Here’s how to make a ‘trade’ with your dog if they like guarding their resources

Dog guarding toys
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Dogs can be quite possessive over things like food, treats, and toys. It’s an instinctive behavior that comes from the wild, when dogs would have to compete with other animals for valuable resources.

When it comes to pet dogs, however, resource guarding isn’t a desirable trait, and can even be dangerous. There are things you can do to work with your pup on resource guarding, but what can you do in the meantime if you need to take something off your dog? Perhaps they’ve got something valuable, fragile, or sentimental, or simply something that could be dangerous for them. 

According to Juliana DeWillems, owner and head trainer at JW Dog Training, one thing you can do is make a ‘trade’ with your dog, which will involve some of the best dog treats. Here’s how. 

“While we aim to avoid taking stuff from our dog as much as possible, sometimes we must for their safety,” explains DeWillems. So, doing a trade means that you can get what your dog has without causing any conflict, which might be possible when it comes to resource guarding in dogs.

She continues, “Our goal for this experience is to be an overall win-win for the dog because while they lose the item they care about, they do get a lot of treats. We do our best to remain calm and low-key when we go to retrieve the item, because forceful or intense movements are likely to add pressure and tension.”

In the video, DeWillems shows a dog with a resource – a chew – and explains that when she approached him he would get up and move away from her, indicating that he’d like to be left alone with it. So, what she does is toss a handful of treats next to him to see how he reacts.

“He easily disengages from the chew, which is great,” she says, “But I still don’t reach for it. I toss two more handfuls, this time a bit further away from the chew, to get more practice leaving the item.”

When he sniffs and eats the treats from the third handful, she calmly takes the chew. She then gives him another handful of treats for reinforcement, and to end the exchange on a win-win. 

It can be a good idea to practice these sorts of trades even when you aren’t in an emergency situation, but you don’t want to overdo it. It’s important that your dog knows to make trades when they have something they shouldn’t, but it’s also important to respect your dog and leave them alone when they’ve got something that’s fine for them to have.

In the longer term, however, DeWillems recommends consulting with an expert if your pup displays signs of resource guarding. While offering your dog trades can help in emergency situations, it doesn’t get to the root of the issue. If resource guarding is an issue you’re dealing with, this article from a dog parent in a similar situation might be useful: I tried alternative ways of giving my dog treats to stop resource guarding — here’s what worked.

Purina Beggin' Real Meat Fun Size Original with Bacon Flavored Dog Treats 
$12.49 at Chewy

Purina Beggin' Real Meat Fun Size Original with Bacon Flavored Dog Treats
$12.49 at Chewy
These fun-size treats are ideal for dogs of all ages and stages, and because they're made with real meat, every bite comes with a serious bacon flavor hit. With a tender texture that's easy to chew, each strip contains just seven calories. 

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering pets, lifestyle, health and culture, and he has six years' experience in journalism. He was senior editor at, and has written for The Independent, GoodToKnow and Healthline

He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' golden retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.