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Resource Guarding - By Dawn Watson, ABC Mentor Trainer & Owner of Brother of the Wolf LLC

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  Angela Peña, Director of Media and Public Relations
  888-338-7778 (direct)
  AngelaP@AnimalBehaviorCollege.com
Saturday, January 30, 2010 : 12:15:25 PM
Updated Thursday, August 18, 2011 : 9:59:06 AM
Q: I think my dog has a problem with resource guarding. What is that and how should I deal with it?

Resource guarding can be defined as anxious, reactive, or threatening behavior when a dog is in possession of any item (i.e., food, toys or even 'his' human). This behavior can be exhibited by the youngest of puppies or can suddenly occur at any point in a dog's life. While this behavior is explainable it is not acceptable to most humans, and needs to be addressed.

If your dog begins to growl at his food dish while in the presence of others, try hand-feeding him for several days. This will let him know that you are in charge of his food. If he growls over possession of his toys or a bone, try teaching him the "Leave it" command with treats.

Another form of resource guarding occurs when a dog becomes reactive while he is on-leash. Some dogs are accepting of strangers while they are roaming free in a yard but immediately growl and bark, as if to protect their owner, while they are on-leash. It's important to correct this behavior with a quick command, like, "Leave it", or even "No" when a dog acts in this manner.

Spatial Reactivity occurs when a dog believes that 'his space' belongs only to him and anyone that comes near is trespassing. A good way to correct his behavior is to immediately walk the dog to a different area a few feet from 'his space', instruct him to sit, and then praise him for sitting. Be consistent; the dog must learn that he is only 'borrowing' the space and that it does not belong to him. You can then take steps to desensitize him to the presence of other dogs and people.

Children are particularly prone to upsetting a dog who is resource guarding, so it is important to teach children that a growl is a warning sign. Even though a growl can be upsetting to the family, children must learn to understand canine language in order to avert a crisis situation.

Of course, it is easier to train a puppy than an older dog. But working in a gentle and positive manner can work miracles with the behavior of an adult or older dog. Just remember that dogs learn better when they are happy and confident; keep a positive attitude and your dog will eventually respond!

This is just some basic info on this topic. Training for resource guarding is much more in depth than can be adequately covered here. We strongly recommend private training with a reputable positive reinforcement based trainer to deal with any training or behavior issues your dog may have. Feel free to contact our group for a recommendation in your area.