If you've ever observed your dog standing in a rigid position over their food bowl or a favorite toy, staring down anyone who tries to come close, then it's likely you're familiar with resource guarding in dogs.
The term 'resource guarding' is used to describe a behavior where a dog attempts to assert ownership over something. This may include a toy, food, a bed in the house, an item of clothing, or even their favorite human!
Whether it's resource guarding in general or the more specific food aggression in dogs, these behaviors are typically based on anxiety. Signs can include growling, lip-licking, a stiffness in the body, or hyper-fixation on an object, person, or animal.
Regardless of the cause or the signs being displayed, resource guarding can be tricky to deal with.
However, if you have a puppy or newly adopted dog in your home, expert trainer Jill Hasservoort says there are some things you can do to prevent issues from arising down the road. Read on to find out what they are...
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1. Set up separate spaces: Hasservoort says it's important that your dog doesn't feel threatened or like they're in competition with other pets/humans in the home when it comes to resources. "Use separate spaces so that your dog doesn't have to worry that they might lose their stuff to another dog or person," she advises.
"Use things like gates or closed doors when dogs have something valuable or when eating. This is especially important if there are multiple animals or children in the home."
2. Trade up: You never want to simply take something away from your dog without offering an alternative, so Hasservoort recommends you always trade up. "If your dog has something that is potentially dangerous to them, "trade up" by offering them something even more enticing."
3. Pick your battles: Hasservoort says it's important not to make a habit out of taking things away from your dog. "Pick your battles and only intervene if truly necessary. Make your presence or approach a predictor of even more good things, not of losing things.
That random burger wrapper on the sidewalk probably won't hurt your dog to carry around, but taking it might lead to bigger issues down the road."
While the tips above are a great starting point if your dog struggles with resource guarding issues, Hasservoort acknowledges that each dog is unique.
"Not all of these strategies will be suitable for all dogs or necessarily your dog," she says. "The very best practice is always to consult directly with a qualified professional."
With that in mind, check out our guide to how to spot dog trainer red flags to ensure you're working with someone reputable and suitably qualified.
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Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past three years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with a very mischievous Cocker Spaniel and a super sassy cat, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.