As a dog behaviourist I see an array of behaviour problems in my client's dogs. Is your dog possessive about some of its rawhides and toys? Does it growl at you if you try to reach for its food bowl? Does it bare teeth when it has a bone and you try to get close?
If so, your dog is exhibiting a common behaviour known as resource guarding. When a dog tries to control access to objects, people, food, and locations that it considers important, it generally takes a defensive stance or overt aggressive display. Such a canine behaviour is influenced by several situational and environmental stimuli, for example, the natural instinct of a dog to survive.
As a dog behaviourist, I have seen dogs being possessive and defensive with a lot of things, like their bed, sleeping space, resting area, and to owner’s approach to touch its body, even if it’s just for stroking. In addition, items such as tissues, underwear, shoes, socks, and high-value human food are also on most dogs’ list. The simple explanation for this behavioural problem is when someone approaches the dog, it often views that person as a threat, trying to take away the thing it holds important. In response, the dog communicates its anxiety using auditory cue and body language. The signs may include growling hunkering, displaying side-eye or whale-eye, becoming stiff, snapping, baring teeth, and others.
So what you can do to stop your dog from resource guarding?
As an experienced dog behaviourist, I can help advise on the situation. If it is a young dog or just a puppy, you can teach it that when someone takes a resource from its possession, it is a safe trade. The best way to show your dog this is to replace the “resource” with something better – like a treat or toy.
If your dog has developed resource guarding, you may have to work hard to manage this behaviour. Here is an example of what I would if a dog resource guards its food bowl – I will simply use five similar food bowls instead of just one. By scattering their resource, you are lessening the likelihood of guarding by making it appear abundant. You can do the same trick I told you about replacing the resource with something more valuable in this case as well.
Another great strategy I use in dog behaviourist training is to train your dog through redirection. For example, if your dog is defensive over a bone, you can use commands like drop it or leave it to redirect their concentration towards your cue. However, make sure you keep a calm tone instead of an angry one.
If you are still having problems with your dog’s resource guarding, our dog behaviourists at Dog Harmony Training can help you. Our dog behaviourists in Preston are experienced and friendly, and know the right ways to help dogs learn or avoid different types of behaviours.
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