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Why Do Dogs Exhibit Resource Guarding Behaviour and How to Manage It

Black dog

Resource guarding in dogs, also known as possessive aggression or resource aggression, refers to a behaviour where a dog displays protective or defensive behaviours around certain items or spaces they consider valuable. The dog may perceive a threat to their possession, whether it's food, toys, a bed, or even a specific area. Resource guarding is a natural behaviour in the canine world, but it becomes a concern when it escalates and poses a risk to the dog's safety or the safety of those around them.


Key Aspects of Resource Guarding:


Dogs may resource guard a variety of items, including food, toys, bones, bedding, or even people. Anything the dog values can potentially become a guarded resource.

Behavioural Signs:

Dogs that are resource guarding may exhibit a range of behaviours, both subtle and overt. Common signs include:

  • Growling or snarling when approached

  • Showing teeth

  • Stiffening of the body

  • Quick, intense staring

  • Lunging or snapping

  • Possessive behaviour over the item or space (e.g., hovering over the food bowl or guarding a favourite toy)

Contextual Nature: Resource guarding is often context-specific. A dog may guard their food bowl but not their toys, or they may guard specific toys and not others. Understanding the specific triggers and context is crucial for addressing the behavior.

Developmental Factors: Resource guarding can develop due to various factors, including genetics, early life experiences, or competition for resources in a multi-dog household.

Prevention and Treatment:

  • Early socialisation and positive reinforcement training can help prevent resource guarding behaviours from developing.

  • If resource guarding is already present, behaviour modification techniques, such as desensitisation and counterconditioning, can be employed under the guidance of a professional dog trainer. Feel free to contact us to start a plan!

Safety Concerns: Resource guarding can escalate, leading to bites or attacks if not properly managed. It's essential to address resource guarding promptly and carefully to ensure the safety of both the dog and those interacting with them.

Managing Resource Guarding:

Professional Guidance: Consult with a professional dog trainer or behaviourist for guidance on managing resource guarding behaviours.

Positive Reinforcement: Use positive reinforcement techniques to create positive associations with approaching when the dog has a valued item. Reward the dog for calm and non-aggressive behavior.

Trade-Up Strategy: Teach the dog that giving up a resource results in receiving something even better. Offer a high-value treat or toy in exchange for the item being guarded.

Desensitisation: Gradually expose the dog to the presence of people or other pets while they are engaging with the guarded resource, rewarding calm behaviour.

Consistency: Be consistent in your approach and ensure that all family members or caregivers follow the same protocols to avoid confusion.

While resource guarding can be a challenging behaviour to address, early intervention and positive reinforcement training can significantly improve the dog's behaviour and reduce the risk of conflicts.

Seeking professional help is advisable for cases of severe resource guarding or if safety concerns arise.


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