Here’s how you can prevent your pup from guarding resources, according to one trainer

Jack Russell Terrier lying on dog bed with toy in mouth
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Resource guarding is a behavior many dogs exhibit – it’s a survival mechanism that goes back to when they’d need to protect valuable resources in the wild.

Of course, our pet pooches don’t need to guard their food and toys with the same urgency, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try to guard things from you. While it’s natural and fairly common, it can be quite unnerving for dog parents, and it can potentially be dangerous, so it’s worth preventing it if you can – you probably won’t need much more than a few of the best dog treats

And, certified dog trainer Melissa Goodman of Mission Pawsitive has explained just what to do in a new Instagram post.

Goodman begins by explaining that you shouldn’t take things directly from your dog’s mouth, even if you then give it back. “This teaches a dog that you are a thief, and validates the reason to guard,” she explains. 

In fact, much of the common advice traditionally given can actually be counterproductive. Some trainers recommend taking things away from your dog so that you can assert your authority and teach them who’s boss, but as Goodman says, this is the best way to create resource guarding in dogs in the first place. 

Instead, Goodman recommends tossing a treat away to the side, and then taking the item before putting it right back. 

However, if your dog is already showing resource guarding behaviors, she advises against doing this – it’s more of a prevention exercise than a way to deal with an issue that already exists.

Another thing Goodman advises against is petting your dog while they’ve got something – particularly while they’re eating, as this teaches them that you’ll bother them while they eat. “Instead,” she recommends, “walk up to your dog, drop a few pieces of food of equal or greater value, and walk away.”

She continues in the caption, “By tossing treats as you approach and then walk away, your dog learns that your approach means they are getting something, not losing something, and what you’re giving them is of equal or greater value than what they have. Dogs who guard are often already anxious as you approach, long before you even try to take what they have.”

Meanwhile, something else you can try is using a hand target cue and rewarding them for coming to your hand as you pick up the resource at the same time. 

Are you struggling with resource guarding? You might find this article from a dog parent in the same boat useful: I tried alternative ways of giving my dog treats to stop resource guarding — here’s what worked.

Milo's Kitchen Chicken & Apple Sausage Slices  
$9.99 at Chewy

Milo's Kitchen Chicken & Apple Sausage Slices 
$9.99 at Chewy
Made with real chicken and apples, these deliciously wholesome meaty morsels are made without artificial flavors or colors and are great as a snack or training treat. 

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. 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.