Resource guarding is a problem in puppies that involves an intense urge or desire to hold possession and defend it from others. It is an expected fear behavior that almost all puppies exhibit.
Puppies are creatures of comfort, and they don’t want to feel vulnerable by giving up their toys, food bowl, or soft spot. If your puppy shows resource guarding behaviors, the best thing you can do as a pet parent is creating a safety zone around your pup in the home.
This means that you shouldn’t take away or try to take out any dog toys or objects that your puppy might be guarding when playing with other dogs. You should always avoid chasing or picking up your puppy during playtime, too.
Many owners do not realize that allowing their puppy to guard certain items or resources can lead to dangerous and potentially fatal confrontations with other pets and people down the road.
Toys are usually the common thing puppies can guard, but they can also protect bones, food bowls, people, other dogs, and even litter boxes, mailboxes, or rocks if something about the object feels valuable and worthy of protection.
How to stop guarding in dogs?
Stopping resource guarding in dogs require patience as it is a gradual training process. You can use treats as positive reinforcement to make them stop guarding. Also, you can pet them during meals, teach them the power of sharing and introduce a game when they’re seriously guarding their resources.
How do you stop guarding in dogs?
Dogs love their belongings but sometimes, they love them just a little too much. They may even run him ragged! Let’s talk about resource guarding and how to prevent them, as well as what you can do if your pup has this problem.
1. Build a safe environment
The environment is an essential factor in a puppy’s training and can play a significant role in altering unwanted behaviors. As puppies mature, they begin to develop a sense of territory and possession over the areas they control.
With that in mind, it still remains an essential factor in controlling resource guarding behaviors. Toys are a puppy’s favorite reward, but they can also be the source of many problems.
The most important thing for any puppy is to be able to maintain a calm state of mind. This includes the ability to relax and have a predictable environment. It also includes having an environment that allows them to focus on their owner, especially in the presence of distractions quickly.
Puppies begin to understand ownership in the house and show their desire to guard what they perceive as yours. A puppy’s development is directly affected by surrounding stimuli (individuals, time of day, mood, and body language)
During the formative stages of puppyhood, puppies must interact with the same people in a similar environment. This helps form a foundation that will help support future experiences with new things they may encounter, such as new people, other dogs, or different places.
2. Train the puppy
The best way to deal with resource guarding is to train your puppy from the beginning and make sure that you take appropriate steps to stop resource guarding.
Your awareness will be the most critical part of the training; you need to understand what guardable items are and how your puppy reacts when confronted with them.
The puppy needs to be trained that you will not take away their toys when they are eating or playing and that you will give them back afterward.
There are three steps to follow with any puppy guarding problem.
- Recognizing the triggers
- Removing the triggers
- Using positive reinforcement techniques that replace the bad habits with good ones that you want.
Resource guarders are the puppies with a poor understanding of human language; this often translates into puppies reacting to the sound of human speech as if it were a threat.
For example, when an approaching person’s sound is heard, some puppies will bark and lunge at them. Such puppies need to be trained to react appropriately when humans speak.
To reduce guarding among puppies, owners should be mindful of their puppy’s behavior around important things like feeding time, the presence of small objects, and even the space where dog sleeps.
Positive reinforcement training modes such as, Shaping, and Clicker training can be very useful to stop toy guarding in puppies.
3. Play the games
Puppies are notoriously playful and energetic, leading them to guard their toys against other pets or people who may steal their prized possession.
Playing games to stop resource guarding in puppies will help him curb this behavior and allow him to learn the difference between safe objects and those that are not.
Playing games with your puppy helps to make the idea of sharing more fun and develops trust between you and your dog. By playing these games before the guarding occurs, you can build up a culture of healthy sharing.
Here are the three steps involved:
- Step 1 – Establish that the puppy does not have possession of the toy.
- Step 2 – Get your puppy to give up the object voluntarily.
- Step 3 – Teach your puppy to trade toys and then give up toys on cue for treats.
4. Use of food dispensing tools & feeding devices.
Food-Dispensing Toys and Hand Feeding helps to give your puppy a strong message that you own these toys and food and not your puppy.
Using these devices, you can feed your puppy food at a greater distance from you and reduce the frequency of visits to the bowl as they feel more fulfilled.
As puppies grow older, they will be less likely to guard these items, but they are aware that their owners can take them away at any time.
5. Offer treats
Treats help stop Resource Guarding in puppies.
Usually, the treats should be small and soft rather than large, hard ones. Although giving them a treatment works initially, soon your puppy will realize that you have the power of food and not him.
To stop guarding in puppies, owners can instead offer treats at a distance without allowing puppy access to them by holding it up high and gradually bringing it down to the floor so the puppy cannot reach it until he has let go of his precious chew toy.
Do this several times until he is thoroughly enjoying engaging with you. Reinforce good behavior. Each time your puppy drops the item he is guarding, reward him with treats or praise.
Repeat this exercise several times a day. Preferably, schedule it to occur around mealtimes when he is hungriest and most responsive to socializing.
6. Avoid aggression & punishment
The most important thing to realize is that puppies are not naturally defensive about their possessions. They can learn aggression over toys, food, and other objects due to situations we put them in.
An owner’s aggression to stop puppy guarding should only be used as a last resort and is only effective at ending the problem behavior with very submissive and easily frightened dogs.
Using owner aggression might even be counter-productive if your dog will become overly fearful or anxious from the use of aggressive treatment.
First and foremost, you must get a handle on your aggression. If you get aggressive in your puppy’s face or around his/her food, you are only making matters worse. Food aggression is so much worse in puppies because they instinct to guard their food with their life!
The way you stop Toy Guarding in puppies will also depend on the severity of your puppy’s behavior
If your puppy is already nipping hard, then stop your aggression and use the more natural approach.
It would help if you avoided punishment-based techniques such as alpha rolls. They may cause some adverse side effects, such as making your puppy fearful about people and dogs, and it will only push him/her to engage in the guarding behavior again.
Well, do you have other way you feel like should be added to this article but we left them out? Why don’t you share them with us in the comment box below and we’ll surely add them to the list just so we can help other dog parents who might be trying to stop guarding in dogs.
Again, a well socialized dog will be easy to train when such behavior arise. Did yours miss early socialization? Check out this article on how to socialize an adult dog.