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Resource Guarding In Dogs – What To Do If Your Dog Gets Aggressive Over Food

Your dog’s almost finished with their bone, leaving a small piece that they might choke on. You go to confiscate it, only for your dog to growl and stare up at you like they’re ready to attack.

It feels awful to hear your own dog growl at you. You might feel concerned, scared, or even disrespected. 

Resource guarding is a common behavioural issue, even in otherwise well behaved dogs. 

What Exactly IS Resource Guarding?

If your dog is resource guarding, they’re acting possessive about any valuable resource. 

This typically manifests as your dog growling when someone tries to take away their food or treat.

But some dogs become protective of toys or beds. They can even become protective of you, growling if anyone comes to close while they’re sitting in your lap. 

Dogs may show signs of resource guarding around you, your family members, and even other animals in your family.

When Resource Guarding Becomes A Problem

Dogs growl to communicate. If your dog growls, it’s just their way of letting you know that they are scared or anxious. 

While you can teach your dog to trust you around their food or treats, it’s never okay to punish them for growling. Dogs who are punished for growling typically escalate quickly, especially if they have experienced physical punishments in the past. It’s not unusual for them to bite without warning. 

So, if your dog is resource guarding, your priority should be to make them feel more comfortable around resources so they won’t feel the need to growl. 

Dealing With Resource Guarding At Home

The key is to make your dog feel good about interactions that they currently find stressful.

You can teach your dog “leave it” and “drop it” using tasty, high value treats. If they are possessive of their favorite spot on the couch, you can teach them “off.”

But those cues can’t be taught if your dog is a highly stressed, severe resource guarder.

Attempts at training your dog while they’re on high alert can result in added stress, even a bite. 

It’s important to back off when your dog growls. It’s a sign that you’ve gone too far over their boundaries. 

Progress with resource guarding is slow and steady. If the problem is severe, we may start with simply tossing the dog treats from across the room so they can feel comfortable chewing with someone present. 

Resource guarding can be complex, and dangerous. A mistake can result in a bad bite. A really bad bite can result in your dog having to be euthanized. This is why we don’t recommend working on this issue at home unless it’s very mild. 

Food Aggression With Other Dogs

When your dog becomes aggressive towards your other dog, it’s harder to manage. Dogs need to be able to communicate with one another.

It’s acceptable for your dog to growl, so that your other dog knows to back off. But sometimes dogs do not respect one another’s boundaries, and may still try to snatch food or toys from their canine housemates – resulting in a nasty fight. 

If your dog’s resource guarding issue is limited to other dogs, the best thing you can do is feed them separately. When your dog feels safe while they eat or enjoy treats, they won’t feel the need to attack your other dog.

Feeding your dogs in separate crates is always a good idea. It can help reinforce positive feelings about being in a crate. You’ll also keep food off the floor, and you won’t have to worry about kids or guests bothering your dogs while they eat. 

When To Seek A Professional Trainer

Even with proper management and at-home conditioning, having a dog who resource guards can be dangerous. It’s best to work with a professional trainer who is experienced in resource guarding issues. 

Many well-meaning dog owners who attempt to fix resource guarding end up making it worse. It’s often because they try to progress too quickly. They tend to think their dog looks calm, missing subtle signs of stress, and then overstep the dog’s boundaries, resulting in a bite. It’s best to work with a professional trainer who is experienced in resource guarding issues. 

Call Healthy Houndz today for info about our private dog training in North York and Toronto

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