Living with and Managing Resource Guarding

Resource guarding is a serious and dangerous issue. You should never attempt to address it on your own. Consult a professional Balanced dog trainer if you are experiencing any of the issues outlined in this article.


What is Resource Guarding?

      Simply put, resource guarding is when a dog will guard, by growling or biting, something they deem an important enough resource that they feel the need to protect it. They can guard food, bones, rawhides, beds, cars and even people. Resource guarding tends to be a common yet deeply misunderstood behavioral problem. People make excuses for their dogs, saying silly things like "I'd growl if you touched my food too" or "he just loves that bone so much". All kidding and excuses aside, resource guarding is a very serious problem with a deeper rooted issue in the hierarchy and control of the household. 


Some red flags and what to look for in a possible resource guarder

  • a freeze from the dog when you approach or get to close to them and a resource. Their whole body will become stiff and freeze in place.
  • dog throws its whole body over the resource
  • dog grabs the resource with their paws.
  • dog tries to "hide" from you under tables or in other rooms and becomes stiff and growly when you attempt to approach them
  • dogs hackel's (hair on back) raise when you approach.
  • low growls 
  • snarling 
  • lunging at your hand
  • biting 

Why do dogs resource guard?

      Simply put in dog world the top dog or pack leader gets the best food first and will let others know its theirs with a snarl or a growl. So in a dog's mind there is no question of who is in charge and who has access to the best resources to ensure the strongest survive. Where that becomes unreasonable is in a companion dog living in a household, that no longer has to fight for food to ensure survival. Its unnecessary to guard a rawhide or a bone, because there is a place called the store where we can go buy more, but try telling that to a resource guarder. Some dogs guard because they have never been told not to. They have never been corrected or told their behavior is unacceptable, so leaving it unchecked will allow the problem to grow. Generally speaking the energy and structure of the household also play a huge role in the dogs behavior. If a dog feels they are in charge and top dog of a house their sense of entitlement can be taken a little too far. Some dog trainers will advise dog owners to avoid and ignore resource guarding. They do no justice to the dog or the owner, by telling them to blindly and dangerously ignore this type of behavior. They will say "well if he growls when you give him a bone, then dont give him bones!" The problem with this,ill thought out advice, is that at some point you will inevitably come across something your dog deems important enough to guard and they wont be afraid to follow up with a bite if you are not careful. It may be something so obscure such as a shoe or a hairbrush, that you (or company) wouldn't have the slightest idea to steer clear of in the first place. The bigger picture of resource guarding should lie in addressing the other issue that is manifesting itself through the resource guarding, which is the dog thinking they are in control of the household.



So where do we go from here?

      With most severe resource guarders they will have a multitude of things important enough to guard. People, beds,  bowls, toys, bones to basically anything that the dog deems valuable. It would be impossible to ignore everything and anything being guarded. Working with a trained professional versed in corrective training is the only safe way to manage and control a resource guarder. Never try and handle resource guarding on your own without the guidance and knowledge of a professional. 


Some tips to keep yourself safe while you wait for your dog trainer



      Change the structure of your household. Follow the NILIF program for dogs. NILIF program is NOTHING IN LIFE IS FREE. You want to give your dog a treat, make them work for it, ask them for a sit or a down before petting them. They have to earn everything they want out of life. They want you to throw a toy, ask them for a trick first. This conveys to the dog that you are in control of every aspect of their lives. You hold the key to all that is good and fun! This tells the dog you are in charge.


Walking your dog

      Walking your dog is very important with any dog but especially true with a resource guarder. The key to walking a dog and some psychological training is HOW you  walk your dog. Your dog should be walking next to you, not a mile ahead of you on a flexi lead. As simple as this sounds this physical conversation with your dog holds weight to it.


The art of trading out

        If you cannot correct the best thing to do is to trade out. This is a trick that I use in certain situations where a correction is not possible but the key to this is timing. What I will NOT do is approach a dog I know is a resource guarder, allow them to growl at me, then retreat and get the bag of cold cuts to trade out for whatever they have. What have I done if I practice this attempt at a trade off scenario? I've just taught the dog three things by my poor judgment and timing.

 a) growl at me to make me go away

 b) get rewarded for growling at me and

 c) keep the item I wanted in the first place.


      If you are attempting to trade out with a resource guarder the key to a successful trade out is to NOT approach the dog, but to first go and get the bag of cold cuts, peaking your dog's interest  which would then allow you to remove the item or lead the dog out of the room to safely put away whatever they were guarding. 


      These are just a few tips to work on while you wait for your professional dog trainer to arrive. Never take for granted that you are living with an animal and do not risk a bite over trying to fix the problem on your own. Consult a professional and be on your way to building a better relationship with your dog and balance within your household.