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Home PET BEHAVIOR & TRAININGDog Behavior Dealing with Resource Guarding: Training Strategies for a Well-Mannered Dog

Dealing with Resource Guarding: Training Strategies for a Well-Mannered Dog

by Bella Woof

Dealing with Resource Guarding: Training Strategies for a Well-Mannered Dog

Resource guarding is a common behavioral issue among dogs, and it can create tension and stress in the household if not properly addressed. Resource guarding occurs when a dog displays aggressive or possessive behavior over items such as food, toys, or even a sleeping spot. This behavior can lead to conflicts with other pets or family members and can make it challenging to manage the dog in various situations.

Fortunately, with the right training strategies and consistent effort, resource guarding can be effectively managed and even eliminated in many cases. In this article, we will explore the causes of resource guarding, the signs to look out for, and the best training methods to help your dog become a well-mannered and cooperative companion.

Understanding Resource Guarding

Resource guarding is a natural behavior in dogs. In the wild, dogs need to protect their resources, such as food and shelter, to survive. However, in a domestic setting, resource guarding can become problematic and even dangerous if not addressed. It’s crucial to recognize that resource guarding is a behavior that can be modified with patience and consistent training.

There are several triggers that can lead to resource guarding behavior in dogs. These triggers can include:

– Fear and anxiety: Dogs that have had a past experience of scarcity or have been in competitive situations with other dogs may develop a fear of losing their resources. This can lead to aggressive and possessive behavior.
– Lack of socialization: Dogs that have not been properly socialized with other animals or people may be more prone to resource guarding behavior.
– Genetics: Some dogs may have a genetic predisposition to resource guarding, especially if they come from a line of working or guard dog breeds.
– Inconsistent or inadequate training: Dogs that have not been taught proper manners and boundaries around resources may resort to guarding behavior as a way to assert control.

Signs of Resource Guarding

It’s essential to recognize the signs of resource guarding in your dog so that you can address the behavior early on. Some common signs of resource guarding include:

– Growling or snarling when approached while eating or chewing on a toy.
– Stiff body language and a tense posture when approached near a resource.
– Lunging or snapping when someone tries to take away a resource.
– Hiding or running away with a resource when approached.
– “Sharking” or guarding behavior around certain areas of the house.

If you notice any of these signs in your dog, it’s crucial to address the behavior through proper training and management strategies.

Training Strategies for Resource Guarding

Training a dog with resource guarding behavior requires patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement. It’s essential to use gentle and non-confrontational methods to modify the behavior and build trust with your dog. Here are some training strategies to help your dog become more well-mannered and cooperative around resources.

1. Desensitization and Counterconditioning

Desensitization and counterconditioning are two powerful training methods that can help dogs overcome resource guarding behavior. These techniques involve changing your dog’s emotional response to the trigger that causes them to guard their resources.

To start with desensitization, you can gradually expose your dog to the trigger (such as taking away a toy or approaching their food bowl) from a distance that does not elicit a guarding response. Over time, as your dog becomes more comfortable with the trigger, you can slowly decrease the distance until your dog no longer exhibits guarding behavior.

Counterconditioning involves pairing the trigger with positive experiences, such as receiving treats or praise when the trigger is present. This helps your dog to associate the trigger with positive outcomes rather than feeling the need to guard the resource.

2. Teach “Drop It” and “Leave It” Commands

Training your dog to respond to commands such as “drop it” and “leave it” can be a helpful way to manage resource guarding behavior. These commands teach your dog to give up a resource voluntarily and redirect their attention to something else.

You can start by teaching your dog these commands in a low-distraction environment, using high-value treats or toys as a reward. With consistent practice, your dog will learn to respond to these commands even when they are guarding a resource.

3. Implement a “Trade-Up” System

A “trade-up” system involves exchanging the resource that your dog is guarding for something of higher value. For example, if your dog is guarding a toy, you can offer them a more enticing toy or a delicious treat in exchange for the item they are guarding.

This strategy teaches your dog to associate giving up a resource with receiving something better in return, and it can help to reduce their guarding behavior over time.

4. Manage the Environment

Managing the environment can also be an effective way to address resource guarding behavior. This involves controlling the access to resources and setting up the environment in a way that minimizes potential triggers.

For example, you can feed your dog in a quiet and secluded area to reduce the chances of guarding behavior. You can also limit access to certain toys or items that your dog may be prone to guarding.

5. Seek Professional Help

If you are struggling to manage your dog’s resource guarding behavior on your own, it’s essential to seek help from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. A qualified expert can assess your dog’s behavior and provide personalized training and management strategies to address the issue.

It’s important to work with someone who uses force-free and positive reinforcement methods to modify the behavior, as using punitive or confrontational techniques can exacerbate the problem.


Q: My dog growls when I try to take away their bone. Should I punish them for this behavior?

A: Punishing a dog for resource guarding can lead to increased aggression and anxiety. It’s essential to use positive reinforcement and desensitization techniques to modify the behavior. Seek guidance from a professional dog trainer if you need help.

Q: Can resource guarding be completely eliminated in all dogs?

A: While resource guarding can be effectively managed and even eliminated in many cases, some dogs may have a genetic predisposition to this behavior. It’s essential to work with a professional to create a personalized training plan for your dog.

Q: How can I prevent resource guarding in my new puppy?

A: Early socialization and positive reinforcement training are crucial for preventing resource guarding in puppies. Teach your puppy to be comfortable with people and other animals around their resources, and reward them for cooperative behavior.

Q: My dog only displays resource guarding behavior with certain items. Is this normal?

A: It’s not uncommon for dogs to guard specific resources that they highly value. It’s essential to address the behavior with training strategies and manage the environment to reduce potential triggers.

Dealing with resource guarding in dogs requires patience, consistency, and a deep understanding of canine behavior. With the right training strategies and management techniques, you can help your dog become a well-mannered and cooperative companion and create a harmonious and peaceful environment in your home. Remember to seek professional help if you are struggling to address the behavior on your own, and always prioritize your dog’s well-being and safety.

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