog A will begin looking forward to Dog B’s treat since it signals the impending arrival of his own treat.
What should you do if your dog unexpectedly protects something in the middle of an exercise? First and foremost, don’t panic! Getting angry will just make things worse. It is simpler to speak than to do that. Try your best, but remember that nothing stirs up human emotion like a growl and a pair of flashing teeth. Refrain from punishing the guard dog because doing so would be ineffective. Remove the dogs from the scenario calmly, ideally without touching either of them. It’s a good idea to send them to their mats to ease the strain. For a brief period, separate the dogs to allow for everyone’s relaxation.
Try to look into what happened in the interim. What was the catalyst’s source? Before reuniting the dogs, if at all possible, delete the resource or restrict access to it. Later, include your training plan with that specific resource, place, or context. You will eventually have the chance to praise the dogs for maintaining composure in the same circumstance.
Resource-guarding behavior is difficult to change quickly. Never be afraid to seek assistance from a licensed professional trainer or animal behaviorist. Many dogs will always need some amount of supervision for safety and sanity, and it will take time and effort. However, resource protection is a behavior, and every behavior is changeable!