It's important to understand that the main reason for guarding is fear. This means that taking items away from your dog or telling them off for guarding is likely to make their behaviour worse in the long term. They may become even more worried and feel the need to protect those valuable things even more!
Resource guarding occurs when dogs exhibit behaviors like growling, lunging, or biting over food or toys. This behavior is also known as “possessive aggression” and may occur in dogs of any breed. Training early and often can help discourage resource guarding before it becomes too problematic.
Guarding resources is a natural dog behavior. It's a natural animal behavior — humans included! Access to resources like food, water, and a safe space is essential to survival. It's hardwired into animal nature to protect the things we believe we need to survive.
Leaning over or walking directly toward a dog is often a trigger for resource guarding. If your dog becomes still and stiff or raises a lip at any time, don't continue. Remember, the key is to trade for an item of greater value. And the dog gets to decide what's valuable.
You may feel confused by why your dog is exhibiting food aggression or guarding other items, especially if you've worked hard on early socialization and feel like you always provide more than enough resources for them. Remember — resource guarding is a normal and natural dog behavior!
Resource guarding in most instances is something easily fixable with time and effort. There are severe cases where the expertise of a professional trainer is needed. Resource guarding also shows up as a symptom when there are other behavior issues so enrolling in a positive training class is highly suggested.
Resource Guarding Between Dogs Guarding behaviors could happen over a certain resting place, food bowls, or high-value chews and toys. When resources are limited, such as when there's only one chew but two dogs, we tend to see an increase in guarding.
Why Dogs Resource Guard Owners. Guarding valuable resources is a natural dog behavior, but it can cause issues within human homes. Dogs will guard beds, food bowls, high value toys, treats, space and people. Every dog has a different personality, but most will resource guard whatever they find valuable to a degree.
Resource guarding is normal dog behavior. Dogs have evolved as opportunistic feeders, and it's natural for them to protect what they consider to be “theirs” from potential takers. The displays of growling and related body language are the dog's way of saying, “Back off!
Certain breeds seem to have a pre-disposition to resource guarding. For example, Working Cocker Spaniels and Beagles feature prominently in my case histories. It seems retrieving breeds may also be more likely to resource guard.
In these cases, spaying or neutering can absolutely be helpful! But for most dogs with more run-of-the-mill aggression issues (leash reactivity, resource guarding, biting visitors, etc.), it probably won't make any difference.
Resource guarding won't just go away, and it tends to gets worse if not managed properly. If your dog has severe guarding issues (where they snap or growl at you) please seek out the help of a professional trainer or behaviorist.
DOGS DO NOT GROW OUT OF GUARDING BEHAVIORS; THEY GROW INTO THEM. Practice preventive measures. This is no guarantee, but it can take the edge off of a puppy's insecurity about losing valuable resources.
Preventing Resource Guarding from Developing in Puppies