Resource guarding happens when a dog feels something they value (the resource) is threatened. When this happens the dog may display behaviours intended to keep others away from the resource, such as stiffening or hovering over the resource when approached. The pet may also stare, lip curl, growl, bark, snap or lunge, and may even nip or bite if the threat comes too close. If the resource is food, the pet may stop eating, or eat more vigorously.
The following tips are intended as a way to minimize risk and injury to people and pets when resource guarding occurs, but is not designed as a treatment for resource guarding. If you observe resource guarding in your dog, it is best to seek help from a qualified reward based trainer or behaviourist.
For Multi-Pet Households:
- Reduce mealtime competition by feeding pets in visually and physically separated areas, waiting until all food has been eaten and or cleared away before allowing pets to come back together. Have pets come back together in a different space than the feeding spaces. One idea is to do an activity following mealtime such as an outdoor potty break, short walk or moving into a living room area to relax.
- If there are specific toys that are highly valued, they may need to be picked up and kept away unless the dog is in their own safe space and separate from other pets.
- If your dog is approaching a dog known to resource guard who is with their valued resource, interrupt and redirect the approaching dog by calling their name or using a quiet clap and move them into a different area.
Managing Resource Guarding:
- Ensure anyone looking after your pets are aware of their resource guarding behaviors and know how to manage them.
- Never go near a pet known to resource guard until they have finished or abandoned their resource and have moved out of the area, then the food or toys may be picked up.
- If a dog resource guards its bed, provide them their own safe space, so other pets or people do not bother them (such as in a crate). If you need to move the dog from the area, do not force them, but rather entice them with high-value treats, tossed away from the sleeping place.
- If you need to take something from the dog that they are resource guarding (such as something that is dangerous for them) replace it with something they find even more valuable or direct their attention away, and move them into a different area before you pick up the item or the dog may lunge back at you. In multi-pet households, ensure other pets are safely away before doing this as well.
- The idea is always to help instill positive and happy feelings in the dog rather than fear of losing their resource, replacing the item with something more valuable so they do not feel threatened.
- Other distraction ideas that may work include ringing the doorbell, opening the fridge, or a door to go outside to the yard. Grabbing your keys, shoes, or leash like you are going to go for a walk.