Training your dog can be rewarding in many ways. Dogs benefit mentally and physically from training and it can help reinforce your bond with your dog throughout his life. So what happens when training is at a standstill because your dog refuses to give up a favorite toy or growls at you when you make an attempt to take his food? Too often, dog owners find themselves at a loss with a dog who is possessive and defensive as a result. This can also lead to unwanted behaviors such as growling, showing teeth, and even snapping or biting.
Resource guarding can be dangerous behavior if escalated and should be addressed as quickly as possible to avoid incidents involving bites or other aggressive responses. There are many reasons why a dog may choose to resource guard, including environmental influences, temperament, incidents that occurred during puppyhood, or issues like neglect and abuse. However, there are also many ways to encourage a dog that he doesn’t need to resource guard.
Training your dog out of guarding can be a great way to increase his confidence and his bond with you, but there are a few things to remember while you work on this behavior. Resource guarding can lead to some serious aggression issues and your safety should be paramount. It takes patience and understanding to train a dog of any age out of resource guarding, but it also requires safety precautions. Never try to take your dog’s food by hand and never allow small children to take anything your dog is possessive over.
While preventing the behavior entirely is ideal, it’s not always possible. Some owners who adopt a dog may realize the behavior only after they bring the dog home. However, this is not an impossible behavior to adjust. While the prevention method works best with young dogs and puppies, the other methods are better suited for adult dogs who require behavior adjustments to address their guarding issues. If you are planning on working with your dog to avoid or correct resource guarding, expect the process to take at least a month or two.
To begin, have your dog evaluated by a vet to eliminate the possibility of a health issue that may be causing aggressive or defensive behavior. Things like injury and illness can trigger these reactions in dogs of any age.
Then, gather up some treats that your dog enjoys. These should be small morsels of treats and not things like bones or other items that can take him a while to eat. The easier it is to hoard, the more likely your dog is to guard it. Use these treats as rewards for good behavior. If you are worried about your dog biting or snapping, you may want to invest in a muzzle that you can use for short periods of time that will allow your dog to take treats and drink water but not to bite. Remember to never keep a muzzle on for longer than necessary. Consult a behaviorist or trainer if your dog's aggression is too dangerous for you to work with him safely.