Dogs are often protective of their belongings and loved ones. While this can be a cute trait, it can also lead to dangerous situations if left unchecked. Resource guarding is when a dog becomes possessive of objects or people and will act aggressively to protect them. In this podcast and blog written by LWDG Group Claire Denyer, we will discuss the signs of resource guarding, how to prevent it, and what to do if your dog starts exhibiting these behaviours.

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What Is Resource Guarding

Resource guarding is a natural behaviour in dogs that occurs when a dog perceives a threat to a valuable resource, such as food, toys, or even attention from its owner. While resource guarding can be seen as a negative behaviour, it is essential to understand that it is a perfectly natural way for dogs to protect themselves and their belongings.

When it comes to resource guarding, you need to remember that it is you, the owner, who provides resources to the dogs and as such, I find the easiest way to think about this issue is that I own and provide everything, and I am teaching my puppy to share.

Common Resources That A Dog May Guard:

While each dog is different, there are some common resources that dogs may guard. These include food, toys, and their owners, which are usually very highly valued resources. Dogs may also protect areas such as their beds or crates or specific locations such as the door to the house. In some cases, dogs may even guard inanimate objects such as a stick or a ball. While guarding is a natural behaviour for dogs, it can become problematic if a dog becomes overly possessive or aggressive.

I give my dogs something like an antler to chew on, and I will always put out more antlers than there are dogs to reduce the likelihood of the dog feeling resources are scarce. I also supervise the dogs to ensure they do not steal from one another.

Resource Guarding Territory

Another resource is territory, which can include your dog’s bed or blanket; if your dog is allowed access, it can also include sofas or beds. My dogs are allowed on the sofa, but this is under strict rules and clear boundaries. Dogs are invited up, and they must get down when asked. If any of my dogs displayed any signs of self-entitlement to the sofa, they would lose the privilege.

Resources could also include things like your dog’s toys. I use toys to interact and play with my dogs, but I am very aware that having more than one dog out can get competitive, especially if the dogs get over-aroused. If you are confident in your leadership skills and none of the dogs has resource guarding tendencies, then with careful management, you can play with more than one dog at a time. If one dog shows signs of resource guarding toys, it’s a good idea to play with one at a time. I would also recommend getting professional help as resource guarding is something John deals with a lot in his canine behaviour work.

Small terrier resource guarding bed on sofa

Resource Guarding Your Attention

One resource that may not spring to mind immediately is attention. More specifically, your attention, especially with dogs who display attention-seeking behaviours or highly value sitting on your lap. Some dogs see their owner as a resource.

If you already have one dog in your household that tends to resource guard, then there’s an issue which needs addressing. Bringing another dog into the mix certainly won’t help, and you must consider getting professional help.

Dog To Dog Behaviour

As any dog owner knows, dogs are social creatures that love interacting with other dogs. However, not all dog-to-dog interactions are positive. Some dogs can be quite aggressive towards other dogs, causing fights and even injuries.

While most dog fights are simply a case of two dogs playing too rough, there are some cases where aggression is motivated by fear or territoriality. Therefore, it’s important for dog owners to be aware of the potential for aggression and take steps to prevent it.

The best way to do this is to socialize your dog from an early age, exposing them to different types of Dogs in various situations so they learn how to behave around other dogs. This will help them become confident and well-adjusted dogs that are less likely to act aggressively towards other dogs.

Dog-to-dog behaviour is absolutely fascinating to observe but can be quite terrifying with resource guarding behaviour, seeing a seemingly cute dog behave aggressively when resource guarding is quite an eye-opener and quite upsetting for the owner.

Inter dog issues, including aggression, are generally more common in dogs of the same sex; litter sisters tend to be the worst combination. However, it’s also worth knowing that the early social experiences a young dog receives can also affect a dog as it gets older. For example, if a puppy has had to compete for its food in the litter or has been bullied, it may negatively affect the young dog’s behaviour as it matures.

What should I do if my dog is resource guarding?

If your dog is resource guarding, you can do a few things to help. First, it’s important to understand resource guarding and why your dog may be doing it. This behaviour is usually rooted in insecurity or anxiety, and it can be triggered by anything that causes your dog to feel threatened or uncomfortable.

If you are concerned about your dog’s guarding behaviour, it is essential to consult with a qualified trainer or behaviourist. Most dogs can learn to share their resources with proper management and training without becoming overly protective. With patience and consistency, you can help your dog overcome resource guarding and build a happy, healthy relationship with their family.

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