By Kristen Perrus, CPDT-KA
I want you to imagine being in a world where no one can understand your language and then someone comes up and steals your favorite thing right out of your hands! Well, that wasn’t very nice of them… How do you think you would react? Would you be okay with it? Would you shout? Protest? Try and take it back?
Now imagine that you protested and now you’re in trouble because that person couldn’t understand what you were communicating! This would be frustrating for anyone.
This could be how your dog feels whenever you come up and take their chew toy, food, or something they aren’t supposed to have
and take it away. Some dogs may react fine to this, but
it is not uncommon for dogs to be protective over resources, though whenever it begins to worsen, it isn’t a desirable behavior.
Resource guarding can be an appropriate behavior as it can be normal canine behavior and a way for your dog to express themselves. However, resource guarding can become a dangerous problem if your dog begins to bite or fight to keep the item. Dogs will most commonly resource guard food, treats, toys, and locations, though sometimes they can guard certain humans as well!
Knowing how to spot resource guarding can give you the head start to speak to your positive reinforcement trainer or vet on how to work on it and prevent the behavior from worsening.
Some guarding behavior can be obvious to both human and dogs, which can include growling, snapping, biting, lunging, taking the item to hide, snarling, or blocking access to the object with their body.
Some signs can be more subtle:
- Avoidance Behavior
- Lip Licking
- Pinned back ears
- Hard eyes (staring)
- Crouched or stiff body posture
- Eating food or treats faster than normal
When the behavior begins to show and you are waiting to speak to a pet professional, the first step as an owner that you can do is management to ensure there is minimal risk to humans or animals.
Management at the home can include:
- Not allowing your pet on the furniture unless they are invited and having a positive verbal cue for whenever they need to get off
- Keeping toys put up unless it is their designated play time
- Not allowing food bowls, even empty ones, on the ground for a long period of time
- Keeping any food, including food bags or containers, out of sight and smell of your dog
- Having multiple water bowls
- Hand feeding all meals
There are other types of management that you can do in the home with your pup, but it is always best to speak to a certified trainer or animal behavioralist if the behavior worsens and creates an unsafe environment for you and your pup.