Have you noticed your dog being protective or even aggressive when they have food or a toy? It’s not uncommon for dogs to be protective over resources, whether that means guarding their food bowl or not letting go of a toy they have in their mouth.
While resource guarding is considered normal canine behavior to some degree, it can be a problem if your dog becomes aggressive around food or non-food items. If your dog is resource guarding to the point that it’s becoming a problem, you should talk to your vet about it to determine the best course of action.
Fortunately, there are ways to help your dog feel more comfortable and train them to reduce resource guarding. Before you train your dog or make any serious changes to their environment, you should talk to your vet. If you want to know more about resource guarding in dogs and what you can do about it, keep reading.
What Is Resource Guarding?
Signs Of Resource Guarding In Dogs
As a dog owner, it’s your job to keep an eye out for signs that something is going on with your dog. The problem with resource guarding in dogs is that the signs may be subtle, which makes them hard to spot. That being said, there are definitely a handful of warning signs you should look out for if you’re worried about your dog resource guarding.
Minor signs of resource guarding include your dog displaying an aggressive posture (i.e., freezing, head lowering, muscle tension, staring), lip licking, collecting items, and blocking access to the area where the resource is located.1 If resource guarding gets worse, your dog may begin growling, barking, or biting. This behavior is most common with food and food-related items, which includes toys your dog likes to chew on.
What Causes A Dog To Resource Guard?
This is where the discussion about resource guarding gets a little tricky. To some degree, we don’t actually know what causes sudden resource guarding in dogs, so it’s not something that’s easily preventable.
In some regards, resource guarding is a natural behavior for dogs to exhibit. Dogs may guard resources as a means of survival, which is something a lot of animals do. However, just because this behavior is normal doesn’t mean it’s acceptable in a household, so it’s important to learn how to fix resource guarding in dogs1.
How To Stop Resource Guarding In Dogs
While resource guarding in dogs is fairly normal behavior, it can lead to a lot of problems if you don’t get it under control. In some cases, dogs may snap at people or even bite if they feel their resources are threatened. Here’s what you need to know about how to fix resource guarding in dogs.
1. Create a safe environment
Dogs may be more likely to guard resources when they don’t feel safe in their environment. Your dog may feel threatened by the presence of certain people, or they may feel like resources are scarce and they must guard them to have enough. If you have multiple dogs, give them separate areas to eat so they don’t feel like they have to compete. You can also use baby gates, crates, a door, and other similar tools to help your dog feel safe and protected when eating or playing with toys. Another good rule of thumb is to not feed in high traffic areas and instead, opt to feed your dog in a quiet space away from other people and pets in the household, and as always, don’t approach them while they’re eating.
2. Start training early when possible
Training dogs early on can help reduce separation anxiety and set your dog up for success later in life. The earlier you train your dog, the easier it will be for them to learn positive behavior. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t always possible, particularly if you rescue or adopt a dog several years into its life.
3. Retrain with behavior modification exercises
While early training is important, it’s far from the only way to stop resource guarding in dogs. If you have a dog who has a resource guarding problem, the key is to retrain them with behavior modification exercises.
There are lots of skills that can help reduce resource guarding in dogs, including the “leave it” and “drop it” techniques. The trick is simple: If your dog has a toy or food they won’t drop, you can teach them to drop that item in exchange for a treat or toy of higher value. This is particularly helpful when your dog has something they’re not supposed to have, such as clothes or children’s toys.
Please note, you should always consult your vet before beginning any training program with your pet. Many dogs need a diagnosis and potentially medication before beginning a behavioral modification program.
Resource Guarding: Frequently Asked Questions
Can resource guarding be fixed?
Like most behavioral issues in dogs, resource guarding can be treated at some level with training and behavior modification. The key is to make your dog feel more comfortable in their environment so they don’t feel like they have to compete for resources. While it’s better to train your dog when they’re young to eliminate these behaviors, behavior modification and relaxation exercises can help older dogs overcome resource guarding as well.
Is resource guarding normal?
Resource guarding is a behavioral problem a lot of dog owners may worry about, especially if it leads to aggression. For the most part, this behavior is normal but it can become a problem if your dog is growling, barking, and biting around food. Fortunately, behavior modification can help your dog stop guarding resources.
If you need help getting your dog to stop resource guarding, you should talk to a vet. With telemedicine for pets from Dutch, you can get the help you need from the comfort of your home. We can help you decide on a treatment plan for conditions including allergies, anxiety, and more. To find out more or get started, contact Dutch today.