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The Puppy Well-Being Training System
Preventing Resource Guarding
Many of us were told as kids to avoid approaching the dog when he is eating or chewing on a bone. While this is generally a good advice, the phenomenon of guarding a resource is a behavior problem and should not be considered normal among domestic dogs. One would think that during thousands of years of domestication the trait of guarding resource would disappear. After all, there is no reason for a dog that receives everything he needs to guard anything. Nevertheless, this problem of resource guarding is still a common problem. Although most domestic dogs will relinquish toys, food, bones, and other objects without making a fuss about it, some dogs will growl, snarl, and bite if something of importance is being taken away from them.
It is important to understand what an important or valuable object is. The value of the object is determined by the dog and by the owner. The owner’s thoughts regarding the value of an object are meaningless. Some dogs can decide for example, that a piece to toilet paper is much more valuable than a bone and hence, they will guard the toilet paper and let the owner take the bone. Dogs can practically guard anything – they will guard food, toys, bones, toilet paper, socks, a good sleeping place on the couch, and even their owners (when other individuals approach them). Please note that possessiveness over the owners is not considered love or protectiveness and is not an acceptable behavior.
There are several degrees of possessiveness and guarding. On one hand, it can be rather mild and involve avoiding returning the object and moving it away from the owner, in which case if the owner is persistent enough, the dog will give up the object eventually. On the other hand, the problem can be rather extreme in which every approach towards the dog while he has a valuable possession results in growling, snarling, and biting (some dogs will guard an object even if they are next to it). Between those two extremes there are many other moderate manifestations of the problem. Similarly to separation anxiety, resource guarding is a problem that can be difficult (and dangerous) to solve when it is already a well established behavior, and just like separation anxiety, preventing the problem can be an easy process. It is not in the scope of this book to explain the methods of solving a resource guarding problem that is already established. If resource guarding is already a problem, you should consult a behavior expert. Keep in mind that living with a resource guarder can be rather dangerous, especially when kids are involved.
Preventing resource guarding involves several processes that teach the puppy that the presence of humans next to his possessions predicts more, even better possessions, and has nothing to do with losing the valuable object already at hand. Try to treat this problem objectively as possible. Dog owners can be very insulted that the dog that just took a bone from this hand, wants to bite that hand a minute later. However, from the dog’s point of view it is not personal. The way he sees it if you left it, and he has it, it’s his.
Step by Step:
i. For the puppy, this is a win win situation. He gets the treat and the toy or bone back.
i. Remember that dogs’ learn by repetition and that you need to repeat each exercise several times.