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Dog Resource Guarding
In nature, it’s “survival of the fittest”. If an animal doesn’t protect its food, shelter, or offspring, they can be taken away. So, a dog guarding her food or bones by growling or biting is actually quite natural. However, it isn’t a welcome behavior in our homes. Companion dogs should trust us to take dangerous things out of their mouths and listen to us when we ask them to get off furniture. We should be able to easily take food and toys away. Just as a child should not get mad at you for removing his dinner plate, your dog shouldn’t mind you taking her bowl.
How dog resource guarding develops
Usually, puppies do not resource guard. If they do, you want to get it addressed right away. Typically, most owners know to take things away from puppies to test and train them. When they see that the puppy just backs off and looks confused, they figure they’re safe. But, if you do not continue to mess with your dog’s food and chew toys throughout her life, she can easily develop guarding behavior, since it is in dogs’ natures to do so. It also gives her a job to do! Once a dog realizes that growling or snapping keeps people and/or other dogs from taking her prized possessions, it’s all downhill from there. People back off, and the dog becomes more confident that it’s her role and duty to protect her stuff. The cycle needs to be broken as soon as possible. Otherwise, you will both just end up getting more and more frustrated until someone finally gets hurt.
Many different experiences and situations can lead to resource guarding. Most dogs that are rescued from the streets have issues with protecting things. Indeed, their survival depended on defending their turf and food. And, unsurprisingly, many of them never learned to trust humans. In addition, if a human or other animal did take away a dog’s food or bones unexpectedly, a dog could learn to react and try to protect these objects.
How we are affected
So, naturally, we as owners become afraid or frustrated with our dogs. We show fear when trying to take a bone away. Or we avoid our dog when she is eating. We separate our 2 dogs into different rooms when serving meals. This actually helps create tension. It also starts a cycle where we are anticipating our dog’s reaction and getting almost as upset as she is! Without outside help, it’s often very hard to break this cycle.
How to stop it
When a dog is resource guarding, usually the most important thing is to (re)build the trust between the dog and her owner. Even if the dog is guarding against another dog, it’s still really about the dog owner, who ultimately does own all the possessions. Just as it’s a parent’s job to teach 2 children to get along and share nicely, dog owners need to teach their dogs. We need to let them know they can trust us and that it is actually not a “bad” thing if we need to take something from them. Once the negative energy around all of this is removed, the dog will actually like you coming near her bowl, and she will eagerly drop a bone from her mouth. And 2 dogs can learn to respect each other’s spaces, bowls and toys so that they no longer have to fight for possessions.
The Pooch Coach can help you all feel calm and safe again. Just give us a call!
We are the SF Bay Area’s experts in dog resource guarding and aggression.
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