Roo: Resource Guarding Case Study
Many dogs have shown signs of resource guarding without any following aggression incidents. If you have a dog that will stand by his food bowl when there are other people or other dogs around, that shows he is guarding his food. Much of resource guarding and food aggression (where a dog may growl, lunge, snap, or bite if another animal or a person comes near the food) comes from some fear and lack of confidence. Resource guarding is not necessarily food aggression, but it can be the first step to food aggressive behavior.
If your dog exhibits resource guarding, it is best to nip it in the bud as soon as possible. Positive, reward-based training that works on setting the dog up for success and confidence-building while also correcting the behavior will ensure that the guarding does not advance to any form of aggression.
When Roo here first was adopted, she showed mild signs of guarding her food and water bowls, along with her rawhides. This behavior occurred with her owner, with guests, and with her cat siblings. Roo’s owner Taylor thought nothing of it initially, that is until Roo lunged after one of the cats. It was the first time Roo had shown any aggression, and now she was beginning to growl at Taylor.
Roo is a prime example of resource guarding taken too far. While it is normal for dogs to be protective of things such as their food, territory, their people, and so forth, by allowing resource guarding, we are in some ways, telling the dogs that being uncomfortable and nervous about their food is normal and acceptable.
When we first started training Roo, we had to work on getting her obedience and focus solid and in control. Once she became more reliable, it was time to test her with her kibble and rawhide. We implemented a structure that set Roo up for success and for her to see how calm, obedient behavior brings her more reward and praise from her family. Taylor was given the necessary tools and knowledge to become leader, directing Roo to more success rather than failure. Together, Roo and Taylor learned to trust one another again. We also worked Roo with the cats, creating a safe environment where the cats can be used as appropriate stimuli and where Roo can learn the difference between good and bad behavioral choices.
This is not to say that resource guarding will always lead to aggression incidents, but why risk it? And why not strengthen your dog’s confidence, while also cementing the bond between dog and owner? Owners should be able to pick up food bowls, empty or full, without any problem from the dog. Same applies to treats, bones, toys and any other resource. If an owner cannot do this, then there are clear trust issues between them and the dog. Get those under control for both your sakes!
For questions on resource guarding, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re interested in getting your dog’s resource guarding or food aggression trained out of them, call 800-649-7297 to schedule you and your dog’s initial training consultation!