Resource Guarding

Posted by Sheena Neil on Friday, February 6, 2015 Under: Resource Guarding

Does your dog growl, snarl, or snap to control access to valuable resources such as food, toys, or sleeping areas?

Before we look further into this increasingly common problem, let us first imagine a simple scenario.

Imagine you have a 6 year old child and have recently had a new born baby.

This new born baby obviously does not speak, does that mean they can not communicate?

Of course not. Babies do what babies do best, they cry. Spend enough time around a newborn and you will become well versed in the various types of cries and what they mean.

Imagine now that all of the 'How to' books on babies and child rearing gives this piece of advice:

“In order to teach your baby that your oldest child is higher on the family hierarchy you must insist that the oldest child control the babies access to food. Remind the baby where s/he stands by asking your oldest child to randomly remove the babies bottle during feeding's ”.

What do you think the babies reaction would be?

They may cry softly or they may have a full blown melt down, complete with real tears and ear piercing screams.

Absurd right?!!!

In this scenario would you then get angry at the baby for crying??

How does this apply to dog training?

Majority of the advice new dog owners get follows this same 'logic'. The theory is that in order to control your dog you must control their access to resources and things that they love most.

When it comes to meal times and chew objects (bones, bully sticks, Kong's, etc) dog owners are being told that they best way to prevent guarding is to periodically put your hands in the dogs food bowl as they are eating.

By practising this simple exercise dog owners are hoping to teach their dog that food is a privilege and that privilege is granted by the humans.

Here's a new idea: Food is a right, not a privilege. Food is essential to survival and a dogs meal time should be respected. The same way us humans like our space when we sit down to eat.

Does this mean we should let our dogs growl and keep us away from their favourite things?

Absolutely not.

Here are some exercises you can practice instead.

(Please note: These games should only be played with a dog who is not already displaying guarding behaviour)

Sit Equals Supper

Place your dogs bowl on the floor. Have your dogs meal in a cup. Wait or ask your dog to “Sit”. When they sit immediatley drop 5-10 kibbles in their bowl. Let them eat!! When they are finished repeat the exercise.

This method accomplishes 2 things. 1) Manners. Your dog is learning that the quickest way to get more food is to sit calmly and offer their attention. 2) The dog is also learning that these strange new humans are of no threat to their meals, that they can easily 'train' their human to feed them by looking up with those puppy dog eyes.

Bigger and Better

Do you remember this game as a kid? Or the popular story of the guy who started out with a paper clip and continued trading with folks on-line until he was given a house!!! What a great game.

Give your dog a low value chew toy. As your dog is chewing use a butter knife to spread something delicious on the toy (peanut butter, baby food, yogurt, etc).

This game can replace The Trade Game.

The problem with The Trade Game is the value of the treats you use. The standard rules are to simply take your dogs bone away and reward them with a treat.

This game can be effective (again, do not take chew objects away from a dog who is displaying guarding behaviours) provided it is done properly.

To put this game into the human perspective let us imagine it this way:

Would you give up chocolate cake for.... a carrot?

How about a beautiful steak, grilled to perfection for... a bowl of raspberries?

Personally, I prefer the first two options. A vegetarian may well take the fruit over the steak, but I might get a little snarly if someone took my steak away.

Why does this matter?

The value is defined by the individual. You must know which types of chew objects your dog values and which types of treats out value those objects.

In order for the Trade to be rewarding the dog has to enjoy it more than the object being traded for.

When and where a dog is given a chew toy can make a difference as well. In a multi-dog household each dog should be given their chews in separate rooms or kennels.

Dogs will often guard against cats as well.

In a house with children the dog should be given their chew in a kennel or quiet room. Children should be taught to respect the dogs space when chewing, eating, or sleeping and should not be allowed to disturb the dog.

If you have a dog who is growling, snapping, or controlling resources in other ways please seek the advice of a force-free trainer.

Other resources can be found Here and Here.

In : Resource Guarding 

Tags: growling  resource guarding  force-free training  lloydminster dog training  wainwright dog training  keystone dog training 

About Me

Sheena Neil Owner/Trainer Keystone Training