SUGGESTIONS WHEN ADOPTING A DOG WHO GUARDS RESOURCES


His behavior could get better as he becomes more comfortable with you and secure in your home. BUT, it is very likely it could get worse. If he gets a chance to practice resource guarding in his home he could get better at it and become more aggressive. If you are not a good leader, as he gains confidence he could get more aggressive as well.

Manage his food/treats/toys or whatever it is he guards. Feed him or give him his toy/treat in an out of the way location. Keep all kids/strangers/visitors away from him. Do not get lackadaisical and trust him. Consider tethering him while he eats his dinner or chews his bone so that if he lunges at you, you can get away from him. You can feed him in his crate, but be aware that if he guards his bowl, you will not be able to reach into the crate to 1) remove his bowl or (2) get him out. Pick up all food/toys/bones when done.

If he guards food in a bowl, consider throwing the food on the ground and letting him eat off the floor.

Buy and read Jean Donaldson’s book MINE.

Consider buying him multiple toys of the same kind. Instead of giving him one bone or one pig’s ear, give him 5. He is less likely to guard things if there are many of them lying on the ground; his resources are less scarce if there are a lot laying on the ground when he is permitted to chew them. Remember to pick them up when he’s done.

Dogs who guard resources sometimes will guard whatever they see as theirs. He could decide to guards a fuzz ball on the ground or a peanut you drop in your car.

Keep a leash on him at all times in the house (of course, only when you are home!) so that you can have something to grab if he should become aggressive.

If you want to work with him to lessen the severity of his aggression, here are some pointers:

Only work with him while he is tethered.

Use a treat that he absolutely loves and that he gets only when you are working with him. He should never get this treat at any other time. Use boiled chicken, steak, roast beef, liver, etc.

Give him what he guards while tethered. Let him settle in and approach him slowly. BEFORE he starts to growl or show ANYaggression, start throwing the treat to him. The idea is to teach him that good things happen when you approach him while eating or chewing a bone, etc. Don’t get any closer than he is comfortable. If you go close enough that he growls, you have gone too far.

Repeat the above steps at least 20 times. Only more closer if he does not show aggression. If you move too close and he shows aggression, back up and start over from the point where he shows no aggression.

Gradually decrease your distance. This could take days, months, weeks, even years. Let your dog dictate how close he feels comfortable.

If he guards his food, consider feeding him all that he can and will eat for a while. You don’t want him to get fat, but if he is fed as much as he can eat consistently and there is more food available for him than he needs, his aggression MIGHT lessen.

Punishment does not work in treating resource guarding. Taking what he is growling over and not giving something of equal or greater value in return or punishing him for guarding will only teach him that bad things happen when people approach him. This could actually make his aggression worse.

We cannot guarantee he will not bite while protecting a resource. In fact, we can almost guarantee he will. It is up to you to keep yourself and him safe by managing him and by following these guidelines.

 

Lilian Akin, CPDT

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