I will write about some alternate forms of resource guarding today, focusing on food. Resource guarding is a normal behavior for a dog, especially if they grew up in a situation where they had to fight for their possessions. This behavior can range from relatively tame behavior, like running away with a coveted item or growling at an approaching person, to full-blown aggression, such as biting or chasing a person away. Some dogs will only direct their guarding at certain people while others will do it with everyone. They also can have a number of different items that they guard such as, food, kennel or dog bed, toys, bones, socks, etc.
Many times, if a dog only guards their food, owners will not try to alter their behavior, they will just “leave him alone” at meal time. This is a fine solution while the dog is at home during a typical evening, but what happens if you go on a holiday and leave the dog with your friends who have a young child, or when you have guests over that don’t know your dog’s feeding habits? During this process you dog’s body language is very important. If he is very stiff, staring, panting, yawning, growling intensely, and you think he may bite, please consult a professional in your area to come over and do an in home assessment. To better understand your dog’s body language, make note of their body movements, tail, eyes, and ears, while you know they are comfortable, then when something changes you will be better equipped to notice.
The method used for resource guarding is desensitizing and counterconditioning, which are quite complex so this exercise will take a bit of time and dedication but will be well worth it in the end.
Changing Your Dog’s Behavior:
- To begin, you will stand a few feet away from your dog while their dry kibble is on the floor. Use a cue like “That looks good” or whatever you want, and at the same time toss a piece of chicken, or other high value treat to them (use a treat that he only gets during this exercise). Continue to do this every few seconds until your dog is finished. Repeat this step for a few days. REMEMBER, if your dog moves close to you to get a treat, just ignore them until they go back to eating.
- Now, take a step forward, use your verbal cue, toss a treat, and step back. Do this for a few days until the dog is getting more comfortable and move onto step 3.
- Take a step to be standing right beside your dog, use the verbal cue, drop the treat directly into their bowl, and step away. Again, do this for few days until he is visually comfortable and move on!
- Repeat the above step, but bend down closer to your dog’s bowl to drop in the treat. Continue to do this and as the dog gets more comfortable, keep inching down until you are placing the treat into the bowl.
- Now, continue to bend down, touch his bowl, and give him the treat from the other hand. Do this for a few meals and then you can move onto picking the bowl off the ground while treating with your other hand and placing it back down.
If your dog is getting the steps very quickly then you can adjust as you feel the need to, however make sure not to rush through this, you do not want your dog to feel threatened at any point in time. You may even need to have everyone in your family go through the steps individually for the dog to get comfortable with each person.
You can apply this exercise to anything that the dog is guarding, the steps remain the same but the area will change. Is your dog a resource guarder? What did you do to adjust their behavior? Let me know in the comments below!