Learn to avoid and maybe fix your dogs insecurities with food.
Resource Guarding is what dog pros call it when a dog growls, snarls, or just generally doesn’t like it when people come near their “resources”. Resources can be anything from water, food, toys, chewies, or even their owners! The most important thing to understand about resource guarding is that a dog is not trying to be mean and definitely NOT trying to take over the household. Next we’ll explain why this happens and some simple ways to help your dog get over it.
Resource guarding just means that your dog is afraid of getting their food, water, or other things taken away. Dogs don’t really understand that they aren’t living in the wild, and so they may feel uncomfortable if they think someone is going to take their things. They don’t know that they’re actually very safe and There’s nothing to be afraid of! Your job is to show your dog that there’s no reason for them to feel insecure.
The first thing you must understand is to respect your dog’s boundaries. Review the lesson or GROWLING and dog communication to understand their behavior. Understand your dog telling you that they’re uncomfortable.
Don’t put your dog in situations where they feel uncomfortable. For now, if they don’t like people or other dogs being near them while they eat or chew things, leave them alone!
Over time you can show your dog that you are not a threat to them, but for now just be respectful.
Teaching “Drop-It” is covered in another lesson, and it’s a very good skill to learn for resource guarding. This command teaches your dog to want to drop something, like a toy or chew, because they trust that you’re going to give them something even better in return! This trust and confidence is a huge part of fixing resource guarding, so teaching this first can help a lot.
The end-result should look like this once you’ve gone through all the training for resource-guarding:
Even the friendliest dogs will defend themselves if they feel like they need to. Similar to humans, if you felt someone was a threat and you were cornered, you would fight back! Your dog is the same. Scared dogs will usually have 2 options:
It’s a good idea to help your dog learn that most things are not threatening, but you should also learn to recognize when a dog is scared of you. Never put a dog, whether it’s yours or someone else’s, in an uncomfortable situation where they feel they need to defend themselves.
Fixing resource guarding is all about showing your dog that it’s actually good for you to be near them when they have a toy, food, chew, or whatever. Always make sure to be safe and don’t push your dog past their comfort level. Review dog GROWLING and communication to understand the side-eye, freeze, growl, snarl, and even snap-bite. The following steps will show your dog how to be more comfortable with you being nearby and leaving their resource to come to you instead.
This step is the most basic and also the safest. You can stay at this step for weeks if you need to, just to be safe. Just toss over some super high value treats! Do this from the side, not the back, and from a good distance, so your dog can see you. Instead of thinking you’re a threat when they have something, show your dog that you’re actually coming to give them even more good things!
Now that your dog knows you’re not a threat when you come by with treats, they may be willing to leave their resource to come over to you for an even better treat. After you’ve done step 1, now offer your open hand to see if they might come over to get treats from you instead. Doing a recall away from the chew or food bowl might help too.
If your dog is comfortable, away from the chew or food bowl, and not growling, you can try to pick it up. Then ask your dog to do a sit and then give it back to them! This is the same as the sit for everything lesson where we teach dogs to be polite by sitting. You are now teaching your dog that you’ll always give them back their stuff, so there’s no reason to be uncomfortable!
While it is possible to show your dog that humans are no threat to them when we want to take their food, chews, etc, it is much more difficult to do this with other dogs. With humans, we can show dogs that we are actually not going to steal their things, but another dog might actually do exactly that.
Behavior modification, for rude behaviors or fears, takes time and effort. Sometimes you don’t have the time to do training, so you should use management techniques and tools to remove your dog from difficult situations. This way they can’t repeat the bad behaviors and lose the good progress you’ve been making with training.
For example, if you want to have friends over, take the time to make sure your dog is rewarded for sitting politely, but if you don’t have the time to do that training, put your dog away as people arrive so they aren’t encouraged to jump up.
Therefore, if you have multiple dogs, then the easiest thing to do will be to feed them separately or to watch over them closely when they eat to make sure they don’t get near each other or try to steal each others food.