Having a dog that is possessive with objects is not abnormal. In the dog training world we call this resource guarding. Resource guarding means that your dog will react in an aggressive manner when a toy is attempted to be removed from his possession. The behavior could be one of the following: freezing, staring, whale eye (looking at you out of the corner of his eye), growling, barking, snapping and / or biting. Resource guarding is normal because in the wild an animal will not survive if they do not fight for their food. However, in the human world it can be dangerous to live with a dog that is resource guarding. Currently, we are dealing with a few Salt Lake City dog training clients that are learning more about obedience when objects are in their dog’s possession. As a result, we wanted to write a post on some remedies for this issue.
If you have a child, a child on the way, or a dog that is injuring someone we highly recommend that you hire a professional dog trainer for support. Research many dog trainers. Salt Lake City has many positive reinforcement dog training options. Dealing with a severe issue like this on your own can create more pain the long run. Allow yourself to regain peace between you and your dog now.
Below I am discussing some remedies that are very effective with dog training. Salt Lake City has been a home-base where I have created much obedience with resource guarding.
1.) Counter Conditioning works great!! This is when you pair something positive with a trigger. Usually the positive stimulus is food. As a result, you can take the situations where your dog is showing guarding behavior, have your dog below threshold and give your dog treats in that scenario. This process can work great! In this case we aren’t asking the dog to perform a behavior. We are just creating a new association with a previously triggered situation.
2.) Another option is to teach your dog “drop.” I use this situation often. First, we use classical conditioning to train your dog to drop an object. The owner says “drop” and immediately after this word is said amazing and fun treats fall to the ground. The treats that are used are high valued items such as cheese, turkey hot dogs, chicken, etc. Over time your dog will association the drop command with numerous amazing treats! Eventually, you pair this word with easy objects and then begin to work with higher valued objects until you create successful obedience. We are enjoying using this technique with a current Salt Lake City dog training client!
3.) Training “leave it” can also be helpful. Generally, when we train this command we are expecting the dog to back from an object that they want to put in their mouth. When your dog is near an object that they want to put in his mouth you can say “leave it” and your dog will back away from the item. If a dog guards objects at a distance then we will usually train the dog to “drop it” and then ask him to “leave it” so he moves away and is now at a safe enough distance for this object to be removed from the ground.
4.) Recently we learned a technique were you teach the dog to sit with your approach. We love this idea! When you approach the object that your dog is guarding the dog learns to leave the object and come toward you and sit. In order for your dog to have ultimate obedience with this technique you will need to begin with items that your dog does not guard and work your way up to higher valued items.
Notice that all of the above options include positive dog training. Salt Lake City luckily has a variety of training options. Again we recommend that you avoid techniques that involve punishment as this can increase the aggressive behavior in the long run.
We want to hear from you in a comment below!
What valuable information did you learn about resource guarding?
Johanna Teresi, Professional Trainer and Owner of Four Legged Scholars LLC, Dog Training, Salt Lake City